Thursday, November 5, 2009

Insect Shrine Playtest Session 2

hmmm. Mixed feelings about this one. After doing an all-night Night Visions film festival on Saturday-Sunday (first movie started 6:45pm Saturday evening, and we left the theater at about 11:30am Sunday morning... Orphan, The Box, The Road, Dead Snow, Descent 2, Nightmare, Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl, and Super Typhoon if you're wondering... also caught The Forbidden Door and Tetsuo: Bullet Man at the fest Thursday night - reviews after the game report!), I've been kind of wiped out. I think it showed in my performance refereeing the game last night.

On the other hand the material performed well, even though absolutely nothing went the way I had envisioned it. The sandboxy nature of the area combined with some good decision making on the PCs' part made everything less tense than it could have been, and in my fatigued condition I didn't seem to have the snap to liven it up.

The party pretty much did two things: Investigated the old village, specifically the abandoned farmhouse, and went into the halfling mound.

The farmhouse bit was "narratively" odd, as the plot hook I'd planned was unnecessary to convince them to go there, but also made the trip more casual. The tension unwound rather than built up, but I was proud that using information that I'd previously written, it was easy to devise a resolution that allowed the vital information here to pass to the players' hands while being 100% consistent with the setting and who all these people are.

The halfling mound was a bit odd. I'd already posted the map here on the blog (not that the thing is complex anyway), one of the players had already gone through it in an earlier incarnation (and events, by coincidence, conspired to make the circumstances surrounding the approach identical... what are the chances?), and one of the players really had to go home in the middle of the "climactic" fight. I could have skipped this part completely, but there's good opportunity for experience and I want to see how the new fluffy bits work with a live audience.

I think I gave a bit of short shrift to the role-playing back at the Inn, but the character of some of the residents there was able to come out a bit more.

Next week, same time, and hopefully a bit more peppy, lively, and dangerous. Both me and the adventure. ;)

And now... movie reviews!

The Forbidden Door This Indonesian movie is about an artist who sculpts images of very pregnant women in unusual poses. The secret to his artistic inspiration is that he puts aborted fetuses into the bellies of his sculptures. This has nothing to do with the actual plot of the movie. It really is disturbing at some points, but at other times it tries too hard and crosses the line into the comedic. I found that the ending unraveled the build-up and mystery rather than paid it off.

Tetsuo: The Bullet Man This is a Japanese movie starring Westerners who can't act. The script is horrendously bad. It's about a man that transforms into a human gun. Unfortunately due to budget and artistic decisions, I didn't figure that out until quite a ways into the movie and thought the guy just had a big turd on his head. The movie just stops at certain points and turns into an industrial music video. The battle scenes are pretty much the cameraman having an epileptic fit, so nothing can actually be seen. Half the movie takes place in a basement. Apparently this is the third in the series of Tetsuo movies (Iron Man and Body Hammer being the earlier ones), but I just didn't get it. At all.

Orphan I thought this was almost really great. That actress had me thinking "Christina Ricci in Addams Family" the whole way through - I think she's going to be a huge star. If you accept the twist as plausible (and I did), then the movie rocks. It is only let down by having a truckload of false suspense (camera imitating a point-of-view shot creeping up on someone with the music going... and then switching angles and there was never anything there and we're watching a guy shave, for instance) that were unnecessary.

The Box This is a grand, grand piece of shit. It's about Martians. This isn't a spoiler - the opening shot of the film gives that much away. The use the Arthur C. Clarke "Any sufficiently advanced technology..." quote to take license to make no sense and just have shit randomly happen just because. It's also a 70s period movie, and I giggle at the lengths filmmakers go to in order to avoid cell phones wrecking their plots. This is the kind of movie that is so bad that anyone claiming to like it loses all credibility when talking about anything, ever.

The Road Depressing, agonizing, slow, excellent. The trailers make it seem like it's an action movie. It isn't. Not even close. Apocalyptic.

Dead Snow Very self-aware (maybe too much so) Norwegian movie about Nazi zombies way up in the mountains (no cell phone reception!). Includes the horror movie geek for the audience to identify with! The Raimi montage homage got the theater cheering. It's a fun-without-being-insulting kind of zombie action movie. It's in Norwegian, but don't let that scare you off if you're into these kind of movies. Unlike some of the other movies we watched during the festival, the subtitling here is very good.

Descent 2 More of the same. Takes place in a cave (no cell phone reception!). It literally is the exact same plot as the first one, although how they'll reconcile this beginning with the editing they did on the American version of the first film's ending, I don't know. Luckily, no such problems this side of the pond. From the advance hype I thought this would be more in the line of Aliens ("This time, they're prepared! Or so they think!"), but it's just a bunch of unprepared schlubs showing up in a cave to be eaten. Again.

Nightmare 1981 "cult" "classic." This movie sucked ass, and we had a really shitty print to watch. Everything was rather orange. I think the only reason this movie continues to be seen is that it caused a bit of a media furor in Finland when it was first released (this country banned Dirty Harry for years and years...) according to the festival organizers, and the guy responsible for distributing the movie within the UK was jailed for it. Unconvincing, unsuspenseful, the gore wasn't even all that. We laughed and laughed at the advanced 1981 computer criminal tracking system. The graphics were shit but that thing was more advanced than the computer in Alien! Just a crap movie.

Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl And now for something completely different. The blood shoots by the gallon in the Japanese high school drama. Watching the school nurse chasing a drop of vampire blood with a mop as the blood runs away from her is probably the most normal thing in this movie. The school includes a wrist-cutting club that's preparing for a competition, and the club of Japanese girls wanting to be black would surely be terribly offensive if one single other thing in this movie was to be taken seriously. It's a shame that the zaniness just kept coming like water from a showerhead, because by the time the woman with the eyeballs for nipples shows up, it's kind of just, "ehhh." Still, quite a unique experience.

Super Typhoon You'd think that a patriotic Chinese disaster movie wouldn't be the best choice to close out a festival when everyone's already been there for 15 hours. You'd be wrong. The mayor of this endangered Chinese town is the baddest ass ever in the history of film. He will not allow one single Chinese citizen to be endangered by the fiercest typhoon in history! When the nurse not qualified to do much of anything has to deal with an after-hours birth that's going badly on an outlaying island, you know these people don't know how to make a serious movie. When the mayor is down on his knees begging the fishermen to not take their boats out to sea while 50' waves are crashing behind him while inspiring music plays, you know you've got an absolute classic on your hands. Also featuring a pickpocket who can't stay out of trouble, the meteorological expert that also happens to have been the mayor's grade school teacher ("Top marks!"), an American storm-chasing photographer who can't seem to say more than "Typhoon OK!", and an entire oldschool miniature cityscape - which gets hilarious when real actors are seamlessly inserted, fleeing through the streets amidst all the toy cars.

Worth a week of being a zombie, for sure. ;)

We did miss other parts of the fest, as we weren't available to go Wednesday night (was the first Insect Shrine game) or Friday night (we went over to a friend's house for an early Halloween and watched... movies! The Mist and Carpenter's Halloween!). Crispin Glover did some sort of live performance or something, not clear what he was there for, plus of course some other movies. I can't believe I skipped a black metal documentary to watch The Box. :P

It was torturous having to watch the sponsors' advertisements before just about every movie. And the trailers for the new Holmes and Avatar movies make them look worse than The Box. I will avoid both with extreme prejudice. However, they were promoting a movie about Swedish feminist porn at the festival, so everyone got condoms and the trailer for the movie included actual porn. And I don't think there was an age limit on the fest. Not that a couple of mid-30s people had a reason to find out. And I still don't much know what the difference is between feminist porn and regular porn.

Oh, and last night during the game it started SNOWING! The first sticking snow of the year! And it's still SNOWING 12+ hours later!

I love this country!


  1. Yeah, it's started snowing in Sweden as well. I hate this country...

  2. You're high. I've been waiting since April for this. :D

  3. I'm what? :)

    Well, I'm happy you are happy. I can stay inside. Later when I have to go out and I can groan again...