Kung Fury Unleashed!

I could just summarize this short film in the following manner: what would happen if 1980s action cinema imploded on itself and became a quantum singularity?

What you’d probably get is something like Laser Unicorns’ action comedy movie Kung Fury. 

As it is, what we have here is an excellent example of some Eightiesploitation — a time frame of media made into a genre — that is in and of itself a parody, a nostalgic love letter, and a cinematic crack-fic of pure and mad fun. And you have it all here: ravening packs of punks on the lawless streets of Miami, arcade cabinets, ridiculous one-liner puns, blocky clunky elder cellphones, a ton of martial arts in gritty industrial settings, quintessential 80s synthesized music, cheesy neon 8-bit computer effects, and — of course — the Nintendo Power-Glove. Hell, you even have a blatant commercial parody of another product placement in the film itself and a clever use of periodic static at the edges of the film: to imitate what it would like if it really were a dated VHS tape from the eighties. Even the cartoon segment of the film resembles a faded eighties era example of animation.

As for the rest of it, what you see is pretty much what you get. As eighties action films go, the premise is simple and thin to allow for maximum gratuitous kick-ass. Kung Fury, a policeman, goes back in time to defeat his ultimate opponent: Adolf Hitler. How he gets his martial arts abilities is pretty much irrelevant and through some ridiculously awesome choreography (and once he gets to the right timeline) he gets to slaughter some major Nazi ass with the help of Viking women, dinosaurs … and Thor.

And yet it’s even more strange. In its own weird way, Kung Fury‘s thinly veiled plot to release a lot of nostalgic kick-ass does have its own logic and it manages to tie itself together, somehow at the end, and leave the film open for a sequel with the potential for even more fucked up glory.

Laser Unicorns’ Kickstarted film delivers on its ridiculous violence and fun: parodying the time period of cinema its derived from, and loving it as hard as its own explosions.  This would definitely be an excellent film to see at the Toronto After Dark and it was an absolute pleasure to watch it burn.

This Is Not Five Nights At Freddy’s

You find yourself in an enclosed space.

It is a small room: filled with dust and the relics of past happiness. There are a series of windows in front of you. You keep toggling through them. You are hoping that you will find — or not find — what you’re looking for.

Before they find you.

It’s already a concession that you are in the room, but you tolerate it. The hoops you have to jump through for the small amount of money you earn rivals that of the things that you watch watching you.

Your ears perk up as you wonder if you heard a noise. Your stomach clenches as you think you see something from the corner of your eye. But you are just seeing things, hearing things, letting the darkness and the uncertainty in the shadowy corners of your vision get to you.

But you know better.

Every sane part of you wants to get up out of this sunken seat that smells like sweat and mould and ass. Every last part of you is screaming. And what is left wants to run away. But you need the money, you tell yourself. and there are still debts that need to be repaid.

You flip through the different screen and lens of the computer in front of you. Sometimes they leave you a message on your machine. Other times you know you can hear them moving around. You fear hearing the phone ring: even as you dread silencing the ringer more … knowing you’ll get that message either way.

Whether it’s a voicemail, a text, a letter in the mail, or feeling them hover over your shoulder you know you have no privacy. You know it’s only going to get more intrusive: and you can only avoid eye-contact and hide behind your mask — your playing pretend at not having feelings — for so long. Eventually, those doors are going to open. Remember: this is not your home. This space belongs to them.

Freddy Fazbear Mask

So you count the six hours you have to stay there. You count the five days your body gets locked up with tension. Just five days and they can’t touch you. In five days you can pretend that they haven’t found you already. You can imagine that they didn’t come into your space, thinking you weak, unmoulded, untried, and try to stuff who you into an exemplar of what they are: crushing everything you were into a shapeless pulp and red mist gone, like dead dreams, by morning.

FNAF Gameover

And all you can hope for are those two days where the texts don’t get you, the voice-mails never reach, the letters wait, and everything else only hovers in your nightmares: where you are not a withered animatronic and silence is not a scream of innocence lost.

This is not a game, kids. It’s real life.

Fool Me

Someone begins to tell you a joke.

You’re smiling. Your life is generally serious, or mundane, and a joke is a good distraction. No, it’s more than a distraction. It’s the promise of bounty and plenty. It’s a story that seems inclusive. The teller lets you in. In fact, they do more than that: they outright invite you into the narrative.

So here you are listening to this comedian in front of you. And they are still telling their story. They are still making their joke. Your mouth feels a little tired from smiling so long. But that’s okay. You can see that they are building something. You’re still able to follow each step to the end, to the finish, to the punchline of the thing.

Half-way through, you notice that they are beginning to move away from their premise. It seems as though you are being led into some sort of tangent. And that’s fine, you tell yourself. So long as the pay-off happens, whenever it does, you can deal with it.

You can wait.

And you do wait. You wait as the joke continues to veer further and farther off tangent. Your expectant smile is getting strained as the teller brings in long and longer pauses for what may be dramatic emphasis.

You wait as the words become intermittent and reluctant. Your mouth becomes a flat line matching the ellipses to which you are being subjected. It’s too much. It gives you too much time to think about your day and the grey mundanity in it with all of its petty little details and disappointments. The line that was your smile on your face grows heavier as the performer seems to edge off the stage, and when they disappear — leaving you disconnected — it becomes a grim slash etched deeply into your flesh. It seems to engrave itself into your soul.

And all you can think about is what went wrong before and during the joke. But it is at this moment that you understand.

This isn’t the kind of joke where you laugh with the comedian. You were never even the audience.

Me and my Head

The Flash Is Fast Enough

This week, on The Flash, Barry Allen becomes “Fast Enough.”

In fact, The Flash itself is fast enough. This entire season of seeing Barry try to exonerate his father from prison while finding his mother’s killer and fighting crime managed to be as fast as its namesake and is, relatively, paced well. And “Fast Enough” also demonstrates another element of the show in streaks and spades.

Imagine this scenario. Something bad happened in your past and you have the power to change it. You can go back in time and prevent a decision or an event that caused misery in your life. However, you also know that if you do this, you will potentially change if not outright lose all of the relationships and achievements that you’ve gained despite — or because — of that one bad day.

Imagine you have that power right your grasp. What do you do?

Barry and Friends

The Flash plays off this scenario and Barry Allen’s inner conflict with the gravitas and the humanity that it deserves. He can’t not do this, to save his mother and prevent his father’s incarceration but he knows about the risks. Granted, potentially destroying all of existence when you can just leave things alone is a little quibble that I had with the premise of this episode but the characterizations were just nothing short of brilliant.

"Hey, I actually meant to kill you but I figured killing your mother and causing you irreparable trauma would prevent you from being The Flash: the man I hate so much. But since I can't really connect to the Speed Force anymore because it turns out I was careless and maybe potentially getting rid of you affected my connection to the Speed Force since I got it because of your influence on my life, how about I allow you the chance to fix my mess and send me home and pretend this whole thing ever happened? Or ... let me help you be Timey-Wimey: whichever." 
“Hey, I actually meant to kill you, Barry, but I figured killing your mother and causing you irreparable trauma would prevent you from being The Flash: the man I hate so much. But since I can’t really connect to the Speed Force anymore because it turns out I was careless and maybe potentially getting rid of you affected my connection to the Speed Force since I got it because of your influence on my life, how about I allow you the chance to fix my mess and send me home and pretend this whole thing ever happened?
“Or … let me help you be Timey-Wimey: whichever.”

And brilliant and twisted is exactly what Eobard Thawne truly is: with one seemingly minor exception. Watching Reverse-Flash interact with the rest of the characters with back-handed compliments, taunts, and just an outright warped sense of humour — knowing that he is still wearing a murdered man’s face as a parody of the “kindly mentor” he was before — is both disturbing and gratifying to see.

"I'm sorry, Cisco. Not for killing you in an alternate timeline, mind you, because I'm sure I had a pretty good reason. No, I'm sorry for making you into a metahuman Cisco. Even though you are in good company. So, really, you should just plain thank me? Aren't I just being a nice guy right now? After all, I think of you as something of a son. Almost like Barry."
“I’m sorry, Cisco. Not for killing you in an alternate timeline, mind you, because I’m sure I had a pretty good reason. No, I’m sorry for making you into a metahuman Cisco. Even though you are in good company. So, really, you should just plain thank me? Aren’t I just being a nice guy right now? After all, I think of you as something of a son. Almost like Barry.”

Of course, it is never as simple as all that. And, when Barry goes back in time his future self basically convinces him not to save his mother. Instead, he takes that chance to show her the man he becomes and properly say goodbye. Barry takes what his imprisoned father said about the “natural order of things” to heart and thinking about his friends and loved ones he doesn’t want to negate their timeline. It does make a lot of sense. It’s an altruistic path as opposed to the completely egotistical and selfish goals of Eobard Thawne.

Barry and his Mother

But there is nothing natural about what has happened in Barry’s life if you really think about it. Eobard Thawne went back in time — into a timeline he wasn’t even born into yet — and not only changed Barry’s future and manipulated much of his life, but he also killed the real Harrison Wells and Tess Morgan and created S.T.A.R. Labs prematurely for his own benefit. One possibility that I considered was that in the likely event that Barry didn’t save his mother, he would potentially save the real Wells and Morgan instead: perhaps defeating Eobard in the past while he was weak and powerless. But not only would Barry have had to know where to be then, although he did know where the car “accident” that took Wells and Morgan happened, there would also be the potential for paradox.

Oh yes: paradox. About that …

Barry wasn’t going to let Eobard get away. I mean, this is another main difference between the two. Whereas Barry is mindful of his actions, Eobard doesn’t seem to care about the consequences of his own: or seem to think that he should be held accountable for them. And either way, whether Barry changed time or not, Eobard’s decisions would cost him something, and so Barry took away what Eobard wanted as well: his chance to go home.

Of course, Barry wasn’t really thinking about the long term consequences of preventing Eobard from leaving though, granted, I can’t imagine Eobard doing any good in his own time or society. And then Eobard’s fate seems all wrapped up in a nice yellow bow.

Mind you, it might have been more convenient if the Arrow, and Firestorm stuck around in the particle accelerator chamber instead of Cisco and Joe since, you know, they actually managed to defeat Reverse-Flash along with Barry the first time around … unless that had all been staged by him as well.

Still, where are those Three Stooges when you need them?  
Still, where are those Three Stooges when you need them?

As Eobard reveals his full malice, Eddie Thawne, who was Eobard’s ancestor, kills himself to save Barry: and make the Reverse-Flash cease to exist.

I have to admit: if The Flash were a darker show or Barry and friends had any less morality, killing Eddie would have been a pretty effective way of defeating Eobard. It’s kind of hard to exist when your ancestor destroys themselves before you are even born. And it does make me wonder just why Eobard allowed Eddie to found at all instead of hiding him somewhere away from S.T.A.R. Labs. But it was pretty poignant to see Eddie Thawne commit that selfless act … even if, in a comic book universe, death might not always be permanent: especially when you consider where his body was going.

All that said, there is that other matter of the vortex of what seems to be temporal paradox triggered by the attempt at time travel and the subsequent ancestor-suicide of Eddie Thawne wiping out his time-meddling descendant and tying time itself into knots and a hole in the fabric of reality. But hey, look on the bright side: time-travel might have actually taught Barry something that might help out the situation by next season. And besides, Eobard already mentioned Time Master Rip Hunter who will be a star in the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow.

Though if the Man of Steel to made a cameo at the finale, this might have been a pretty good time.

But all in all, the season finale of The Flash lives up to and even exceeds the speed and pace of the show. It could have ended with “Rogue Air” and its epic structure, but it didn’t. Instead, after Eobard dies revealing his real face, just how will Barry “carry on without him?” Is it likely we have really seen the end of Reverse-Flash?  How will Barry stop this blackhole on Earth? And will this all lead up to some Time Master intervention, multiverse exploration (did you see the Hermes helmet of the first comics Flash come through that portal, so awesome), and Legends of Tomorrow?

Tell us what you think. I, for one, look forward to seeing if The Flash remains fast enough.

It’s Always Halloween At Five Nights At Freddy’s

“And under this carnival disguise the heart of an old youngster who is still waiting to give his all. But how to be recognized under this mask? This is what they call a fine career.”
— Jean Anouilh, The Waltz of the Toreadors

Freddy Fazbear

My first disclaimer, right off the bat, is that I haven’t played any of Scott Cawthon’s Five Nights at Freddy’s games. However I have been following them and, specifically, the overall story line.

The reason that the story behind Five Nights intrigues me so much is due to my own particular interests. Some of you who have been following Mythic Bios for a while know that I am absolutely fascinated with a special kind of creepypasta. You know the one: a short story told through different forms of media that become viral memes which proliferate through the Internet and user imaginations in the most strange and disturbingly wonderful ways. At the same time, I am a very nostalgic child of the 1980s and 1990s: especially when it comes to 8-bit and 16-bit video games.

In addition to all of this, for a while now I’ve been following the work of Kris Straub: the creator of Ichor Falls, Broodhollow, and the infamous Candle Cove. And, frankly, if I didn’t know any better I would say that in a lot of ways Scott Cawthon’s Five Nights at Freddy’s feels like stories that Kris Straub would create if he were working in the medium of video games and playing with late twentieth century children’s nostalgia and urban legends eroded by adult decay and a wickedly self-aware sense of humour. At the very least, it taps into a similar place of childhood nightmare fuel from which Straub’s horror work and Christopher Howard Wolf’s (SlimeBeast)’s Abandoned by Disney series also spring.

FNAF Gameplay

As it is, Cawthon takes a multimedia approach to his interactive storytelling. For the most part, each Five Nights game is a point-and-click endoskeleton requiring exacting precision tempered by a slow-burning sense of paranoia and and an ever increasing level of danger: all an attempt to survive long enough before faulty spring-traps snap down in a jump-scare that will leave your peace of mind — in pieces — for at least a night or two.

But then there is the rest of the game’s material — its costume — to consider. There are, after all,  the masks that you’re forced to wear, and those that stare at you right in the face before the long dark.

You have the newspaper clippings on the corners of your office. There are the children’s drawings on the walls of the pizzeria which you have to watch through faulty security cameras. You have an answering machine from your supervisor telling you about the dangers of walking animatronics in the night, and then more ominous references such as “The Bite of ’87.”

Then we get into the second disclaimer of this article: namely spoilers. You play this game from a second-person perspective: working six hours at night a week in a pizzeria to keep an eye on the place, but aside from seeing your character’s name on a pay cheque — should you survive to the end of at least two games — you never see your face. In fact, you don’t see any human faces in any of the three games. The only faces you get to see are those of the animatronics, the walking large, cuddly, worn, and mouldering robotic children’s mascots at night as they try to stuff your sad naked flesh “endoskeleton” into an empty suit full of pistons and wires.

FNAF Gameover

Even your supposed ally, Phone Guy, is just a voice on an answering machine: and the person who is responsible for all of this is a loathsome 8-bit purple sprite.

And here is where I think Cawthon’s genius truly shines. In the second and third games of the series, Cawthon institutes a platform game element. These mini-games are often considered reminiscent of those created for the 8-bit Atari 2600. You would totally think that with their blocky graphics and crude sound effects couldn’t be taken seriously. Of course, even if you somehow disregarded the resurgence and adoption of the 8-bit aesthetic by contemporary independent game designers, you would still be dead wrong.

FNAF Death Mini-Game 2

Between the “Death Mini-Games” of Five Nights 2 and the hidden mini-games akin to easter-eggs in Five Nights 3 — morbidly reminiscent of Warren Robinett’s Adventure and the Pac-Man level 256 perfect score glitch respectively — the mythos of Five Nights becomes more fleshed out.

While the animatronics in the point-and-click parts of the games come from a grim place where neoteny — child-like traits often incorporated into exaggerated cartoons — is combined with the uncanny valley — the notion of discomfort caused by an object that unsuccessfully tries to imitate a living being are terrifying because of how realistic they are made to look, they are creepy in a different way when rendered into pixel form. They are like 8-bit hieroglyphics, allowing you to explore the horror with a detached and almost dream-like manner. There is just something incredibly archetypal and gloomy about the graphics of the games that brings out its dark subject matter: especially when you consider that they are traditionally from a child’s medium of entertainment.

FNAF Death Mini-Game

The Death Mini-Games of Five Nights 2 introduce you to the Purple Man and his role in what might be wrong with the animatronics that are attempting to kill you while, at the same time, giving you a little more background into the development of Freddy’s pizzeria and the animatronic characters therein. And in Five Nights 3, instead of having to die in order to gain random access to mini-games, you can voluntarily search for the other mini-games to perhaps change the fate of certain characters in question.

FNAF Game

I think there are two elements that I truly appreciate from the combination of mini-games, newspaper articles, and answering machine information. First, there is what Cawthon is not telling you. There is what he implies and what he leads you, as the player and viewer, to put together. Cawthon even goes further in the advertisements for his games: implanting secret codes and clues into his messages. He makes you do all the work and all of the speculating: somehow making the dread and horror that much worse.

After all, there is a particularly challenge in another form containing the horror genre: how can you keep building up tension in the story when you reveal what the monsters look like? In addition, you certainly don’t want to reveal everything about the horror in the story or it becomes expository and rote. You have to keep a little bit of mystery in horror so that you always ask yourself why: while a part of you is always at least partially afraid of the possible answers.

These are the kinds of elements that inspire fans: that made this series into something of a viral meme on par with creepypastas. There are fan-made stories, games, animations, art, and trailers based on the archetypes that Cawthon creates. A Five Nights at Freddy’s movie is in the works and there is even speculation that Freddy’s is a real restaurant somewhere: probably based off Chuck E. Cheese’s. Certainly the mascot costumes, pizza, and arcade games taps into a resonance in me as a child of the eighties and nineties: a nostalgic feeling that Cawthon is trying to invoke and distort.

The fact of the matter is that, for the most part, the three Five Nights at Freddy’s that exist right now can stand by themselves. There didn’t need to be another game after these. However, I had my suspicions. Perhaps it was because of the empty product page he kept for some time with the discarded top hat. Maybe it was his silence about whether or not there was going to be another game.

But sure enough, come October 31, the fourth and final Five Nights at Freddy’s will arrive. And if you look at the graphic on Cawthon’s page, it is extremely appropriate if you think about it. I think it actually sums up a lot of the second element that has been on my mind, in some form, when I think about this game.

FNAF 4

I mean, of course it makes sense for the last chapter of a horror survival game to come out on Halloween, but here’s what gets to me. Imagine Freddy’s Pizzeria is like Chuck E. Cheese’s or even Disney World or Land. Certainly, a place for children would celebrate Halloween in some fashion: or at least take advantage of it commercially. Maybe “The Bite of ’87” might not come into it as many fans are speculating, but imagine how freaky it would be to be in a haunted children’s restaurant on Halloween of all days: perhaps even during the day this time around. Perhaps there are actual Nightmare toy versions or animatronics for such a lovely occasion.

But all speculation on my part aside, take this a step further. Remember what I said earlier about faces? How you never see any human faces in any of the Five Nights games? There are always costumes involved. There are always roles to consider. You arguably wear a uniform as a security guard. A murderer might have worn a animatronic suit. In Five Nights 2 you have to hide your face under a Freddy Fazbear Head in order to survive an animatronic intrusion. And children might be hiding — or hidden — in other inside the darnedest places. Even Phone Guy, the former security guard who showed you the ropes of your new job and was your only ally for the most part, tells you that he is curious to see what is inside those animatronic suits.

Freddy Fazbear Mask

The fact is: it’s always Halloween at Freddy’s, and I suspect that it’s always been. No one is as they seem, everyone wears masks, no one rests, and everyone wants to play. Sometimes nostalgia is an illusion of the fabled “good old days” that can, when stripped away, becomes a dark, ravenous thing in the late hours of the night. Sometimes you lose track of time when you so desperately want to keep living, and you don’t always want to see what’s under that costume. After all, some seemingly innocent dreams are, at their core, rotting nightmares.

And just when you think its safe to take that mask off, to forget the night time, to mistake the performer taking off his top hat with a flourish and a bow as the end: the story only continues at an elegant pace … and the suspense will kill you.

Freddy Toreador March

Commitment

This post isn’t about relationships. Well, at the very least, it’s not about romantic relationships.

Hello everyone. It’s been a while. I didn’t plan it to be a while, honestly. I mean, I didn’t really feel like I had much to say for a while and, really, I wanted to put some emphasis on some of my long-standing projects. So, of course, none of that actually happened.

The fact is, I had to recharge for a while and it’s taking some time for me to get back into the critical and creative way of things. I had a whole other post that’s been sitting in my mind for a while, but I only think it’s appropriate that I write today’s post on what is, yes, May the Fourth.

In nerdy circles, that day has a lot of expectations behind it. And there are even more expectations now. It’s no secret, to anyone that knows me, that I have mixed feelings about Star Wars Episode VII. I mean, we’ve gone down this road before: a new Star Wars movie comes up and we have all of these hopes and dreams for it, sink some time into the experience, and hope that we will not leave it frustrated and disappointed.

I know that I am concerned with getting too attached. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve taken so long updating myself on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the DC television programs. They take a lot of time away, if you let them. Geeky things do that. If done well, or even not so well, they can get you attached to the characters and the stories. There might be a whole other ton of things that you have to do, but you end up filling the time dealing with these instead, or you procrastinate while trying to keep your desire for them at bay while unsuccessfully attempting to finish some work.

Good luck on that.

Oh, right. There is no such thing as luck.

You know, I have a queue. I have two Twine Projects that I want to finish. I have a Lovecraftian short story that has been on the back-burner to the point where I sometimes forget it ever existed, never mind remember its details. And I have another idea with which I want to have something to show for all of the research that I’ve put into it: if only in some small way. This also includes publishing more short stories and working on novellas again: and doing new things.

I’ve just not been doing it: or doing it as quickly as I would like. Life keeps getting in the way. I want to do too many things at once and, as a result, little gets done. And while I do value the creative criticism and reviews that I do, it has been a while since I have actually created something. And that fact is frustrating to me. I have to keep asking myself what I am first: a critic or a creator. And I’d like to say I am the latter.

In order to accomplish my goals, I will have to do it — or just not. The obligatory “do, or do not” aside I have gotten some very interesting perspective lately: perspective on what is actually important. If I am going to make a commitment, it needs to be something that is worth it to me. The Marvel and DC cinematic universes have definitely made me feel closer to what I was when I was younger with adult sensibilities. They also give me that time to relax and gather more material. And I will end up seeing the next Star Wars films.

As for the rest of it, I need to sit down and make some decisions. I suspect I already know what I have to do.

Don’t worry everyone. I will do it.

Yoda Waiting