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May 22, 2011 / jwaxo

Siphon Filter (Home Movies)

This game made me think tasers were some kind of super-weapon.

With the advent of compact discs, video games gained the ability to contain greater and greater stories, outright competing with movies for epic storytelling. We’ve been over this. What we haven’t been over is how this impated my day-to-day life.

Even today, camcorders and other small video capture devices seem like some insanely advanced technology that’s just out of my reach. This is because, up until it disappeared sometime in the mid 2000’s, my family only owned a VHS video camera. The monstrosity would ride on your shoulder or on a tripod, had a few “awesome” fade-in or fade-out effects, and was pretty much how my entire family collaborated in random creative splurges.

Each of my siblings had a tape (or two, or three) with our names written out in black Sharpie on a white label, and our parents recorded videos of us for the tapes: either school programs, or birthday parties, or just us being stupid little kids. When we got old enough to use the camera ourselves, we could record anything we wanted on that tape.

My tape was pretty boring. Probably the highlight of it was me as a preschooler getting increasing frustrated at the Pete and Repeat joke.

I have no idea why I never recorded over it. Probably because no one would let me.

My brother’s tape, though, contained the dreams and hopes of at least five kids with dreams of being directors and actors in Hollywood.

The plots of our movies were normally very simple and had no idea where to end. Monsters Under the Bed, for instance, our first PG-13 movie, had myself and our friend from down the street being attacked by the eponymous monsters, being dragged into our basement, and being shoved into a cardboard box. The high point of each showing, to my embarrassment, was when my pants slid partway down my butt without my knowledge. But I digress.

Some plots were even more fluid than that. We would come up with a sweet idea for a stunt and have no movie to put it in, so we would just record it and move on. Diving over the back fence, covered in fake blood, and landing on a bunch of construction pylons we found? Film it! Chopping at each other with styrofoam swords and throwing styrofoam, fake blood-smeared spheres into the air, pretending they were our heads? Keep rolling! Running down the street with the camera at an artsily-low angle, covered in fake blood? Print it!

I bet stocks in fake blood took a nosedive the day we got over it.

My brother discovered the use of adaptations as a story device pretty early in our movie-making careers. Probably the first one we made was of a book about a bully that I had. The fight scene that we improvised took more prominence than it deserved, in retrospect, but dang if it wasn’t cool being thrown across a table.

Weeeeeeee! I want to be beaten up every day!

And then these video games came out that we fell in love with. Video games that weren’t just fun and hilarious, but had their own sweet stories and engaging characters.

Siphon Filter was a Playstation game, one of the early ones that we loved. Like Metal Gear Solid, it featured a superagent who was more down-to-earth than the usual heroes. Like Metal Gear it had unlockable cheats and weapons, for maximum mess-around-ness. And, just like Metal Gear, it had a storyline that was really cool. Something about a supervirus that can directly target demographics or people.

Okay, so I guess that’s a lot of similarities to Metal Gear. But, bottom line, Gabe Logan was a really awesome guy, and we all wanted to be him. Because my brother was the biggest and the best actor, he got to be Logan in our movie adaptation.

The plot was outlined onto a piece of college-ruled paper. It would span across three different houses and two backyards. There would be fights and stunts never before seen, including someone being thrown through a window and another person being stabbed in the face with a fork. Our unfinished basement, as usual, was perfect for the appearance of some evil base, and anything we didn’t have we could improvise with “clever” cuts and improvised props.

A few scenes:

  • A famous ventilation shaft sequence, substituting cardboard boxes for an actual vent. With the cutting between loosening of vent covers, this almost worked.
  • A scene of the President talking to his cabinet. Best Friend, the President, improvised a few lines about going to DEFCON 2, once more proving he knew way more about things in general than he should have.
  • Myself, as generic bad guy #s 1, 2, 3, and 4 getting shot while wearing different outfits.
  • My brother zip-lining off of the roof and through the huge maple tree in the front yard.

“Something is wrong with that tree! Branches are just falling off of it!”

The problem with filming these movies was that it would always be so hard to continue the next day. No matter how much work we put into planning it, no matter how much everyone was excited about being in the movie and helping out, the effort was just too much to muster. So my brother and I would have to settle for just playing the games over and over, or at least watching our sadly edited clips over and over.

The Siphon Filter movie we made wasn’t nearly as good as our James Bond ripoff, anyway.

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