- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 1, 2007

Halloween’s creepy themes can be extended through a horrifying selection of multimedia.

First, only the least squeamish will dare venture into Clive Barker’s Jericho (for Xbox 360, from Codemasters, rated M for mature, $59.99), a first-person shooting frenzy based on an original story by the horror author that is as gross as it is vertigo-inducing.

As a member of the Jericho Squad, a seven-member special-forces team that extinguishes paranormal threats through the use of heavy firepower and magic, the player enters the Middle Eastern city of Al-Khali on a time-bending mission. From the moment the developer’s logo was splashed with blood, I knew it was going to be a long evening of fighting monstrosities adorned with their innards, a common Clive Barker theme. One early tip from the game suggests targeting the pustules of a particularly nasty, exploding creature, and that pretty much sums up the level of the action’s relentless gore.

Features include switching among squad members, each offering a different mix of powers and weaponry; levels that take the player into the past to fight Nazis, Romans and Sumerian demons; and the ability to command the entire team with the press of a directional pad.

While on the topic of horror gore, the Masters of Horror: Season One DVD set (rated: TV-MA, $79.97) serves up the goods and compiles all 13 uncut episodes from the famed Showtime series. One-hour glimpses into the macabre directed by legends such as John “Halloween” Carpenter, Joe “Gremlins” Dante and Tobe “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” Hooper will give viewers a mature look into terrifying, sometimes taboo, subject matter loaded with freaks, ghouls and monsters. Each disc adds a PDF version of the script (for PC users) and an optional commentary track from the director.

The set, which is packaged within a mausoleum, includes a bonus disc with just a few features not worth mentioning. Viewers beware; this is not your daddy’s “Night Gallery,” but a brutal series meant to disturb its audience.

On to a more family-friendly experience, the famed teenage sleuth debuts in a set-top game with Nancy Drew: Curse of Blackmoor Manor (for DVD-enabled computers and home entertainment systems from Her Interactive, rated E for everyone, $24.99).

The young detective must explore a haunted 14th-century mansion to solve the mystery behind a young bride’s unusual curse as witches, werewolves and beasts attempt to stop her.

Nancy’s complex decision-making process is placed in the hands of one or two players as they use the controller’s directional pad and keys to search rooms, solve puzzles, acquire items and click through the classic adventure.

The package also includes the PC version of the Nancy Drew: Haunted Carousel game, a much more interactive challenge that also intelligently tests the logic and investigative skills of the player.

Finally, one of the most bizarre games I have seen, which feels as if it were ripped from an early Steve Martin movie, offers the strong of stomach a third-person tale of revenge in the noirish Dead Head Fred (for PSP from D3Publisher of America, rated M for mature, $29.99).

As the beheaded detective Fred Neuman, who sports a brain and peepers in a jar between his shoulders, the player must replace the jar with a variety of heads to solve puzzles, interact with citizens and defeat ghoulish enemies while working through 12 levels of black humor. From filling a gas tank using a gas-spewing head to performing a bloody button mash on undead minions to the creative display of decapitations, Dead Head Fred is an imaginative Halloween treat.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; or send e-mail (jszadowski@washingtontimes.com).

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