Open scene, mid ninety-nineties. I was still in college, working at a local PC store and I got my hands on one of the first CD-ROMs on the block. The little 486 PC spun the disc with glee as my friends and family were awestruck to see a little 1-inch by 1-inch blurry, grainy, pixilated video of a woman in an Australian zoo talk about an all-too-cute koala bear. Technology wonder of wonders, what will they think of next!
Fast forward to 1996 and I not only graduate college, but to a faster PC, and an assistant manager job at a chain video game store, Software ETC, in one of the many glorious malls that pockmark the New Jersey landscape like craters on the moon. In the age of the Sony Playstation and Sega Saturn consoles and faster CD-ROM enabled PCs, game developers took proliferation of CD-based gaming to the horror genre, some making legends (Resident Evil) and some making the next great B-movie (Ripper) with a host of washed up actors doing hammy roles in front of green screens.
I can’t say that I ever remember playing Ripper, but it has stayed with me to this day. Why you ask? Was it the great performances by B-role actors like CHRISTOPHER WALKEN, BURGESS MEREDITH, KAREN ALLEN, DAVID PATRICK KELLY, JOHN RHYS-DAVIES, and JIMMIE WALKER? The awesome gameplay? The engaging storyline? No, it was the game trailer.
See, in the front window of our store were three TVs: two faced out to the mall and one faced into the store. They were hooked up to various game consoles and a VCR. One day the Take 2 Interactive representative came to the store (she was an aging hippie woman, kinda reminded me of a taller, fatter ZELDA RUBINSTEIN – I should have taken that as an omen) and handed me a VCR tape for their new “blockbuster” game called “Ripper.” “CHRISTOPHER WALKEN is in it you know.” Oh, I’ll know. I’ll know all too well.
So I grab the tape, slide it in the VCR and hit play. I hear one of my favorite Blue Oyster Cult songs, and what was one of my favorite songs of all time, “Don’t Fear the Reaper.” “Great,” I thought to myself, “I love this song!” It was recently in my head as the great opening to THE STAND as the Captain Trips virus escapes. After sitting through the 3-4 minute trailer, I was more than happy to push this game to any unsuspecting shopper. Until…
You have to realize that these game trailer tapes would loop the same trailer over and over again. And over again. “Don’t Fear the Reaper” became ingrained in my head, the trailer memorized. Even to this day, I remember some of the (crappy) dialog from the trailer. And thanks to YouTube, I and everyone else can relive this horror from 1996. (Enjoy “Ripping” this to shreds in the comments.)
A mix of a bad movie and LAWNMOWER MAN (wait, those are the same thing), this is a 6 CD-ROM opus that even CHRISTOPHER WALKEN couldn’t make engaging. A review from 1996 called Ripper, “(T)he most disappointing game of 1996, ” and said “(T)he script itself is full of predictably awful dialog that includes new and exciting uses of the F-word in any pivotal scene.” Sounds like real B-movie fodder to me.
So I was 22 when this game trailer traumatized me, doesn’t mean it was any less damaging than Mister Rogers. I can’t enjoy “Don’t Fear the Reaper” anymore. All I see is CHRISTOPHER WALKEN in a dickie hat and BURGESS MEREDITH blathering about something. (I just remembered that CHRISTOPHER WALKEN is reunited with this song on SNL with the iconic “More Cowbell!” Funny how life is cyclical.)
“All our times have come. Here but now they’re gone…” The reaper can’t come soon enough.
UNK SEZ: Walt, thanks for bringing this abomination to our attention. Since you were confronted with this nightmare while you were in college, it’s not really technically Kindertraumatic material, but due to the presence of Kindertrauma legend DAVID PATRICK KELLY (Snakeman in DREAMSCAPE), it’s certainly of high Kindertrauma interest. Besides, we know that somewhere out there there must have been a kid who played this and we’re confident that their only reaction would be horror, confusion and debilitating ennui. Let’s face it, whoever cast this thing knew that they were doing the Devil’s bidding and any creation that can permanently sour a person to BLUE OYSTER CULT‘s “Don’t Fear the Reaper” should be feared.