What was That Noise?
Last year on January 24th, one of the most anticipated horror games of all time was released, and it was called Resident Evil 7. It was celebrated for nailing down why it’s still recognized as the grandfather of the survival horror genre. Now I won’t sit here and be a complete nerd and talk about how good the game is, but I will be analyzing on how it makes the right decisions as not only a horror game, but horror media in general. The most important thing that a horror game, or even a horror movie must have are three very important things. Atmosphere, sound, and environmental storytelling. All of which this game nails perfectly within the first hour.
To set the tone. The story is focused on the main character, Ethan, looking for his wife Mia which went missing three years prior to this event. Ethan received an email from her telling him to forget her and move on with his life. To set the tone the game starts out at this abandoned looking house, where things just don’t seem right. As the player walks past a ritual looking alter
this “thing” is hanging there, cow limbs and other types of animals are strung together to make this grotesque looking wall. This wall tells a bit of story on its own. Something is not right here at this house, whether it be the people, or the locals. The wall touches perfectly on telling a story without saying a single word or explanation. Its telling whoever is looking at it, that something is wrong, normal people wouldn’t do something like this. This is one of the important things that a horror movie, or game can do, tell a story with its environment. This area throws dozens of questions at you, and it’s just a wall. The game tells you nothing about this structure, yet it demands so many answers from it.
Atmosphere can be a very potent if used correctly in horror media, almost to the point to where if a horror movie or game doesn’t have a good atmosphere or location, it could make or break it. In this next clip, albeit very short, it instills not only a sense of good atmosphere, but good horror in general. The door opens to a pitch-black room,
left with the character standing there. When you come across this moment, it just seems terrifying. Even though it’s just a pitch-black room, it sets a sense of poignant dread. It sends a message that this is the point of no return. As the character move through the door, it slams, and light begins to dimly shine through the cracks of the house. Now at this point the game feels like it’s trying to say that “its ok…for now.” This little moment instills a small sense of relief, but slowly builds up to something else might happen, which is what horror media is good at, giving the viewer/ player a sense of relief and then pulling the rug from under them with a jump scare or something else of the sort. When it comes to horror media in general, there always a feeling of “what’s around that corner.” and this moment perfectly captures that
Sound design is arguably one of the most important things in a horror movie or game. Whether it be the creak from a door opening, or a monster running down the hallway, sound design is imperative to these types of horror experiences. This next clip perfectly sums up why sound and shock factor are important.
The character suddenly hears someone pounding at the door that he just left, as he walks back and down the stairs, he hears labored breathing at the bottom. This moment asks a lot of questions for the viewer or player. One being what in the world is at the bottom of that stairwell. Two, who could it be, or how did it get there? It’s terrifying because the character just left that area, and nothing should be there, yet there’s something at the bottom of those stairs and they’re about to find out what it is. The character then see’s something crawling up the stairs at him and jumps in his face. This is a perfect display of classic horror, and it also unique in that this is the only time this type of scare shows up in the entire game, which is why it has so much build up and suspense.
With horror movies and games, there is sometimes this feeling of ridiculousness that they can give off. Whether it be Freddy Krueger killing someone in their nightmares, or how this games monsters completely defy reality, it gives these movies and games a certain charm that is important. This next gif perfectly encapsulates the craziness that the horror genre is known for
While this moment is completely insane, its telling the player/viewer a lot about this situation at the same time. She exclaims “forget about me.” shes fighting whatever is happening to herself to keep her husband safe. it can be interpreted that this sort of struggle, although very cartoonish, can be related to how we as humans struggle in rel life. whether the struggle be depression or what not, we push ourselves away and separate from out loved ones so we wont hurt them. albeit shes pushing him away with a chainsaw ( which I do not recommend) we push people way with our words or actions. on a different note The game is trying to say that this character isn’t just a damsel in distress anymore, she’s become a sort of enemy. Not only to the player, but to herself. This moment also tries to say that this is a sort of climax, like the end of the first act of a film or book. this is the defining moment that sets up the rest of the story and it spells that out well, and its mainly due to this character being the goal has gone completely crazy and has to suddenly be dealt with. In saying that, this moment is also just awesome.
Touching back on the analysis of this moment, towards the end of the scene very important showing of pathos is showcased. Once the character sends that final bullet into his wife, she exclaims
“I love you.” The game is trying to elicit a sort of pity and guilt. Not only have you seemingly failed to save your wife, you just unloaded about 30 or so bullets into her and it seems like she’s dead. Even though the whole moment is completely wacky and horror movie feel to it, it is still able to pull at the players heart strings and make them feel bad for what it appears the character just murdered his wife. This moment was able to make the player feel for this character, she was struggling for her humanity. Pathos is used here to try and reach out to the player. They effectively make the player feel terrible for what they just did with that one line. Even through her insanity, she manages to pull through to tell the main character that she loves him. Mia (Ethan’s wife.) I feel is a good example of people that are struggling with things in their life. Although for her it’s a very cartoonish disease. It seems like its saying that its ok to struggle or go through pain and fail.
In closing, the first hour of this game effectively sets up a story with simple environmental details and sounds. My analysis of this first hour Is that the importance of those 3 key factors, to me, are very important to the genre. They nailed every bit of those sequences and perfectly delivered on why horror om why horror media can be so entertaining and effective. Overall, I think the message they are trying to tell with Mia’s character is that we all have demons, and whats important is how we rise from our fall and learn from it than how it happened.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 5 Oct. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resident_Evil_7:_Biohazard.
Celtx. “How to Scare People: The Elements of Horror Movies.” Celtx Blog, 14 Nov. 2016, blog.celtx.com/the-elements-of-horror/.
etraninja. “Resident Evil 7 Biohazard Walkthrough Part 1 – First Two Hours! (RE7 Let’s Play Commentary).” YouTube, YouTube, 23 Jan. 2017, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KGOAS1qgq0. source of gifs