- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 14, 2006

Each week, the Browser features some pop-culture places on the World Wide Web offering the coolest in free interactive sounds and action.

Starz cyber-screams

Premium movie-service provider Starz Entertainment unleashes terror online and on its cable networks — and especially this month through its Fear Fest ‘06 spectacular (www.starz.com/fearfest).

Found on the channels Starz, Encore and RetroPlex and their respective On Demand services, classic films such as “Night of the Living Dead” and “The Omen” are available along with the original Starz documentary “Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film,” based on the book by Adam Rockoff. The documentary offers interviews with Wes Craven, John Carpenter and Rob Zombie.

Its Fear Fest ‘06 Web presence is quite the scream as it overloads the senses with multimedia flashes of cinema’s famed ghouls, murderers and victims. Plenty of frightening effects are heard, and the sound of a heartbeat thumps constantly in the background.

Visitors will want to stop by the Schedule section for the list of films available for October, broken up by such genre as Haunted House, Psychological Thriller and Monster Feature. Under Costumes, they can grab a $5 coupon code for use at Buycostumes.com (www.buycostumes.com).

A classic game awaits visitors to the Picture Asylum. The old spot-the-differences challenge comes to virtual life as the player compares two almost identical photographs from horror films. The player must click on the five subtle variations between the two photos to survive to the next round.

It sounds simple enough — except for the scary imagery that pops up to break concentration, the blood that drips over the photos as time runs down and the occasional lightning flash and scream that unnerve the player. The game is brutally difficult, thanks to the lack of time allotted — and don’t start just randomly clicking on the photos because seconds are deducted liberally for each mistake.

An online ‘Grudge’

More horror happenings can be found at the official site for the movie “The Grudge 2” (www.sonypictures. com/movies/thegrudge2). The film, which opened Friday, continues to explore the gory secrets of a Japanese supernatural curse that infects a group of young victims.

Through a sea of floating calligraphy and long black hair, visitors watch pixilated scenes of people in distress as screens load. Strings of characters reveal section names when the cursor is moved over them.

Three areas of interest will grip fans by the throat as they explore the grim happenings.

First, Tales From the Grudge extends the story through a trio of short online video episodes. More important, brave visitors who enter their mobile phone number on the page get a surprise call from something sinister — a very neat and effective trick.

Next, Game has a player take on the role of a Japanese police officer who attempts to rescue a child and escape the haunted Saeki house. The player must click on a power meter at the right time to stay alive by avoiding fire and a ghoul. Too many load screens ruin the spooky mood of the animated affair, but at the end, a player can watch a video of the adventure.

Finally, a fantastically designed online comic book, found under Graphic Novels, offers Eason’s Story through four issues of sequential-art content that comes to life, complete with pop-up dialogue bubbles, narration and limited animated and sound effects.

The curse also apparently extends to real life, as student filmmaker Jason C has found out while working on a behind-the-scenes Web documentary of the film. His blog (www.sonypictures.com/movies/thegrudge2/blog) has been taken over by a friend because Jason has turned up missing after his work at Japan’s Toho Studios.

Those who explore the “blog” will find text entries from March to June 2006, photos and loads of video interviews with the stars and production crew, who definitely picked up a weird vibe on the set as the shoot progressed.

The faux blog also includes such evidence of Jason’s disappearance as despondent voice mails, a missing-person report, a hotel receipt and a map of where he last stayed.

Have a cool site for the online multimedia masses? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at the Browser, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail ([email protected] washingtontimes.com). Joseph also writes a Web-exclusive column for the Washington Times Web site where he reviews educational software and family-friendly video games. Check it out at www.washingtontimes.com/ familytimes/romperroom.htm.

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