Game/Life Balance U.S. Podcast Episode 31: Highlander, Halloween, and Nintendo Switch


Cody talks about how he found himself watching Highlander in a movie theater in Wrigleyville as the Chicago Cubs won their first pennant since 1945. Plus: Jon has his annual Halloween love fest and recommends movies and games for the season, then discusses the Nintendo Switch with Cody.

Show Notes:

The post Highlander, Halloween, and Nintendo Switch: Game/Life Balance U.S. Podcast Ep. 031 appeared first on Game/Life Balance U.S..

Bachman’s Best – A Nightmare on Elm Street



The best thing I saw last week was the original A Nightmare on Elm Street by Wes Craven. After the recent loss of the talented director it made me pause and take stock of my influences. Three names instantly came to mind; Stan Lee, Stephen King, and Wes Craven. Without these three men I would in no way be the person I am. They are all phenomenal storie tellers and each has made almost unequaled contributions to their individual fields. Having lost one of these gentlemen I took the last couple of weeks to reexamine a lot of his work. I re-watched the Nightmare series. I watched the Scream films. Red Eye, The Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes – original and remake, The People Under the Stairs, and The Shocker. Wes Craven was a fantastic director involved in a lot of the films that taught me what horror could be. He will be greatly missed by this viewer and if you haven’t seen his films treat yourself. I promise you’ll learn something about the horror genre. Today however I’m here to talk about what is probably his most important contribution to the horror genre, and the slasher film specifically, A Nightmare on Elm Street.


Freddy Krueger was the huge curveball thrown at the slasher franchises of the 80’s. Michael and Jason are both great and I’ve always found them entertaining but Freddy in A Nightmare on Elm Street brought serious dark humor and wit to his kills. In the original Freddy is dark, gritty, and out to terrify each teenager before he kills them. In some of the dream sequences he does odd crazy things like chopping off some of his own fingers and laughing at the blood spurting out. Sneaking up behind someone and then laughing manically as he chases them. To me this was a huge change to the silent stalking kills I had seen of Jason and Michael, and filled with character unlike the crazy loud kills of Leatherface. Krueger will probably be Craven’s longest lasting creation, time will tell. But I mean really, a movie villain child molester and killer that murders children in their sleep became so popular in the 80’s there was a line of pajamas made for both young boys and girls. Think about that for a bit. It was a very different world I grew up in.



The cast of this film was packed with talent. John Saxon as the tough cop father of our heroine puts in a solid performance. Ronee Blakely delivers possibly the best performance of the film short of Robert Englund himself as a mother in denial drinking herself into oblivion as her daughter’s life is falling apart around her. Englund brings the monster to life. His charisma is palpable as Krueger. He’s charming as he’s scaring the shit out of you. In the original film you don’t cheer for him as you end up doing later in the franchise but you are transfixed by him. You want to see what he’s going to do next, how terrifying it will be, and who will be dead when he’s done. Heather Langenkamp is the star heroine of this film as Nancy Thompson, the girl that fights back against Krueger and isn’t willing to go quietly to her doom. She brought power to the role of a teenage girl frustrated by all the lying adults around her that prove to be no help as all her friends are dying. So instead of complaining she takes in upon herself to face, trap and kill Krueger. Langenkamp’s portrayal of Nancy had a lasting effect on me, I think it plays a lot into my attraction to strong brunette females. And last but not least let us not forget the young boyfriend Glen played by a complete unknown at the time named Johnny Depp. He gets a shot from Craven and turns in a strong performance as the great boyfriend of the hero and ends up with one of the most memorable deaths in film history. So all you Depp fans give a hardy thanks for Wes giving the kid a shot.



The film is currently available on the Netflix instant queue and I can tell you it holds up. Even better is the crystal clean version on the new Nightmare on Elm Street blu-ray box set, super crisp visuals and sound, a very fantastic buy for any horror fan. However you see it you’ll be happily shocked to see the comparison of how old the fashion choices make the movie seem while at the same time the horror pieces make it feel just as relevant as ever. It’s still one of the only films I find scary. You get to see a group of teenagers basically picked off one by one for the sins of their parents as one smart teenage girl Nancy tries to piece together why a dream demon is killer her friends in their sleep. It’s bloody, it’s shocking, it’s funny, and sometimes so twisted you wonder where these ideas came from. In the best way possible. Thanks Wes.



Bachman’s Best – SAW


The best thing I saw last week was Saw. I actually watched all 7 films in the franchise on my lovely new Blu-rays I got thanks to a friend of mine giving me a Blu-ray player to make up for my sudden lack of a PS3. Love them all, most for very different reasons from the original, but that is the one I want to talk about today. Saw, the original is important I think for two very big reasons. It spawned the first new type of horror film since the dawn of the slashers in the 70’s and 80’s and it also gave us our very first killer that doesn’t actually kill, well at least not in the standard horror movie way. And depending on which sites you check and adjusting for inflation it is labeled by some to be the highest grossing horror franchise of all time so Saw definitely hit upon something in the American psyche and rolled with it.


Probably my favorite thing about the original is the simplicity of it’s beginning. Two guys, director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell get together to make an independent movie, they want it to be cheap. They ask themselves “What’s the cheapest movie we can make?” The answer “Two guys in a room.” “But why are they in the room?…” From that simple little back and forth they come up with Adam and Lawrence waking up in a room not knowing how they got there and then learning throughout the film why they are in this room, and more importantly what it’s going to take to get out.


“I want to play a game” these are the words that Jigsaw, aka John Kramer played fantastically by Tobin Bell, relays to each of his victims through a tape or video message. He has found them to be undeserving of their life for one reason or another and challenges them to a game which will prove their will to live. The games and traps in the later films become vicious and some inescapable but the original ones designed by Jigsaw could always be beat if the victim were willing to give of themselves. The second great quote form Jigsaw being “Oh yes, there will be blood”. If you are willing to shed blood, maybe injure yourself or somebody else you could escape Jigsaw’s trap and that is where a lot of the genius of the story comes from. The traps and games are what keep me coming back time and again in the series just too really see what new contraptions the special effects and set designers would create for each new trip into the world of Saw.


The one downside of course being that the Saw franchise gave rise to the tidal wave of subgenre horror films lovingly entitled “torture porn”, not the least of which is the 3 Hostel films from Eli Roth. Though what all these movies usually get wrong with the pure in your face violence I believe Saw got right with the story and characters and just plain powerful script. If you’re a horror nut you’ve seen these, but go back and re-watch Saw now knowing what you know and see just how well it holds up. If you’re not a horror fan you may have avoided this franchise, but give the first one a chance, it’s gruesome and gritty and might make you a little nauseous, but it’s also damn fine movie making and well worth your time.


Steve Niles House Floods Paypal Account Created to Help Aid



If you haven’t heard already, yesterday, after up to a foot of rain fell during a 12-hour period in the Austin, Texas area, flash floods quickly moved through and closed roads which iniated rescues and even canceling the final day of the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Among those affected was horror writer Steve Niles (30 Days of Night)  who posted this update on his Facebook page yesterday:

“Woke up at 6am to water rushing into the house. Already ankle deep by the time we saw it. We got as much as we could off the ground and tried to block but there wasn’t much we could do. The worst was trying to get to Gil. It was waist deep almost and strong enough to throw around logs. I reached him and he was submerged and freaking out. Don’t remember much more then lifting him and carrying him all the way back to the house. Looking back I can see how scary it was.

We are securing the house as much as we can and going through the damage. A scrapbook full of original art I’ve kept for 30 years is gone. A lot more.

Our friends Belinda and Steve are setting up a fund to help. I feel terrible about this but once things settle I’ll have to face up that we need help. I just wish I could catch my breath for 5 minutes and I can make my own money. Austin has had other ideas I guess.

We’ll keep you posted. We’re sort of trapped here for right now. Going to pack and move as much as we can before the next storm hits.

Thank you guys so much.”

A lot of the original art and the pets are safe with help from Bernie Wrightson, however, Niles does not have flood insurance and there’s a lot of damage that needs fixing. If you would like to help a PayPal account has been created to aid in paying for the damages. The email address for the PayPal is HelpSteveNiles@gmail.com.


Wednesday’s Webcomic: The Horror Comics of Emily Carroll


Today’s selection is actually a collection of brief short stories by artist Emily Carroll. At times haunting, at times terrifying, Emily Carroll’s comics are always vibrantly colored to great and disturbing effect. The writing has the feel of a old campfire story, a cautionary folk tale passed down from generation to generation. Carroll also makes use of her webpage’s “Infinite Canvas” potential by positioning her images onscreen outside of the traditional comic format, taking the reader on twists and turns across the page. Some stories also have additional programming in the images, with some panels changing as you hover your mouse over them and some with links to the next portion of the story subtly hidden among them. I highly recommend pouring over every image in the comics section of her portfolio to find all of the hidden secrets. Be warned, it’s not something to do in a room with the lights off. Or alone in the house. And for the love of your sanity, don’t read them during a thunderstorm! My three favorites are below, but be sure to check out the others on her site!

His Face All Red

Perhaps the most infamous of Carroll’s comics, His Face All Red is a chilling tale of guilt and betrayal.

The Prince & the Sea

A romance of two different worlds, a tale of treachery and misunderstanding.

Anu-Anulan & Yir's Daughter

Lest you think Emily Carroll’s talents are limited to scaring you witless, here is a beautiful and romantic original fairy tale.

Wednesday’s Webcomic: The Locked Maze


Wednesday's Webcomic

My apologies for the unexpected hiatus! I moved last week and it was a whirlwind of packing, hauling, and unpacking, followed by a really intense work schedule and then some much needed rest. And now we return to your regularly scheduled programming….

This week’s selection is an all-too-brief and absolutely stunning complete comic called The Locked MazeWhile it is short, it is so well-written and well-drawn with such a satisfying ending that you just may reread it several times.  The Locked Maze tells a story about Holly, a young ex-Mormon programmer in Salt Lake City who is haunted by a trauma from her past. In addition to being cut off from her family since leaving her church, a terrible, spectral laughing being haunts her dreams ever since her home burned down. This has led to near constant insomnia exacerbated by her dull job and judgmental, oblivious coworkers.  The situation comes to a head when a not-so-random act of kindness throws Holly in the way of the fairies who have been living ironically in Salt Lake City, and the terrifying spectral creature which is hunting them and burning them alive.

Book 2 title page

Book 1 of the The Locked Maze is illustrated in Black and White, with pages alternating between rich pencil and smooth gray scale. In Book II color begins to be used, to excellent and frequently terrifying effect. The storytelling is nuanced and careful, with key details there for the reader to infer from the art alone. This is a story that shows, not tells. The emotional impact of the story’s darker moments is drawn from the author’s own personal experiences. I cannot recommend this dark, beautiful, and finally uplifting read enough.

The Author and her Other Works

Emily Ivie, who often goes by the handle mleiv, is a web designer in addition to being an artist. She had one other web comic project called Rotsterarsi-l which sadly ended after one chapter. Ivie cited the low return on investment for her time as the reason she could no longer afford to continue. She was also the artist for Dark Horse’s three issue Emily and the Stranger.

iThing of the Week: Haunting Melissa


Haunting Melissa is the first app I know of that is a serialized story. Directed by Neal Edelstein (producer, The Ring) and written by Andrew Klavan (producer, Don’t Stay a Word), Haunting Melissa is a found-footage horror story.

The story is about Melissa (Kassia Warshawski), who is dealing with the recent death of her mother, and her struggle to come to terms with the circumstances surrounding her mother’s death. A mysterious blurred-out figure is the person who has found footage to tell the real story behind Melissa’s actions; the figure wants to show us why Melissa did what she did (an act we don’t know about in the beginning). Melissa’s mother, Katherine Rosemary Strogue, “went crazy” and locked herself in a bedroom, living the final months of her life in near isolation. Melissa thinks that her mother wants to tell her something from beyond the grave because of odd occurrences around the house, but many in her life think she is overwhelmed by grief and getting the heebie-jeebies from being alone in a large farmhouse for long stretches of time.

Since the story is from Melissa’s point of view, we see the camera for her computer come suddenly on, the doors creaking open or slamming shut, the pale figure garbed in black standing across the street, popping into TV shows and being where Melissa was after Melissa moves in a chair and her bed. We hear the strange noises in the night, the footsteps of someone outside Melissa’s bedroom when we know her father isn’t home, and the strange voice on recordings. We know what Melissa is going through, and we feel her frustration as the people closest to her really don’t believe what is happening.

Haunting Melissa

The sources for the material include security footage from Mike Cole’s hardware store, Melissa’s camera for her computer, taped sessions with Melissa’s therapist, and Melissa’s own recordings. Her therapist wants Melissa to keep a journal, so she decides to do a video diary. Messages on answering machines, IMs between Melissa and her friends, video chats with friends, and internet searches are also storytelling devices.

Haunting Melissa has eleven chapters, but you can’t marathon the story. Each chapter is about 10 to 20 minutes long, and the chapters are released in stages, making Haunting Melissa feel more like a TV show or miniseries instead of a theatrical film. You have to wait three to four days between chapters, so you have to realize others are ahead of you, so if you visit forums, you could encounter spoilers.

The story is a slow burn. Many elements of most ghost stories are present: crosses on the walls, creaking floor boards, slamming doors, noises, a wispy dark figure, and jump scares. Since Haunting Melissa is found footage, some of the shots are wide and others shaky, but the inclusion of modern methods of communication breaks up what could have been just hours of Melissa talking into a camera. A layer of creepiness is added when her computer’s camera comes on in the middle of the night and we watch her sleep; sometimes something else happens, but just watching her sleep forces us to be voyeurs, a violation of her space and privacy that the dark forces are doing to Melissa as well.

The storytelling method isn’t revolutionary, but its delivery method is. Relying on the stability of a separate app is not necessary. No theater, no TV, no YouTube, and no Netflix are needed – the story is delivered straight to your iDevice. Many people have iDevices, so being able to directly send the story straight to an audience could open this market to other storytellers; without the need of another app, you can watch Haunting Melissa with just your iDevice and an internet connection to download the next installment.

Haunting Melissa iDevices

Haunting Melissa is a good, traditional ghost story with decent acting and a story that entices you to check often for the next installment. For the bulk of the story, the mystery of what happened to her mother and why Melissa is a target is the allure of Haunting Melissa, but the scares do get more intense as the story progresses.

Haunting Melissa is made by Hooked Digital Media, is rated 12+, and is optimized for iOS 6.0 or later. The first chapter is free. Standard definition episodes are $0.99 each or $6.99 for a season pass; high definition episodes are $1.99 each or $14.99 for a season pass.

Wednesday’s Webcomic: Broodhollow


Today’s webcomic is brilliant one, so much so that it’s difficult to describe the plot without giving away too many details. I can describe it as a cosmic horror, a psychological thriller, as well as a tale of finding trust and friendship in difficult times. In the midst of the Great Depression, Wadsworth Zane is struggling with a nigh-hopeless case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a job as an encyclopedia salesman, and a growing pile of bills when he receives word of an inheritance in the distant town Broodhollow. Although his windfall may be the answer to his prayers, foreboding and terrifying dreams begin, warning him away from Broodhollow. Despite his anxieties, he travels to Broodhollow to find a happy and welcoming town, with residents anxious for him to occupy the vaccum left by the death of his Uncle Virgil Zane, an antique dealer and pillar of the community. Despite the town’s warm welcome, Wadsworth quickly notices the townsfolk don’t notice things that he finds incredibly alarming, to the point that Wadsworth begins questioning whether he may be truly hallucinating. Is Wadsworth merely hallucinating the frightening goings on in the town of Broodhollow? Or are his own neuroses the ones that make him capable of perceiving that his kind new friends and neighbors are in mortal danger?

Broodhollow   The Pattern

The package that starts it all.

Broodhollow comes from a popular veteran of the webcomics scene, so it’s no surprise that it is punctual each week with a detailed and well designed website. Not only is it well-presented, but the writing is excellent. The creepy and funny moments are all timed perfectly with illustrations that alternate between bright and friendly and dark and truly terrifying. The colors are done in a water-color wash style which lends a sort of bloody realism to the clean-edged cartoonish lines of the scenery and characters. Even the typefaces are period appropriate to the art deco style of the website.  This is a completely rock-solid read; and with the first book 200% funded on Kickstarter after only two days I have no doubt Broodhollow will thrill and terrify me for a long time to come.

Broodhollow   The Back Room

Is this all in his mind? Or is this creature real?

The Author and his Other Works

The prolific Kris Straub had been publishing webcomics for over 13 years now, with the completed sci-fi humor and drama Starslip and the currently running gag daily Chainsaw Suit. He partners with Scott Kurtz on the Blamimations segment at PATV. Some of the elements that lead to Broodhollow  came from his microfiction horror site Ichor Falls.

Wednesday’s Webcomic: The Fox Sister


The Fox Sister is a supernatural folktale-thriller in progress that is based in Korean myth and history.  In 1961, Cho Yun Hee was a young girl when she found her family being devoured by the nine-tailed fox spirit, a shape shifting demoness. Narrowly escaping being devoured herself, she discovered to her horror that the spirit had stolen her sister’s body to live and hunt in. Seven years later, Yun Hee has become a Mudang, a shaman, as well as a college student and is hunting for the creature in Seoul. Her only confidant is Soot Bull, her dog, and her only solace is in Elvis Presley records. In the rambunctious way of dogs, Soot Bull introduces her to Alex, an American missionary and former soldier.  While initially disinterested in his flirtations and his faith, Yun Hee is drawn to him out of a mutual love of Elvis and quickly discovers that the Kumiho wearing her sister’s face is stalking him and the neighbors of his church.

The Fox Sister, 3

The Fox Sister has only been in publication for a little more than year, but it has developed an ardent fanbase devoted to its art, characters and story line. The story is projected to end after four chapters and is  rapidly building to a climax.  The illustration is lush and the color pallette subtly changes to suit the tone of the panel. Be warned, there are frequent gory images illustrated in all their vivid red, gory glory! North American and European fans have also been enthused to see facets of Korean culture rarely seen in mainstream media or comics, such as Mugyo, the shamanistic religion native to Korea. The accuracy of the setting and references resonate with fans of Korean descent as well.

The Authors and their Other Works

The Fox Sister is a collaborative work between author Christina Strain and illustrator Jaid Aït-Kaci. Aït-Kaci’s other major work in progress is the fantasy Sfeer Theory. Strain is former colorist at Marvel and has worked on titles such as Runaways and Spider Man Loves Mary Jane. She spent much of her childhood in South Korea, and her mother lends a hand by keeping the 1960’s period authentic.

The Fox Sister Page 15

Wednesday’s Webcomic: Monster Pulse


Wednesday's Webcomic

Monster Pulse is a supernatural horror adventure story written for young adults, with expressive black-and-white art and truly cool and original subject matter. A couple kids in the Pacific Northwest stumble on a secret government experiment to create life from life, which pulls an organ from their bodies and turns it into a powerful and devoted monster.  The organ is now permanently removed and independently alive but somehow still capable of performing its intended function. In the case of Bina Blum, her heart is now a six-foot-tall, incredibly strong and protective creature that still somehow pumps her blood from outside her body, as she can still check her pulse. The energy creatures that are seeking out specifically children to bond with are being hunted by their creators, the shadowy organization SHELL, which is taking extreme measures to capture or destroy them, regardless of the fact that the destruction of the monster means the destruction of the original organ. In Bina’s case at least, this means evading and fighting the agents of SHELL is a fight for her life!

Bina Meets Ayo

In the midst of all this, the kids must still deal with being pre-teens. While the monsters and evading SHELL brings them together, they don’t necessarily have much holding them together beyond that. They have to deal with learning their parents are human and not always to be relied on, jealousy amongst friends, those first romantic feelings, and heavier issues like death and responsibility. One of the kids, Abel, is homeless for as-yet-unknown reasons, and has had to engage in petty theft to survive. All this combined makes an incredibly deep and riveting webcomic-in-progress. I was glued to the archive until I was caught up! These are very realistic characters, which is rarer and rarer in the ever widening pool of webcomics that are out there. The author has small breaks in between chapters, but otherwise sticks to a regular update schedule.

The Author and her Other Works

Magnolia Porter is a freelance illustrator, who created Monster Pulse partially out of a love for Pokemon and the Kids-And-Monsters genre. She’s also written the complete comic Bobwhite about young women in art school. Monster Pulse Book 1 will soon be released, thanks to a successful Kickstarter!