New York Times says: An acid freak’s fantasy, drenched in paranoia and more pop-culture allusions than a Dennis Miller monologue
So I’ve got myself a modded Wii and I’m playing the American version of No More Heroes (because the UK version was butchered by the censors – those bastards), and it made me think again about the similarities between Suda 51’s work and the Oliver Stone creation, Wild Palms. (If you’re wondering why these screengrabs look so grainy, I thought it would be cool to give them a kind of Sega CD vibe)
Is that a rhino in your pool?
For those who’ve never seen it, Wild Palms was a surreal, abstract, Twin Peaks styled Sci-Fi TV-series and/or film trilogy from 1993 (depending on which country you saw it in – South Africa’s MNet ran it has a multipart film over three days). It’s about 280 minutes long. That’s about 4 and a half hours. It was produced by Oliver Stone and written by Bruce Wagner (apparently he based it on a comic strip he’d written prior, says Wikipedia), and it starred James Belushi and Kim Cattrall, long before she started having Sex in the City.
Do not trust the TV sets, and old ghosts come to life through holograms
And damn, was it one helluva weird film. WEIRD.
I’ve not played Suda’s earlier works such as Moonlight Syndrome and Silver Case (both on PS1), but Killer 7, Flower Sun and Rain, and now No More Heroes, all bear striking similarities, both thematically and stylistically, to Wild Palms. As an aside, Michigan: Report from Hell doesn’t really bear much resemblance to any of the above – though it’s still an interesting and extremely weird game.
A woman in white with a blood stain will show the way
The story of Wild Palms follows Henry Wyckoff as he slowly slips into madness, tormented by dreams involving a rhinoceros in his swimming pool, terrorists living under his pool, a global conspiracy to control society via TV, drug addiction, murder, and shocking secrets about his past, his family, and the history of America. I’m going to say it’s the biggest mind**** I have ever watched, and although I’ve never read any interview that says Suda 51 actually watched it himself, Wild Palms has the kind of insane, incestuous plot twists that he’d seriously get off on if he did.
I’d like to mention more, to encourage you to watch it, but to reveal anything would spoil the surprise.
In the rough part of town, Henry goes to a place called Hungry Ghosts to find the truth
The biggest comparison is obviously that Wild Palms and Killer 7 both feature swimming pools with secret chambers under them, plus the fact that most of Suda’s games contain palm trees, but there’s a lot more going on beyond the plainly visual. It also has to be said that games like Flower, Sun and Rain also borrow heavily from films like Groundhog’s Day.
Wild Palms deals with the subversion of reality, of not knowing what is real and what is virtual. In Suda’s games you’re constantly given the impression of being in a semi-dream state, and made to question reality.
There’s that rhino again
In all works there are strong themes relating to corporate and media evil. Can you really trust those in charge? Not really. Visually we have TV sets, broadcasting subliminal messages and housing the personalities of other people. In Wild Palms, the people in your TV are able to step out and touch you.
In a way, No More Heroes’ Travis Touchdown and Flower, Sun and Rain’s Sumio Mondo both mirror Henry Wyckoff, as unknowing pawns getting into things deeper than they can understand.
This man will die by swallowing a fist
Here’s a spotlist of things off the top of my head I’ve seen in Wild Palms and Suda’s works:
* visual metaphors
* god complexes
* media control
* subliminal messaging
* possessed TV sets
* blind people made to see
* kids with knives
* drugs and serums
* amnesia and the loss of one’s thoughts
* virtual reality and artificial worlds as real as this one
* woman in a white dress with a giant blood stain
* humans disintegrating in particle explosions (though, Lawnmower Man also did this)
* being unable to wake from a dream
* LA surrealism
* celebrity worship
* strange, eccentric characters
* paranoia, and a world on the brink of chaos and revolution
* lies, deception, trickery and enough red herrings to make your head hurt
* Obviously... palm trees
There’s more, A LOT MORE, and Killer 7’s narrative alone warrants its own article, but if you like any of Suda 51’s games, or the themes or characterisations found within, then you should really track down Wild Palms on DVD and watch it. Even if there isn’t actually a connection with Suda 51, Wild Palms is worth watching in its own right.
Just don’t expect to come away understanding everything.
PS: Oh, and if you’re a member of the press interviewing him, for god’s sake, ask him about this!