The Crusades of a Critic putting pop culture in its place with sharp verbal bullets.

Welcome to the cold, oppressive inner sanctum of my mind that gave birth to the beast known as The Iron Criterion. Armed with high expectations, a short temper, a lyrical spirit, and a raging God complex the literary equivalent of letting Dick Cheney loose in the suburbs with a high-velocity hunting rifle. So this is my personal crusade against a broad range of "unjust villains" of the movie, television, video game and literature varieties - that is a bit like a drunken hobo stuck in a video rental store. Special thanks go to my friend Brotherhood619 for designing the original logo, which is now BURNING IN HELL WHERE IT BELONGS.

My reviewing style is very analytical and critical, whilst simultaneously aiming to be comical and entertaining. I automatically hate anything mainstream unless it can prove itself to me. I'm also a foreign film purist, and a lover of the English language and the literature it has spawned. Recurring elements in my reviews include surrealism, cynicism, nihilism, misanthropy and obscure references that most people probably dare not even attempt to understand - think Jon Stewart meets Friedrich Nietzsche.

The end of July 2014 marks the cumulation of the blog's fifth year. *Blows party-horn*

Want to suggest a review? Then simply e-mail Iron.Criterion@gmail.com

Need more Iron? Then you should probably see a dietician! Bad jokes aside, I created and used to edit an alternative music webzine, which finished its run in 2014. From 2012 - 2014 I also wrote for What Culture.

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The Crusades of a Critic © 2009-2016 by Iron Criterion.
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October Nightmares II #19: Resident Evil REmake (2002) - Second Time's the Charm

Ah remakes, the younger sibling no one actually wanted. Remakes have a stigma attached to them like they’re the weird person who sits next to you on an empty bus. A stigma they often rightly deserve; from films such as The Fog (2005) to games like Golden Axe: Beast Rider and Bionic Commando (2009), remakes are often the gooey wank stuck to the bottom of the original’s shoes. But it is worth noting that some of the greatest films and games are remakes; The Thing, Scarface, The Secret of Monkey Island (2009), and Metroid: Zero Mission.

What I’m about to say is sure to get me shived in certain circles: Capcom’s 2002 remake of Resident Evil is absolutely superior to the original. A bold statement for one who grew up on “Jill sandwiches”, but it’s hardly a stretch. The original game is legendary, but for all the wrong reasons; clunky controls, cheesy graphics, and hammy dialogue, the first Resident Evil is like a Stuart Gordon film on steroids. Resident Evil REmake (yes that is its official name) picks off where the original started. You play as either Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine, members of Racoon City’s elite S.T.A.R.S team – like SWAT except that they let 15-year-old girls and Johnny Bravo wannabes onto the team.

The Resident Evil remake serves as the posterchild of how to pull off a successful remake. You’re plonked into the same old mansion in the woods, tasked with uncovering the mystery of why Dexter’s final season was so shit…the strange murders which occurred on the outskirts of Raccoon City. The mansion, with its creaky corridors and puzzling layout, is as obtuse as ever - as though it was designed by whoever built the Winchester Mystery House - requiring novelty themed keys and items to progress. Around every corner the b-movie zombies still wait to advance upon you, arms outstretched, like your gran trying to kiss you on the cheek at the family Christmas dinner. And as this is one of survival horror’s grand masters, ammo and health supplies are still scarcer than a reasonable political opinion in 2016. Resident Evil REmake is a certainly faithful adaptation of the original, right down to Barry Burton’s ridiculous dialogue and weird relationship with rope.

Unlike the original Resident Evil, however, the remake is actually terrifying. Sure, that first zombie you encounter in the PS1 version (munching on your fallen comrade with the unyielding focus of a dog eating its own vomit) scared the shite out of me when I was five. As did the zombies bursting out of the closest like it’s Gay Pride and they’ve finally plucked up the courage to confront their conservative father. But outside a few isolated scares – which can largely be chalked up to childhood innocence – the original Resident Evil was more hilarious than anything else. Resident Evil REmake combines an atmospheric visual design with horrifying set pieces to constantly keep the player on their edge of their seat. Enemies can now breakdown doors to chase you down, and you must burn the bodies of fallen foes lest they mutate and get back up stronger and more ferocious than before. Unfortunately for the player, the game’s as stingy as fucking Scrooge when it comes to the items you need to burn the corpses – further developing the game’s stringent resource management.

The visuals of Resident Evil REmake really are outstanding, lending to the overall morose tone of the game. Even for a GameCube game, the remake looks spectacular. And this has only improved with the game's subsequent (re)remake for the Xbox One and PS4. I always felt the original PS1 game was too vibrant looking for a monster filled mansion, it was practically Manic Mansion in tone. The remake utilises the drab palettes of modern video games and contrasts this with remarkable lighting effects; resulting in a scenery in which the marble floors shine, shadows obscure, and the slimy decrepitude stands out. Not only does the mansion look appropriately desolate, but the enemies look more in line to what you'd expect them to be. There’s not just the green overalls zombie and black zombie now; the game features a range of zombies, each visibly torn and rotten away. The other enemies, the lizard-gorilla Hunters and the anorexic Chimeras, actually look like killing machines – all sinewy and streamlined.

It’s reflective of the game’s combination of the old and the new; a game that’s kept its George Romero-esque creations but made them more Lucio Fulci. That’s kept the tank controls but modernised them slightly so you only move like you’ve got half an awkward stiffy, and can defend yourself without having to put in a planning permission request. At times the adherence to old-school Resident Evil doesn’t jive well with the remake’s more realistic approach. The giant snakes and sharks, and secret underground labs, feel more Saturday morning cartoon than grisly survival horror. Especially when the lab is run by Albert Wesker, the S.T.A.R.S team traitor who looks like he used to be the tough one in a nineties boy band.

October Nightmares II #18: Ghosts 'N Goblins (1985), Ghouls 'N Ghosts (1988) & Super Ghouls 'N Ghosts (1991) - One Hit Wonders...

Is there a better fitting game series for the Halloween season than Ghosts ‘N Goblins - the series which features more tacky horror imagery than a discount Halloween supply shop. Ghosts ‘N Goblins is a hellish experience, not least because it’s unfair, but rather that plonks you into your own self-made (and masochistic) Hell. This series is harder than a Klingon themed word search; a Sisyphean punishment in which you’re constantly throwing yourself into the meat-grinder. On the surface Ghosts ‘N Goblins is the cheesy fairground ghost train, but underneath it’s goddamn Hellraiser.

Capcom’s 8th bestselling franchise (according to Wikipedia) first came to arcades in 1985, a format which was perfectly suited for rinse and repeat nature of the game. It probably earnt Capcom more money than a prostitute who also does your maths homework. As with Dark Souls, it's a game in which you’ll likely have died at least fifteen times within five minutes of playtime. The set-up for Ghosts ‘N Goblins is a find-and-replace copy of Super Mario Bros: The Princess (Prin Prin) has been kidnapped by a large demon (Satan) and it’s up to the hero (Sir Arthur) to run and jump his way through a collection of themed worlds. This was the Eighties mind, what else were they supposed to do? Games stories didn’t really evolve until the Nineties’ introduced the ‘you are a marine, kill everything that moves’ set-up.

From this humble starting point, Ghosts ‘N Goblins takes the player through graveyards, to caverns, to end-game dungeons which threw everything at you. For a game in which you die in just two hits and have only five lives, however, the art style is paradoxically whimsical. Ghosts ‘N Goblins has a charming cartoonish quality, unlike Konami’s Castlevania (released a year later) which sought as macabre a style as the NES would allow. Even for its time, Ghosts ‘N Goblins was always more akin to Funnybones than a full-blown horror themed game. “In a dark, dark town there was a dark, dark street”...But I enjoy that about it. As was the case with Symphony of the Night, Ghosts ‘N Goblins plays like a celebration of horror tropes; there are creaky cemeteries, shuffling zombies, even frail skeletons. It’s like one of the early episodes of Buff the Vampire Slayer.

Ghouls ‘N Ghosts & Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts (released in 1988 and 1991 respectively) were pseudo-sequels which retained the formula but doubled-down on the horror elements. The former had Loki as a hundred foot sinewy demon sat atop a throne of skulls, and horrifying mutant earth worms, creepy magicians, and the Grim Reaper. Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts also added the body horror element with the Sponge Queen and fleshy blob monsters, not to mention the level seemingly set in some kind of stomach. These two games carry on the same “your princess is in another castle” dick move that made the first one so infamous – essentially sending you back to beginning once you reach the end, so that you replay the entire game again with the special item needed to beat the final boss. The game’s like your mum sending you back home to get your coat because it’s a bit nippy outside.

The 1988 and 1991 games highlights the series’ shift towards the horror imagery of Castlevania, and I genuinely believe the Ghosts ‘N Goblins series could have rivalled Konami’s flagship series had they kept going. Both elevated the platformer and showed what it was capable of: Ghosts ‘N Goblins as a proto-Dark Souls by way of Contra and Ninja Gaiden, and Castlevania combining the genre with RPG elements – eventually cumulating in SOTN. As it stands the Ghosts ‘N Goblins games are merely enjoyable horror-lite romps, where the primary source of terror comes from the minute-to-minute gameplay. You’re never sure where you’re going to buy it from next – the enemies which suddenly appear on screen due to the lack of processing power, the dodgy platforming, or the omnipresent timer counting down to your doom. A truly organic style of horror as it’s true to how the game plays: one hit and you lose your armour, second hit and your dead – at which point you’ll have start the entire game over again. The prospect of this is far more terrifying than anything you’ll actually see in the game. Apart from the final boss of Ghosts ‘N Goblins that is. Dickless and with a tooth-filled vagina for a chest, he looks like one of those gender-queer Social Justice Warriors you see on TV trying to get Game of Thrones banned because it's 'sexist'.