Three boys. Two girls. A decrepit building. A light switch.
I’ve heard folks say the best horror is simple. While some may disagree with that assertion, films like William Prince’s CLICK certainly make a strong argument. This short film runs fourteen minutes and some change and is achingly spartan in its design, concept, and plot. It presents not only a beautiful-in-its-simplicity horror story but a fantastic premise for a Little Fears session. Imagine your group as the kids who investigate the aftermath of this film. I would love to play in that game. Absolutely wonderful.
If you have fifteen minutes to spare, you can watch the entire film below. It’s well worth your time.
It’s an exciting time for PC games with a lot of developers, especially the indies, trying new genres and new ideas within old genres. One such game that Little Fears fans might want to put on their radar is Huntsman – The Orphanage, a horror game from an outfit called ShadowShifters. Played through a first-person perspective, you must elude the ominously-named Huntsman as you try to escape the titular facility with only your smartphone and your wits to guide you. Judging from the trailer, it seems the smartphone will be incredibly important in not just your survival but others’ as well.
I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say that children are involved in the story as well as what seems to be a heavy supernatural element. I got a strong Slenderman: The Eight Pages vibe from what I’ve seen and read but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
Most of the things I post in “Inspiring Fear” share a contextual link to Little Fears, such as having young protagonists, fighting unseen monsters, or shining a light on the power of belief. But this one struck me primarily for the visuals.
This video for “House of Circles” by Cleveland-area rock duo Mr. Gnome was shot on a $2000 budget and looks incredible. The 8-minute film is a fairy tale about a metallic-skinned woman named Queen Machine who has eaten a planet’s sun. A girl who lives on that planet leads an attack against Queen Machine to get their sun back. It’s wonderful (and wonderfully imaginative) stuff. From the young heroes to the dark-winged fairies to a world aesthetic you might find in the corners of Closetland to Queen Machine herself, you can find a lot of cool stuff to work into your Little Fears game. Enjoy.
I posted about the upcoming film Mama back when I first learned of the short film that inspired it. That was in September and I’d almost forgotten about it until my friend (and Happy Birthday, Little Fears illustrator) Doug Snook sent me a link to a new version of the short film that includes a preface by celebrated director and producer Guillermo del Toro. In addition, I was reminded that the new film is set to come out in just two weeks! The feature-length version of Mama has a release date of January 18th here in the States, and I’m amped to see it. It seems like not only perfect Little Fears inspiration but has such a great premise I have to know more.
If you’re involved in social media, chances are good you’ve seen this one on Facebook, Twitter, G+, or similar. I was relatively late to the party, having just watched it, but I had to share this with you all. The story goes this is candid footage from a Brazilian prank/practical joke show. I didn’t know what to expect which is for the best I think. Just trust me that this most definitely has some ties to Little Fears. Some things about the footage make me question its veracity but it’s still a fun watch with some great scares. Check it out.
The first I heard of the video game Rule of Rose was back in 2005 when I saw a strange little trailer announcing its impending release in Japan. This two-minute snippet gave no clue to the gameplay or, really, anything about the story. But the tone and music and glimpses of the story’s potential riled horror fans like me into a frenzy. Unfortunately, the game’s fate outside Japan was up in the air until Atlus announced that it would bring Rule of Rose to the States.
Of course I picked it up on day one.
Set in the 1930s, you play as nineteen-year old Jennifer, a girl whose parents were recently killed in an airship accident. We meet her on a bus traveling through the English countryside. After arriving at her destination, she glimpses a young boy who leads her down a trail. At the end of this trail, Jennifer finds an orphanage. Not one overseen by gentle caretakers though but ruled by three sinister adolescent girls who call themselves the Red Crayon Aristocrats. It’s their leader, Diana, who tests Jennifer’s worth through a series of tasks that take her around the orphanage and put her in the path of animal-headed imps, a bound mermaid, and a dog named Brown who not only becomes her companion in the story but an ally in the game. We also meet Amanda, a disturbed girl shunned by the Aristocrats who is only happy Jennifer is there because that gives Diana and the rest someone else to hate. And then there are other kids, including the boy who led Jennifer to the orphanage in the first place, but let’s leave them for you to discover.
The chapters, which run from March to December, are introduced by crayon drawings that set each stage. The cinematics that play throughout are creepy and chilling and pitch perfect. As you endure Diana’s trials, you learn the true story behind the orphanage and its inhabitants, including the connection Jennifer has to the place—something the girl herself doesn’t realize.
I try to only shine light on inspiration you can find either in stores, on a streaming service, or in digital distribution. Unfortunately, Rule of Rose is long out of print. Sellers on Amazon Marketplace currently list it at over $100. You may be able to find a copy of ebay, in the used section of your local GameStop (or regional equivalent), or in a secondary market retailer. As these sorts of games are usually hoarded, you’ll likely have to pay a pretty penny. Or, if you’d rather skip the gameplay and only enjoy the story, playthroughs exist on YouTube and such.
Rule of Rose is not a great game but its atmosphere combined with the twisted world of the Aristocrats is perfect nightmare fuel for Little Fears. And if you doubt me, check out that trailer I mentioned earlier:
Before The Haunting Hour was a television series, it saw audio-visual life as this TV movie starring Emily Osment, Brittany Curran, and horror icon Tobin Bell.
Outsider Cassie (Osment) is used to being overlooked—she prefers it—but when a rivalry with the most popular girl in school, Priscilla (Curran), puts her in a very unfavorable public light, our dark-minded heroine’s thoughts turn to revenge. That revenge is given a weapon in the form of a book called THE EVIL THING. While the contents seems like childish fun, the tome does come with a very specific warning: Do Not Read Aloud.
Like most rules, it gets broken quickly. But unlike most rules, breaking it leads to monstrous results.
Don’t Think About It touches on a lot of great stuff you can use in a Little Fears Nightmare Edition episode. It has sibling rivalry, a really sweet prank, a lovable lunk, oblivious parents, and all takes place in the week leading up to Halloween.
In the vein of RL Stine’s Goosebumps, Don’t Think About It is a nice bite of campy horror with a monster, mystical book, and a great twist ending. As inspiration for your own terror-filled tale, it’s hard to go wrong with Stine, and this film is no exception.
If you aren’t already familiar with the film dropping next year, Mama is the story of two little girls found living in the woods, the refuge to which they escaped after the death of their parents. Taken in by authorities, the pair is soon put under the care of their paternal uncle and his wife (Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain). While the girls slowly acclimate to their new surroundings, life is flipped on its side by a series of deadly supernatural events possibly connected to something from the girls’ past. Something they call “Mama.”
Sounds great to me but, unfortunately, we all have to wait until January of next year to watch it. In the mean time, the power of the internet lets us view the three-minute short upon which the movie is based. From Andres Muschietti, the same man who wrote and directed its big brother, I invite you to watch this wonderfully creepy film called Mamá.
Of all the controversy stemming from the original Little Fears, the book’s references to and condemnation of child abuse was the subject most often addressed. While I did my best to approach the topic with tact and sensitivity, I was coming to it as an outsider. I had never suffered abuse, had a stable upbringing in a loving home, and was raised by parents who watched over me and protected me. Less so Vanderlei Caballero, the creative director of the PlayStation Network release Papo & Yo.
Papo & Yo is a bright shining example of bringing the subject of abuse to the fore by masking it in an approachable wrapper, that of an action-adventure video game.
You play as Quico, a little boy we meet as he’s hiding behind a vent from a lumbering hulk initially seen only in shadow. You soon escape from the beast into a land that plays by the rules of imagination. Throughout the game, you will pull staircases out of brick walls via shining chalk outlines and rearrange neighborhoods by moving around cardboard boxes capable of shifting houses. You’ll meet new characters, gain a treasured toy that lets you do even more in the world, and run into the beast we met early on: Monster. We learn that Monster is normally very kind and gentle but it is addicted to these frogs that turn it into a raging beast. Soon you are set upon finding a cure for Monster’s addiction, freeing it and yourself from its affliction.
The developer states plainly that Papo & Yo is an allegory for his own trials enduring his father’s addiction to drugs and alcohol, even dedicating the work to his siblings who endured as well. With that knowledge, the game’s simple premise takes on a much darker tone but also draws you in even further as you root for Quico to succeed and empathize with this struggle to cure Monster of its addiction.
Yes, it’s heady stuff. But the game’s wonderful art style and engaging world make it easy to get into and enjoy on a game level while processing what all this means on an intellectual and emotional level.
While Little Fears shifted from real-world horror with the release of Little Fears Nightmare Edition, child abuse in all its forms has not gone away and conversations about it—to find better ways to prevent it, address it, and help others recover from its effect—need to happen. As long as we are able to help those affected heal their wounds, we stand a better chance, as a people, of surviving it.
Games such as Papo & Yo are designed as a personal catharsis, but others who endured similar can also find release and those of us who never faced abuse are allowed a better glimpse into its effects. Games like this challenge us all, well beyond our ability to solve puzzles, and serve as further proof that turning pain into positivity is a large step in breaking the cycles that bring us all down.
The game came out yesterday on PlayStation Network for $14.99. You can purchase it directly from you PlayStation 3, through Sony’s online store, or buy a download code from select retailers. (PlayStation+ members save 20%.)
You can find plenty of footage and developer diaries on YouTube as well as my favorite video game website, Giant Bomb. Click below for the wonderful trailer that shows even more of the game’s sense of wonder and imagination.