The leaves are beginning to change color, and the air is starting to get a bit cooler. It's that golden time of year after the last of the really hot days of summer, but before winter descends, cloaking the countryside in a blanket of ice and snow. October is the best time of year if you're a fan of the macabre. Horror movie marathons are playing on TV, gruesome decorations and costumes are everywhere, and a penchant for being terrified seems just a bit more normal. We love to be scared, and it can be fun whether it's through a creepy movie or a horror board game. Here are a few pairings that would make for great movie-and-a-game theme nights.
Dawn of the Dead (Seminal zombie masterpiece by George R. Romero) / Zombicide (Cooperative survival horror game set in a zombie apocalypse)
Today, zombie movies are a dime a dozen. Every few months a low budget zombifest hits the theatres. There are many that are done well, like 28 Days Later (I know, not technically zombies) and The Battery, but most are pretty forgettable. Dawn of the Dead has always been my favorite pure zombie movie. Survivors escape the city and hide out in an abandoned mall. It seems like paradise, until everything goes wrong. I see it as George A. Romero's fully realized allegorical masterpiece. He's had an amazing career, but Dawn has always stood out to me as his all time best work. It's also one of the first big projects that special effects make up guru, Tom Savini worked on.
If you like the idea of a fallen society in the grips of a zombie outbreak, but would rather try to survive it yourself, Zombicide is the game you’re looking for. Zombicide plunks up to six players into the middle of a city gripped in terror, facing the reanimated corpses of the recently deceased. Survivors must band together and arm themselves with whatever they can find if they want to live through the night. This game plays out like a different zombie movie every time you experience it. The base game comes with a number of different scenarios, and there are expansions, including Toxic City Mall if you want to stay in the spirit of Dawn of the Dead. If you want to further sink your teeth into the zombie game genre, try Zombicide: Black Plague, set in medieval times. Your Survivors will arm themselves with swords, crossbows, and various spells to keep the undead at bay...y'know, hopefully.
Prince of Darkness (John Carpenter flick about students investigating weird cult activity) / The Others (The 7 Sins have been summoned to bring Hell to earth in a new horror title by Eric M. Lang)
John Carpenter is a master of horror. His resume includes landmark titles like Halloween and The Thing. Prince of Darkness is one of his lesser known titles, but I find it to be one of his scariest. University students investigate a church where an evil force seems to be gathering, and a weird green ooze is somehow connected. A shared dream that all the students have points to the summoning of a powerful demon, perhaps even the devil himself. Homeless people from around the city start to descend on the church, seemingly in some sort of trance. Will the students be able to stop the forces of evil before they become corrupted or will the power of darkness win out?
The Others also features a plot to bring Hell on Earth. One player assumes the role of one of the Seven Deadly Sins, and through their acolytes and followers, they attempt to spread corruption and complete objectives. Everyone else teams up as F.A.I.T.H. members, the one agency standing in the way of an apocalypse coming to Earth. The Others comes (no surprise) from the brilliant mind of Eric M. Lang. He has a reputation of creating games with a great story and often a dark, horror theme. The odds are stacked against them, but with luck and cooperation, the F.A.I.T.H. team members will be able to save the day before Hell is unleashed.
The 13th Warrior (Norsemen do battle with mysterious creatures, based on a Michael Crichton novel) / Blood Rage (Vikings battle over territory and complete quests during Ragnarok)
The 13th Warrior is loosely based on the classic tale of Beowulf. A court poet is exiled from his home in Baghdad and eventually recruited to help a group of Norsemen face off against monstrous foes that have been raiding the northern Norse kingdom. The evil creatures, the Wendol, slither out of the mist and do battle with humans, so they may feast on their flesh. After several serious encounters, the Norse numbers are dropping as they are picked off one at a time. It will take a final stand and a showdown with the Wendol Warlord if any are to survive.
If you like your horror with a dash of Norse mythology, you’re going to love digging into Blood Rage. In one of the most highly acclaimed games of the year, players control various Norse clans, set to battle for glorious death on the eve of Ragnarok. Through three different ages, players draft hands of cards to help them do battle, complete quests, or summon monstrous creatures from Norse mythology. Having creatures under your control can be a huge advantage, but if you end up in a battle against your opponent's Valkyrie, Sea Serpent or Frost Giant, you had best be prepared for the glory of Valhalla that awaits you.
October is a wonderful time of year to scare and be scared. However you get your chills, embrace it while you can. Oh, and if you should hear something go bump in the night, don’t be alarmed…I’m sure it was just the wind.