The Blair Witch Project was more than a movie, it was a phenomenon. It took horror to a new level, blurring the line between reality and fiction. I was only a child when it came out, but I vividly remember the debates in the school yard about whether or not it was real. I had no doubts in my mind that it was, going so far as to avoid my own wooded backyard in Texas, thinking it could have been filmed there.

After a series of questionable sequels, new life has finally been breathed into the horror classic via a simple first person video game from Bloober, simply titled Blair Witch, that takes the found footage format to the next level by putting you in the driver’s seat, alone in the Blacks Hills Forest outside the little town of Burkittsville, Maryland, hunted by something unknown. The result is one of the more terrifying horror games I have ever played, and a must-have of all your spooky season festivities.

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The Case Against Daenerys Targaryen

(Welcome to Debate of Thrones, where a panel of Citadel-trained experts explain why someone deserves, or doesn’t deserve, to sit on the Iron Throne. In this edition: Daenerys Targaryen looks like a savior, but she will destroy us all.)

The Mother of Dragons! The Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea! The Breaker of Chains! Yeah, okay, we get it. Even before her greatness graced us with her presence, we all heard the stories that came across the Narrow Sea of the last Targaryen. The common people in Slaver’s Bay call her Mhysa, she is the kind-hearted queen, the queen of the people, the mother to the motherless, with a strong army at her back, three dragons above her, and a noble mission statement. She would be the welcome choice to break the wheel and usher in thousands of years of peace and prosperity in Westeros, where the common people and the lords dined together in perfect harmony, and dogs and cats lived together, and the sun rises in the west and sets in the east and the mountains crumble in the wind.

We were promised a savior of the people and what we got was another incest-bred Targaryen dictator who would sooner sacrifice her people for her own political gain than actually do what is best for them. Yup, as it turns out, those stories from across the Narrow Sea were little more than the songs of Westeros propagating a high born leader for something impressive that they did that one time somewhere, while really thoroughly burying the lede. Don’t believe me? Let’s just break it down, and I swear by the end of it you will ready to throw yourself into the Seven Hells knowing that this is our great “alternative” to Cersei.

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Whether you thought “The Long Night” was the best episode of Game of Thrones ever, hated it, or just couldn’t see it, one thing was very clear: from a military standpoint, this was one of the most poorly planned battles of all time. The Dothraki charging blindly into the night. The grossly undisciplined commanders. The army of the living suffering losses on an enormous scale. It wasn’t just because the Northerners and their allies were outnumbered. Without Stannis, Tywin, Robert Baratheon, and Robb Stark, the side of the living was run by somewhat novice leaders who have made it through battles because of luck and dragons.

While the dead had the obvious advantage, the living could have done a much better job of buying time and preserving their forces. To find out just where the living went wrong and what they should have done, I spoke with a military officer sporting nearly 15 years of wartime experience. He also happens to be a massive Game of Thrones fan. He broke down the five major missteps, and outlined what the living should have done to kill more wights, minimize the loss of life, and most importantly, not embarrass their ancestors with the worst-organized battle in Westerosi history.

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Pet Sematary as a Parent

This post features spoilers for Pet Sematary.

You know you shouldn’t, you think that you wouldn’t, but what if you could?

When I read Pet Sematary last summer, it was a last minute grab off of the shelf during an otherwise average trip to the bookstore. Unbeknownst to me, I had just grabbed a book so disturbing that it would sink its claws deep into my psyche. Even after reading the foreword, and finding out that King himself originally deemed it too disturbing to publish, I thought myself invincible from any scares it could throw at me. Through a lifetime of horror fandom, I figured I had seen it all.

Pet Sematary offers plenty to be scared of in the typical way that one would expect from a horror story. From warnings delivered from the mouth of a dead man to night terrors, premonitions, and ancient Native American burial grounds, but it wasn’t until the following January, when I became a parent, that the story of Pet Sematary’s biggest scare sneaked up on me, and grabbed hold with no signs of ever letting go. It manifested a fear in me that no other horror story had ever created. It made me afraid of myself. What would I be willing to do for my child?

Pet Sematary is a twisted blueprint for what a parent is capable of when faced with a level of despair, so unfathomably gut-wrenching, that it has the power to strip away all sanity and logic. There is a dark temptation to Pet Sematary that took several months and two life-changing events for me to fully appreciate.

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We’re now knee-deep in the summer season. Whether you are gearing up for a long flight, a cross-country road trip, or you are like me and are just trying to figure out how to survive the summer by never leaving the comfort of air-conditioning, you are going to need something to pass the time.

While there are thousands of “beach reads” to choose from, now is the perfect to time to get a head start on the stories that are heading to a screen near you. Whether they are in pre-production, premiering in mere months, or are simply being dangled in front of us like a never-ending teaser in development hell, these are all stories that you are not going to want to miss in their original form.

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God of War Lessons

Let me start by saying that the latest installment of God of War is one of the greatest games I have ever played. And by the reactions on some of my favorite gaming outlets, I am not alone. Just as Game of Thrones has accumulated fans across all genre preferences, there seems to be something about this new take on an old popular series that distinguishes it amongst the pack, and transcends people’s typical gaming biases.

About halfway through the game, I realized something even greater: God of War is perhaps one of the greatest movies I have ever seen. More specifically, it is one of the greatest cinematic recreations of mythology. While novels and comic books inspire some of the most award-winning and highest grossing films of all time, mythology seems to be an Achilles’ Heel in the adaptation-happy town of Hollywood. Time and time again, films like Gods of Egypt, Exodus: Gods and Kings, and Clash of the Titans, to name a few, have taken some of the richest stories and characters in human history and reduced them to little more than emotionless, culturally inaccurate, CGI money-grabs.

So, what can Hollywood learn from this action-packed, mythologically based game that succeeded where so many movies have failed? Let’s talk about it. And I’ll keep it as spoiler-free as possible.

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(Welcome to Nostalgia Bomb, a series where we take a look back on beloved childhood favorites and discern whether or not they’re actually any good. In this edition: Angelina Jolie’s original Tomb Raider movies.)

In 1979, my mother walked into the theater to see Alien, and to this day talks about how floored she was to see what she described as a “real woman hero.” Not a beehive updo in sight. My mom was represented and she was inspired. My mother may never watch Alien now, because, well, it’s terrifying, but she still remembers how she felt seeing Ellen Ripley.

In June of 2001 my mother saw the previews for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. She knew nothing about the video game, but that didn’t matter. She took me and my sister to see it, and for two hours we got to watch a strong, cool, intelligent, driven woman lead an action movie. No critic, no bad review, nothing could take away the feeling of seeing our first real action role model in film. 17 years later, Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft is still engrained in my psyche. She was the epitome of everything I wanted to grow up to be, and I feel like she motivated and inspired some of the cooler moments in my life.

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Passion and anguish, true love lost and mourned over oceans of time, unrequited love felt so strongly that it drives one to darkness and despair…ah, the horror of love. These sentiments may not appear in the glittery pink and red Hallmark cards littering your local supermarket, but in a year where del Toro’s strange and unusual love story The Shape of Water swept the Oscar nominations, this Valentine’s Day deserves something a little different, a little darker, a little more…gothic.

Gothic isn’t always spiderwebs and haunted mansions or that weird kid in the back of your classroom. From poetic bloodlust to loneliness so crippling you can almost feel your chest caving in, from Universal Monsters and Goblin Kings, from headless horseman to robots, the romances of this list take the phrase “it’s better to have loved and lost” to tortuous new heights. They embody the characteristics of a Victorian era genre full of mystery, desire, and the macabre, more tantalizing and real than a thousand shades of grey.

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Until Dawn 6

The sun has gone down. Darkness has descended. Your coven has gathered in your home. Your seasonal Pinterest treats are perfectly arranged. The pizza is approaching. It is Halloween Eve. Your ritual has been perfectly arranged…but all of the sudden, your spine begins to tingle, fear has struck you… Oh dear god! On this, the 30th day of October, you have already watched all of your favorite horror movies! Gasp!

No need to worry my sweet, for there is a much more enticing treat and it is something your whole coven can enjoy. It’s full of jump scares, plot twists, intrigue, and most importantly, fear. It will have you clutching the arm of the ghoul next to you and screaming, “OH MY GOD! I can’t believe…you just hit the wrong button!”

Yes, it’s true, I am talking about a video game, more specifically, Until Dawn. But before the non-gamers turn away, know that this is not your typical video game. Marrying a strong story with relatively simple mechanics, Until Dawn (available exclusively on the PlayStation 4) is a communal experience that combines the fun of watching horror films with the interactive quality of a haunted house. In other words, it’s perfect Halloween viewing. Er, playing. And it’s currently $7.99 on the PlayStation Store and that’s one hell of a bargain.

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hocus-pocus spell book

(Welcome to Nostalgia Bomb, a series where we take a look back on beloved childhood favorites and discern whether or not they’re actually any good. In this edition: Kenny Ortega’s beloved-by-a-generation Hocus Pocus.)

Hocus Pocus has existed since the dawn of time…or at least that is how I feel. I was only two years old when it came out in 1993 and I have been watching it since then. I cannot recall my first viewing of it, or my second, or my tenth. I was simply too young. Sure, I love plenty of movies that are much older than I am, but for most of those films I was a fully conscious child viewing them. There was a me before the movie. However, like Labyrinth and The Princess Bride, Hocus Pocus is a tale as old as time. There isn’t really a Vanessa BHP (Before Hocus Pocus) only a Hocus Pocus BV (Before Vanessa). I have been watching it since before I knew I was watching it. It was as much a constant in my life as my own parents.

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