Fear doesn’t come easy these days.
Lost in the cacophony of direct-to-video dreck and exploitative and derivative muck that fills the horror landscape these days are the rare moments when true horror can be seen. Gore is not horror. Jump scares are not horror. Horror, at it’s base level, challenges our sense of security, not by appealing to our internal revulsion or ability to be startled, but rather from forcing us to confront ideas, visuals and moments that threaten us at the most core level. Fear is subjective, and almost impossible to quantify. The classic film, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE was, especially for the time, a groundbreaking assault on the audience. Shocking images and jump scares were employed but not depended upon the way modern horror does. It made us question the creepy gas station attendant, the friendly hitchkiker, the road trip, the good ol’ country home. Much like the works of Stephen King, pure horror is often achieved by subverting the things we feel safe with, turning them away from the iconography of our happiness and security, and forcing them into the areas of our subconscious that we have saved for those creeping terrors that activate our basic need to survive. Fight or flight.
But this is a dying art. Modern “Torture Porn”(i.e. SAW, HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES, etc.) along with the proliferation of the jump scare, has led a largely jaded and cynical movie-going public into the incorrect belief that revulsion and panic are synonymous with fear. While they can certainly function as corollaries to fear, unskilled directors and horror producers use these techniques to a fault, missing the essence of what was truly great about this genre to begin with. To know too much of what’s happening in a story as an audience is to diffuse questions we have that accent the fear that creeps to us from the silver screen. Michael Myers wasn’t scary because he had a big knife or a scary mask. It was because we didn’t understand him. Fear is usually born from ignorance, and horror masters of the past knew how to exploit this to great effect. Michael Myer’s was scary because e didn’t understand him, didn’t know where he would come from next, and never knew if he was really done coming for us. This was further enhanced by subverting our sense of safety, in this case, small town living, or of being safe under the care of a guardian.
True horror is rare these days. But every once in while, the essence of horror and what drives us to it can be found in all it’s glory, hiding in the tall grass, just waiting to surprise us from the most unlikely of sources. Which brings us to Resident Evil. A staple of the survival horror genre, the series has arguably been slipping further and further from the classification “survival horror” immediately following the original. Which still great, Resident Evil 2 was a departure from horror and focused more on action and puzzles to entertain. Resident Evil 4 moved the series even further away, using the horror elements simply to facilitate the action of the game. “Resi 5”, as fans are want to call it, was barely survival horror and “Resi 6” was just……well, not that great and seemed to mark a low point in the series.
Which is what makes the fact that Resident Evil 7 is, by all accounts, the most frightening piece of horror media to come out in the last decade, so surprising. Taking cues from such genre classics as TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, THE RING, MOTEL HELL and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD(just to name a few), this game has everything we want from horror, employing tropes such as the disturbed family, the lost loved one and even “found footage” to maximum effect. We don’t spoil or discuss the plot specifics of games on this site, but we can say, you play as Ethan, a man looking for his lost wife in the backwood swaps of Louisiana at the infamous Baker estate, known for it’s bloody and mysterious past. Done in first-person, this game throws you right into the chaos from the outset, and manages to consistently ratchet up the intensity and difficulty, keeping you in a perpetual state of tension and fear. Resources are scarce, the imagery disturbing without being overtly gory, and the pacing is pure rollercoaster. It never let’s up. Look for a full spoiler review in the coming months. But for now, just get your ass to the local Gamestop and get a copy NOW.
And KEEP IT CULT