The first two episodes of Bright Falls, the recently announced six-part mini-series prequel to Remedy’s long awaited thrilled Alan Wake, are now available on Xbox Live. Alan Wake draws heavily on the works of Stephen King, Lost and David Lynch’s brilliantly creepy Twin Peaks. While the game is expected to contain plenty of nods, winks and tips of the hat to those influences, the mini-series takes these thematic/structural influences one step further by going all live action.
As such, we've decided to put together a little weekly back-and-forth discussion about each new Bright Falls episode, starting with this week’s “Time Flies” and “Oh Deer,” and ending with the final two episodes which will air May 17, the day before Alan Wake hits shelves. So we’ll kick things off with Stephen “I Like Stuff” Johnson’s take on the mini-series, the game, and whatever other Johnson-inspired madness he feels like talking about:
Stephen Johnson: It’s strange that Alan Wake, one of the biggest, most anticipated game releases in years, finds itself in direct artistic competition with Deadly Premonition, Ignition Entertainment’s bargain basement video game equivalent of a straight to DVD film release, but judging from these just-released Alan Wake videos and my brave forays into the wacked-out world of Deadly Premonition, that’s what’s going on here. Both games draw very heavily from David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, then veer off into opposite directions.
Where Deadly Premonition takes Twin Peaks’ surrealism and quirky characters and pushes them up to 11, Alan Wake, judging from these videos and what I’ve seen of the game, seems to be tromping around in the dark, psychological horror aspects of Lynch’s seminal series and movie. I wouldn’t be (that) surprised if David Lynch designed both games (when not reporting L.A.’s weather) and plans an Andy Kaufman-style reveal before long.
Jake Gaskill: The first episode of Bright Falls, “Oh Deer,” set the stage wonderfully for the David Lynch-ian creepiness and generally unsettling tone that’s expected to characterize Alan Wake. The opening sequence of a man fishing a body bag, the contents of which were intentionally indiscernible, out of a lake and leaving it opened on shore served as a fantastic introduction to the Bright Falls universe. And speaking of unsettling, the happy birthday sequence in the diner was joyously bizarre with the main character, journalist Jake Fisher, clearly thinking to himself, just like us viewers, “What the hell is this all about?”
Jake hitting the deer with his car while fighting to staying awake was predictable, but the shot of the crippled and dying deer in the road was unexpected and quite chilling. Also, if you watch the episode on BrightFalls.com, the moment of impact is highlighted by a cracked windshield effect that spiders away from the embedded movie. It’s a fantastic touch.
“Time Flies” introduces us (with an awkward handshake) to Jake’s seemingly longtime friend, and possible former love interest, and also suggests a tense history between Jake, the unnamed woman and Jake’s current girlfriend/fiancé/wife Libby. Throw in the fact that Jake wonders why the woman ever moved to Bright Falls, and you have all the makings of a messy backstory.
Jake’s interview with the Emeril Lagassee-looking Dr. Hartman features a jarring montage of disturbing, foreshadow-y elements (crazy woman screaming in the back of a police car, someone frantically digging with their hands, a flare, a sugar cube soaking up coffee, someone running through a forest barefoot, a dead deer sinking in a lake) that wraps up with Jake “waking up” after the interview is over. On his drive home, Jake notices his notepad is filled with notes, and a large sketch of an evil deer head. Just then, a creepy dude in a blue jumpsuit is seen walking down the side of the road, carrying yet another dead deer by an antler. Strange stuff indeed.
Damned if I know what this all means, but that’s clearly the point at this stage. I’m definitely intrigued though. Like a lot of people, I’ve been waiting feverishly for many years to unravel the mysteries of Alan Wake, and in a few weeks, we will finally get the chance. Playing off this anticipation by creating a mini-series like Bright Falls is fantastic, and I absolutely can’t wait to see where the story goes from here.
The next episode of Bright Falls airs this Sunday, so check back early next week for our next batch of impressions. Until then, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section!