Sometimes good things come to those who wait and sometimes a bargain bin can be your best friend. When I wrote my last column on Diablo II I was prompted to see if I could score other finds while also adhering to a spend-thrifty budget. And you know what? Its not that hard. Recently I had the pleasure of finding two video games that I've always wanted to try, but could not justify spending over $60 a piece for: Dead Space and Bioshock. Both are very much in the horror genre, and each game can now be purchased for less than $20. They are also not that old either; both have been released within the last two years.
And I should add that both games are awesome.
"Dead Space" is an example of survival horror at its finest. Think Doom and Resident Evil, but more confined, claustrophobic. It is also pretty original in that a lot of the conventions have been tossed aside. You play a character named Isaac Clarke, and rather than have the regular gamut of guns & ammo expected to battle monsters in this darkly lit tin can floating in space, you instead must make use of unique mining equipment that include space saws and other fun devices. And I should also add that this game will give players one hell of a scare; just because the price has been lowered doesn't mean the horror is in any way cheapened.
Bioshock is also a great game, albeit very different from Dead Space. Bioshock is very concerned with atmosphere, painstakingly so, and trades the in-your-face scares for a creepy, sombre and melancholy atmosphere of menace and suffering that permeates all aspects of the game. It is also thought-provoking, something akin to playing an Ayn Rand novel in video game format. The game takes place fathoms and fathoms beneath the sea, in a once utopia run amok with mutants and monsters and Big Daddies oh my.
You play a character named Jack who has survived a plane crash in alternate-history 1960 where everyone who wanted to get away from the everyday could leave and disappear into an underwater haven of bliss. Or so it was hoped. Great stuff indeed. At its current price, Bioshock is a great value and definitely a worthy purchase for horror fans.
Turning now to books, a good used bookstore can also be an invaluable repository of horror from days gone by. For example, I recently found a pristine copy of Dean R. Koontzs (note the R) novel Whispers in hardcover from 1980, and paid all of $5 for it. Whispers, by the way, is a fantastic page-turner and deftly illustrates Koontzs ability to write great horrorâ€”not thriller, not suspense, not dog loving autobiographies, but horror.
A good used bookstore also has a better selection of horror because it will have a lot more variety than most other bookstores that cater to the mainstream. Used bookstores are not necessarily concerned with whats hot and whats not, what sells and what doesnt. As a result, they will carry the freakish and the macabre, the old and not so old, the popular and the stuff on the fringes as well.
Bargain bins at your local Big Box Bookstore can also yield fantastic results for the horror connoisseur. Lately I have also been haunting the aisles of my local mega bookseller, looking for good deals, and I have been a successful hunter. One of those deep, never-ending bins recently turned up a hardcover edition of Hearts in Atlantis, one of my all-time favorite King novella collections. This was being sold for $4.99 -- not too shabby if you are a fan and a collector of hardcovers.
Of course an article on bargain bins would be incomplete without taking a moment and discussing the grand-daddy of them all: the bargain DVD bin. I cant even count how many horror titles Ive purchased from the bargain bin, some at unbelievably low prices. Hang out at your local movie rental outlet long enough and you can probably come away with DVDs for less than the cost of the chocolate bar and pop you buy to go along with it.
The point in all of this is that good horror can be found at a pittance of the original price. Times are tough, but if you lurk around and wait patiently, stalking the shelves, waiting to pounce on a good deal, a good deal will come. The fun is all in the hunt anyway, so slow down and enjoy your journey through the past darkly.
Editor: "Through the Past Darkly" is a biweekly column published Tuesdays.
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