It’s been decades since video games started invading movie theaters, but after all this time the best (official) adaptations are still pretty underwhelming. Sure, MORTAL KOMBAT and SILENT HILL are okay, but where’s this genre’s breakaway hit? Where’s the video game movie equivalent of THE DARK KNIGHT?
A big part of the problem is that the video games that are actually being adapted to the big screen, and the amount of respect they’re given in the adaptation process, are often underwhelming. Those RESIDENT EVIL movies are fun, but the original games were pretty ludicrous to begin with, and director Paul W.S. Anderson only made them more insane as time went on. Those films now have very little in common with the games that were so successful that they warranted a feature film franchise in the first place. The first SILENT HILL movie looked great, but it completely missed the point of the games — to the point of being damn near insulting.
But we’re here to help, not to kvetch. We’ve got five great horror video games that haven’t been adapted to the big screen yet, which — if adapted with care — could become wildly entertaining (and in at least one case, even artistically significant) entries in the genre. You’re welcome, Hollywood.
The Pitch: It’s INDIANA JONES meets DRACULA!
Fun Fact: Before they settled on the concept of the Holy Grail, producer George Lucas originally wanted the third INDIANA JONES movie to be about the whip-wielding archaeologist investigating a haunted house.
I’ll give you a moment to visualize that awesome movie in your head.
Finished? Good. Now, that’s basically the movie version of CASTLEVANIA — a gothic adventure story about Simon Belmont, exploring the impossibly huge castle of Count Dracula, unearthing monster after monster, mystery after mystery, deadly trap after deadly trap.
The plot is simplicity itself. Every 100 years, Dracula is resurrected and a member of the Belmont family must track him down and destroy him. Pick an era of your choice — the present, the early 20th century, The Dark Ages, etc. — and boom, that’s your CASTLEVANIA movie. Then come up with some awesome set-pieces, give each Belmont a distinctive personality and an interesting supporting cast, and don’t blow your wad adapting LORD OF SHADOWS the first time around, or you’ll ruin a pretty spectacular twist that will revitalize your whole movie franchise after three or four films.
CONDEMNED: CRIMINAL ORIGINS
The Pitch: It’s SE7EN times seven!
A detective investigates the latest in a long line of serial murders, but something’s wrong. The modus operandi is the same, but all of the clues lead to one inescapable conclusion: this new victim is actually the serial killer they’ve looking for all along.
So begins a feature film version of CONDEMNED, a high-concept thriller about a detective whose latest target is a serial killer who kills other serial killers. That would be intriguing enough — a broad ensemble cast of maniacs, and a big mystery uniting them — but there’s something else going on in this mad, mad city. A dark undercurrent, something unnatural, something driving all the people who live there insane. Think of it like the first season of TRUE DETECTIVE, but if all of the occult stuff actually went somewhere.
CONDEMNED would be a creepy, SE7EN-esque thriller, but the supernatural angle sets up a whole new can of worms that could spill out of one sequel after another, making an already disturbed vision of humanity turn into an absolute psychotic breakdown of a multi-film franchise.
The Pitch: It’s every feminist’s worst nightmare!
Horror movies often reflect the sociopolitical climate that spawns them. So it’s pretty telling about how far we’ve come (or rather, how few strides we’ve successfully made) that although PHANTASMAGORIA is now nearly 20 years old, its story — if not necessarily its gameplay mechanics — seems as relevant as ever.
Designed by Roberta Williams, this violent and sexual point-and-click adventure tells the story of a successful woman who moves into a house with a disturbing history. As she researches the life of a stage magician who murdered his many wives — for essentially daring to have personalities of their own — her own husband becomes infected by the ghost of the former owner, and gradually turns shockingly abusive towards our heroine. In a particularly damning indictment of contemporary sexual politics, it takes her a while to notice that he’s under a demonic influence, and not just being a typical man.
PHANTASMAGORIA — which also has, not for nothing, an incredible title — is a classical nightmare, but one that benefits from a juxtaposition with modern psychology. The fear that even the most progressive men are just one rotten instinct away from becoming misogynistic monsters is very powerful… because every day the news seems to offer a lot of evidence that this anxiety is based on fact.
The Pitch: It’s FRIDAY THE 13TH Meets THE MASK!
If you think about it, there’s already a lot of overlap between the superhero and slasher genres: both types of stories focus on characters with tragic, often ironic pasts who then become more powerful, but also more prone to violence. In another world, Spider-Man became a serial killer and Jason Voorhees became a hero.
That is essentially the world of SPLATTERHOUSE — an early bloody beat-em-up about a teenager whose girlfriend is kidnapped by monsters, who then dons a “Terror Mask” that gives him supernatural powers. He ventures into the night to destroy all the demons and save the day, but the mask isn’t a purely benevolent force, and with every gruesome dismemberment — even for the best of reasons — our hero puts himself at greater risk of losing his soul.
Action, horror, romance, psychology — SPLATTERHOUSE has it all. We haven’t had a hit horror/action hybrid since the heyday of BLADE, and with a concept that allows for new protagonists in practically every sequel — and plots that could be fun at just about any price range — SPLATTERHOUSE could turn into the next big thing for horror fans.
The Pitch: It’s SAVING PRIVATE RYAN… from zombies!
The original WOLFENSTEIN video games starred B.J. Blazkowicz as he stormed Nazi strongholds in World War II and blasted his way out of those joints. It was cool and all, but in movies (not to mention video games), it’s already been done. A lot.
Then, in 2001, RETURN TO CASTLE WOLFENSTEIN incorporated an all-new element that has been touched upon in other big budget movies, but never quite given the summer blockbuster treatment. All of a sudden, B.J. wasn’t just fighting Nazis — he was fighting Nazis from the SS Paranormal Division, and trying to foil their plans to raise an army of undead super-soldiers. An expensive, non-stop horror action extravaganza about killing supernatural Nazis? That’s just the sort of film a lot of people always wanted.
Or, if you wanted to go completely nuts with it (in the first film or in even in the sequels), you could follow the most recent development in the WOLFENSTEIN video games, which now take place in an alternate reality in which the Axis powers won World War II. Now that’s horrifying. Adding demons and Robot Hitlers almost seems like overkill, but overkill is exactly what WOLFENSTEIN was always about… wasn’t it?