We knew BioShock Infinite was going to be quite frightening when it had one of these pages started JUST FROM THE FIRST PREVIEW. And Lord, it did not disappoint.
To start off, let's just go ahead and say that those of you here with acrophobia may find navigating a city suspended miles up in the air a bit uncomfortable, ESPECIALLY via Sky-Hook.
The Big Daddies have been replaced by the altogether creepier Handymen. Just to emphasize how much more disturbing they are over the Big Daddies, you get a viewport with the subject's beating heart on full display. Just the SOUND of their hands moving should be enough to get anyone freaking out.
Ken Levine has confirmed there's a tragic backstory behind the Handymen. Given the imagery on the Handymen booth seen in the fair in the Beasts of America trailer they are likely sick and/or disabled people who were turned into these monstrosities, probably against their will, given Columbia's eugenicist ideals. It doesn't help that they constantly scream that they're in pain while attacking.
Actually, it's more direct than that. The entrance of Comstock House shows photos of generic NPC under their various "sins" and a Handyman appears only on a board titled Pacifist. It puts something of a new spin on many of the enemy's quotes, such as "GET DOWN!" when electrifying the skylines. It's likely not so much a taunt, it's a warning from someone who doesn't want to hurt you but has to fight.
A particularly moving pair of Voxphone entries is by the wife a Handyman. In the latter one she tells her husband that even when the fits of madness overtake him, she is the proudest women in all of Columbia to have been his wife. unfortunately this is found in the hands of a dead handyman.
Songbird. A giant, black, screeching mechanical steampunk bird gargoyle creature whose sole purpose is to hunt you down and retrieve Elizabeth.
The thing has claws, smacks Dewitt around like he was nothing and tears through buildings like paper (Not to mention its from Dewitt point of view the whole time. Those claws an inch from your face, yeesh).
How about the fact that the developers based Songbird and Elizabeth's relationship on an abusive romance? In the game, it doesn't stop attacking DeWitt until she apologizes for running away from him.
For what it's worth, Elizabeth is probably faking that, since she only does it at the very last second before Songbird punches Booker into paste and her 'normal' pleading with it to stop isn't working.
And how do you beat this monster on your own? You DON'T. There's nothing in your arsenal that can even make this thing flinch, let alone harm it. In fact Future Elizabeth flat out says that in every single alternate timeline where Booker fights the Songbird, he ultimately loses and likely dies as a result. If getting tossed stories upward into a building and then held at the mercy of this beast (all in terrifying first-person) as Elizabeth desperately begs for your life didn't make you feel utterly helpless, then that little revelation will.
Possibly scarier than any monster is the political extremism that has torn the city apart: the Founders are racist, xenophobic, and theocratic despots who openly endorse eugenics and can, and have, used their floating super-weapon to impose their will on foreign countries in the name of imperialistic nationalism. The Vox Populi is a group that started with good intentions only to devolve into bloodthirsty thugs who loot shops, burn down buildings and publicly execute defenseless civilians. In Rapture you fought against mutants whose insanity was explicitly caused by fantastical Psycho Serum. At first glance, in Columbia you fight against peopleturned into monsters by mere ideology.
In the E3 demo, you get a very good look at this. People getting mugged, live terrorism in open daylight, propaganda of film reels showing faces on those red curtains. It's total anarchy in the streets. Heck at one point you come across some people about to do a live execution of an innocent mailman and you're given the choice to let him die to preserve your cover or save him and have the radicals gunning for you.
The pacing in general is absolutely terrifying. You're basically running around this expansive, acrophobia-inducing, reality-warped deathtrap of a super-weapon (currently in the midst of a civil war, no less), and absolutely everyone appears to be dangerous lunatics and psychopathic machines that will attack you seemingly at random. There is no escape, anywhere you go there will just be more crazies trying to blast you to smithereens. You don't know where they're firing from, they outnumber you hopelessly, and oh, did we mention the Vox Populi assault airship that will randomly pop in and spew death everywhere like a sprinkler?
Ideology turning men into monsters has been a recurring theme in the BioShock series: Andrew Ryan's "Every Man For Himself" philosophy proved that it would make a sustained society impossible (while he would never admit it, Frank Fontaine was basically the perfect embodiment of his philosophy, someone who cared about nothing but his own advancement and would give nothing to others, who wanted to keep everything for himself) and quickly devolved into total anarchy. Lamb's ideal society was no better, since in a society where no one individual was important and the group was everything meant that horrible things could be done to individuals if it meant the group would prosper. But both were based at least on ideas that had the best interests of everyone at heart. The ideologies expressed in BioShock Infinite, on the other hand, are based on things like racism, xenophobia, elitism, paranoia, etc. When Ryan's and Lamb's philosophies are taken to their natural conclusions, they lead to anarchy for Ryan, and a Dystopia for Lamb. When you take Columbia's various ideologies together, it leads to "Destroy Everyone Who Isn't Like Us", and "Us" is in debate even in Columbia itself, and given that Columbia is a gigantic flying super-weapon, the questions you have to ask yourself are, "What has happened to the rest of the world outside of Columbia?""Is there a rest of the world outside of Columbia?" And if things have gone this wildly, this radically wrong, "Is even America safe from Columbia?"In at least one timeline, it's not.
When you reach Elizabeth's home on Monument Island, the place is covered with warning signs. Every wall, every door, propped up on the floor. Everywhere you look, nothing but signs that say Danger! Do Not Speak To The Specimen, Do Not Approach Siphon While Specimen Is Inside, CAUTION: Proceed Only If Specimen Is Properly Sedated (refer to sedation protocol 080-312) and so on. What exactly can this girl do?
Not to mention the fact that there apparently were people watching Elizabeth behind the scenes for years, and pictures being taken of her... even when she's in her dressing room. You even find a freaking bag of popcorn in one of the viewing rooms, bringing up some profoundly skeevy implications. Doesn't help that there are pictures of her dressing as a young girl. Either these people are so dedicated to the experiments and their "specimen" that they no longer see her as human or someone developed Lima Syndrome and fell in love with a preteen girl. Either thought is creepy as hell.
For added creepiness, Booker hears Elizabeth's distorted voice humming bits and pieces of Everybody Wants to Rule the World as the Siphon continues draining power from her. Never has a Tears for Fears song inspired actual fear.
The leader of Columbia, a gentleman named Comstock, is heralded in posters as being the 'Hero of the Battle of Wounded Knee.' Go ahead and look up exactly how that "battle" went.
His original look looked like all the worst aspects of Nixon and Cheney mashed together, with a curled sneer that just gave off 'is a sex offender' vibes. See for yourself.◊
Comstock's Vox Populi counterpart, Daisy Fitzroy, could possibly be just as disturbing, given the scene from the E3 demo in which she projects herself onto a curtain◊. She looks absolutely insane or like Big Brother.
Perhaps the most disturbing element from Infinite is that many of the citizens of Columbia don't seem to realize that the city has fallen into ruin. In the trailers you can see a woman sweeping the porch of a building that is on fire, a man giving a speech to empty deck chairs, and another man on a bench who is covered with crows. Then it turns out both the Crow's politician master and the woman both seem to be suffering from tear sickness which wasn't revealed until the game proper. Look at that man in the demo, he twitches like there are two of him in the same place and he's obviously off his rocker when you see him preaching to absolutely no one. Yeah, they planned that particular insanity that far in advance. Even worse, his friend Charles doesn't even seem to notice that he's bat-shit insane and still follows his orders to the letter. Hell, maybe he doesn't even care, maybe the power of vigors drove him insane, or maybe he's just used to seeing things like that now? Any way you look at it, it's creepy.
Early in the game, you're at a carnival and you win a lottery. What good luck! What does that get you? The "honor" of throwing the first stone at the public stoning/execution of a mixed race couple. The scene itself...which probably shouldn't be detailed, is something the Ku Klux Klan would not go to the extreme of doing. It's not even something those against the Klan would claim they do. It's kind of a parody of the KKK imitating someone opposing them would claim they do. It's that disturbing.
No less disturbing is that not long beforehand, you received a telegram very specifically warning you against entering the lottery, specific even to the point of telling you which number not to pick — although you don't seem to be given much of a choice in the event.
Motorized Patriot: Blood...is the price...of liberty! [dakka dakka dakka]
The disturbingly fast, mechanical cranking motion its arm makes to operate the aforementioned mini-gun. That alone looks just plain wrong.
In the trailer showcasing it, look closely at the scene where Elizabeth conjures a gun turret in order to distract it so you (Booker) can shoot its weak point. As the Patriot turns to return fire back at it, its head alone suddenly rotates back towards and stays fixated on you WHILE fighting the turret as if to say, "Don't worry. I have NOT forgotten about you. Once I've finished with this, you're dead!".
This is a phrase that you will learn to fear, because it means that one of these guys has spotted you and is getting the old Pepper Mill ready:
Staying behind cover too long will set you up for a nasty shock as the Patriot shifts gears from "slow, plodding lead hose" to "stomping, clanging juggernaut" as it attempts to rush you out of cover.
The final kicker: Motorized Patriot quotes are faction specific. Now while not particularly frightening in of itself, it points to two possibilities. 1. The man who records the voice for the Motorized Patriots has defected to make Vox quotes along with his original Founder ones, or the far more terrifying possibility 2. Motorized Patriots have gained some kind of sentience and rebelled against The Founders themselves. The fact these machines are basically clockwork machine gun toting caricatures of presidents originally envisioned as a museum attraction makes this disturbing thought all the worse.
One more thing: apparently there were going to be versions based on Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. The artbook shows some of the details, including what they would look like when damaged◊, and is isn't pleasant. It also should be noted that the cracked porcelain look of the Motorized Patriots was inspired by an old china doll Ken Levine's mother had that terrified him as a kid. That should say enough about these damn things.
The Boys of Silence, another enemy. They don't sound too creepy otherwise (they're meant to replace the cameras from the original BioShock 1, except they'll consciously be looking for you), but then you see their heads. They wear a helmet that has no eyes and a gaping mouth.
To makes things worse, take a closer look at their outfits: first their clothes heavily resemble those of a child, complete with bib and laces which raises an awful lot of uncomfortable questions. Second, consider that helmet design: you have two trumpets which redirect sound into a brass helmet which presumably reverberates. Does the sound they make derive from them screaming in pain? Third, the helmets are attached to the leather shoulder straps by metal clamps and padlocked shut. Why would the helmets be locked shut?
Even WORSE: The only time you run into them? Inside a dimly-lit, run-down asylum where it's just you, them and the crazies that stand around in Uncanny Valley-esque president masks and stare at the walls. If a Boy spots you, he'll shriek and alert every psycho around you, who will then grab whatever they can find and try to beat you to death with it. On top of that, ammo is low, you're without your plucky girl sidekick and one manages to get RIGHT behind you while you're working a control panel and shriek in your face.
The fact that they are introduced so late in the game, with no explanation, in the most jarring area available, amplifies their creepiness. They wouldn't be half as effective standing around the Hall of Heroes.
The WORST is that one of the Voxophones you find in Comstock House implies that ELIZABETH created them.
Speaking of which, they have Tear-powers. As Elizabeth taught us, you get Tear-powers by having a piece of yourself cut off and put in another Universe. Now, what's under that helmet?
And about those president mask-wearing inmates? An all too disturbing hint is dropped over the asylum's PA system as to why they're so bonkers.
The Siren, yet another enemy, is apparently a nod to late 19th century Spiritualism, which works a lot better in the game world, if this is anything to go by. The Siren, who very much may be the ghost of a vocalist, is able to bring dead enemies back to life after you've gone and killed them once. Resurrection! Always fun.
More directly, her booming, distorted voice and the glowing-eyed zombie soldiers she resurrects to battle you are quite unsettling to behold. Of the three Siren fights, the showdown at the Bank of the Prophet is by far the creepiest, as you chase her into the depths of a deep, dark, abandoned vault, with lots of corners and alcoves within her arena where you can suddenly run into zombies meleeing you in the face while trying to scrounge for supplies.
The "Beasts of America" trailer features a crapload of scares. Highlights include watching the Murder of Crows tearing bloody clumps out of citizens, Booker's hands catching fire and his fingers burning away to the bloodied bone in a scene very reminiscent of taking your first shot of Electro Bolt in BioShock and a police officer getting his face torn to shreds by a Sky-Hook wielded by one of his fellows. The real kicker of the final example is that Booker is the one shoving the guy's face into the hook, making him complicit in what appears to be a cold-blooded murder.
Even before the violence, a warning you won't get until it's far, far too late—"Bring us the girl, and wipe away the debt. That was the deal. The details elude me now; but the details wouldn't change a Goddamned thing."
The "False Shepherd" trailer elaborates on that last one a bit—it seems Booker was about to suffer the fate he gives to the policeman before a bit of... quick action on his part. Oh, but here's the new kicker: judging by the way the camera lingers on the device after the deed is done, this is how the player first acquires the Sky-Hook. That's right, just wipe the blood, bone fragments, and brain tissue off and it's as good as new!
The reason the cops were threatening Booker? It appears to be the scenario where Booker refuses to throw the first baseball at a "convicted" interracial couple, who are all surrounded by cartoonish depictions... of monkeys. And the police aren't too happy about it. (It gets better.. The background is of "negro" monkeys conducting a wedding, and the crowd does a mocking rendition of the Wedding March in preparation for the stoning. Truly the stuff of nightmares.)
To make it worse, they WILL attempt to kill you, regardless of the choice you made (or even a refusal to throw it).
For those of you who have watched The First Few Minutes Of BioShock Infinite trailer, we get a subtle one. There is a quote presented at the beginning: The mind of the subject will desperately struggle to create memories where none exist... If you keep this in mind, it gives you a horrifying thought as the opening proceeds: Does the character actually remember anything, or is he literally creating his past out of things that he sees as he goes along? If that is the case, the main character is literally being dropped into a hellish situation with no training, no memory of his past, and little to no chance of survival. He was literally expected to piece together his mission, and his past, from what he came across along the way. It's like the plotline for The Usual Suspects, only the main character is doing it without realizing it.
The 'Columbia:A Modern-Day Icarus?' trailer, which is done in the style of a trailer for a cheap yet really creepy early 1980s educational/conspiracy-theory TV show in the style of In Search Of... channeling the spirit of Creepypasta in how mundane yet just subtly off it is. Apparently, in the world of the game what happened to Columbia became an unsolved mystery/urban legend along the lines of Atlantis, the Mary Celeste and the Bermuda Triangle, and while the other trailers have presented the horrors that are lurking around on Columbia when the player arrives there, this one is done from the perspective of the people on the ground who, left only with a few hints and fragments that fell out of the sky (including a building that ended up somewhere in the Alps), even decades later were left wondering precisely where it went, what the hell happened up there, and whether it's still flying around up there...
There's also a terrifying undertone of "If it's still up there, "why haven't we found it?". In the time the games take place, there's a good reason for why nobody found the floating city. But by the eighties we have planes, radar, satellites... just think about the Paranoia Fuel for everyone that hasn't convinced themselves Columbia still exists. You have a super-weapon populated by xenophobic, nationalistic ultra-racists, just floating in the air and nobody knows what happened to it. And they CAN'T find out.
Now that the game is out, we can confirm exactly when this video fits into the timeline of the game and why it appears to be from the early 80's. It is from the timeline when Booker failed to rescue Elizabeth and she was brainwashed into becoming the new Comstock. The city has likely disappeared in preparation of their attack, given that the Alps are not on the flight path laid out in the lighthouse at the beginning of the game. This documentary would have been released right before Columbia attacks New York!
Mind In Revolt, one of the pre-order bonus e-books, gives insight both into the screwed-up race science of Columbia and just how unhinged Daisy Fitzroy is. It ain't pretty.
In Columbia, they use phrenology and they've turned the local mental hospital into Bedlam House, where they dole out lobotomies like they're going out of style — and write them off as a good thing. To be fair, that isn't actually that different then medical science in the early through mid 20th centuries, but the Real Life doctors thought they were actually being helpful; Columbia's just seem to regard it as expedient.
Note that phrenology was discredited about fifty years before Columbia was even built- around the 1840s. Columbian scientists are so deluded and desperately clinging to their racism, they're not even really scientists anymore.
At the very end of the Lamb of Columbia trailer, Elizabeth and Booker are standing in the middle of a wheat field as a gigantic tornado creeps closer and closer...and Elizabeth just stares at you, motionless, no expression on her face at all. Just try to imagine the possible context for that.
And in the same False Shepherd trailer we get BioShock's signature Body Horror of Booker watching the skin flake off his hands, exposing muscle and the vigor power underneath.
In the game proper, such attacks are frequent executions of enemies, and the first one includes imbedding the Sky-Hook into the face of a Columbian police officer. The visuals are frightening, but the sounds are horrifying. The whine of a dentist drill combined with the crunching of bones and tearing of flesh.
Just after throwing the switch to try and rescue Elizabeth from the snow-covered wasteland, the player turns around to see one of the Boys of Silence right behind them. This is also a callback to the first game when you headed into the basement of an area to retrieve something only to find a splicer behind you.
The whole Bad Future in general with tears and recordings detailing how they broke Elizabeth. But probably the most chilling when you come across a projector showing nothing but glaring eyes as she expresses disappointment that Booker wasn't there to save her in probably the coldest tone ever. Talk about a guilt trip.
This level of the game is easily the most reminiscent of old BioShock/System Shock titles, given that it's happening AFTER the horrible calamity, like in those games, whereas Infinite is happening DURING it. It's the only place in the game you encounter the Boys of Silence, and their cronies are nothing but crazy people wearing Founding Fathers masks (much like the Motorized Patriots), banging their heads against the wall or just generally looking broken as human beings. The atmosphere is perfect with the snowy weather, and it all comes to a peak when you take Elizabeth's hand at the end of the level, only to discover she's an old woman and she's looking down on Columbia attacking 1984 New York City. The image of that alone is chilling. Just imagine living an ordinary, every-day 80's life, only to have a forgotten legend descend upon you and rain fire.
After rescuing Elizabeth from the scientists you sit her upright to find a plug put directly into her spine, for an added bonus the scientists are revealed to have not put her under during all of this, meaning she felt the whole process. Now remember the Bad Future where Booker couldn't save her...yeah. And Booker has to take it out under the same circumstances. Just try not to wince in sympathy during that scene. You will fail.
Comstock House is basically a creepy hospital, creepy school, creepy asylum, creepy jail, creepy science lab, and creepy orphanage all rolled into one.
And the screams! And the signs! "WHERE WE LIE." "WHERE WE WEEP." "WHERE WE CLEANSE." "WHERE WE SLEEP." "NO SIN EVADES HIS GAZE" before you meet the Boy of Silence.
Not to mention "WHERE WE WORK." "WHERE WE LEARN."
There's this one small room that you have to pass through which contains a ton of the Washington/Jefferson/Franklin masks, just sitting there looking at you. And one of the masks is a Comstock mask, which stares directly down the only path through the room. It has glowing eyes for some reason, and you must pass very close to it to get out. By this point, the player is hypersensitive to the environment, and weird, out-of-place things like this are pure Paranoia Fuel. It seemed almost certain that walking past that mask would trigger something horrible. It doesn't.
At one point you are moving through a corridor and a wheelchair with a mask sitting on it slowly wheels forward from behind a column into view...there is no one else in the corridor.
"WHERE WE WEEP" deserves special mention, as it appears to be a morgue, mortuary and crematory all in one. White sewed up body bags piled up, and a single coffin with a bodybag in it right in front of the furnace....doesn't help that the only access is through the apparent torture chamber either.
The Fraternal Order of the Raven, a fanatical cult to John Wilkes Booth. Even before Columbia goes to hell, the place looks like it wanted to get a head start in that direction. What with the dark decrepit interior of what would otherwise be an opulent manor, filled with plates/bowls and tables of food long since rotted, left out as "offerings" to the creepy-ass crows/ravens that frequent (and shit all over) the place.
And it's there that you first see the Murder of Crows vigor in action...against a helpless Asian man tied down to have the flesh ripped from him by a swarm of the aforementioned birds.
The context for this doesn't help either. You walk through the aforementioned creep cult hangout filled with rotting food and ravens. You come to a room in which you get given some healing items, as if gearing you up for a boss fight. If you look around you'll find a hidden room with a blood covered cell in it. And when you move on, before you even fully open the door, you see a man being killed by a murder of crows.
The implication that from his dialogue he was an innocent man that had just been kidnapped off the street. His agonized screaming of "WHY?! WHYYYYY?!" doesn't help. He's Asian. That's crime enough for the Order.
The ending when all those Elizabeths suddenly show up and crowd around Booker to drown him. Not only a crazy twist, but a pretty morbid freak out too.
And to make it worse, it's in first-person rather than third-person; you have to watch this through the eyes ofa drowning person. That is, you're looking up at their faces through the water as they're drowning Booker, seeing the air bubbles escape, watching everything fade to black...There's one mitigating factor to this nightmare fuel, though; at least this is a voluntary Heroic Sacrifice on Booker's part to prevent the rise of Comstock.
The scene where Booker is trying to buy a ticket for the gondola while a man is talking on the phone to someone. You can then get two possible choices. First, draw your weapon and threaten the man, which seems like a nasty thing to do. Second, simply ask for help again, to which he apologizes for the wait... before drawing a knife and stabbing you in the hand.
Furthermore, When you walk into the area, people are acting...off. A hotdog vendor is unsure of what he has "Sauerkraut? uh...I guess. That'll be uh...one Silver Eagle." Beyond this there are people talking and a violinist playing beautifully, but when you make it to the counter everyone STOPS WHAT THEY ARE DOING AND STARTS STARING AT YOU. It doesn't help that there's three violin cases, only one of which is open, and one violin. What are they storing in them? Then suddenly, everyone has a weapon. Oh, that's what that is.
The mere fact that the citizens of Columbia, both those aligned to the Founders and eventually the Vox Populi are actively out for Booker's blood makes the city even more frightening than Rapture's doomed denizens. Unlike the splicers, who are so insane from constant Plasmid use, Columbia's citizenry in general are still consciously sane and can hide in plain sight. Which means that with the exception of Elizabeth and maybe the Luteces, you really can't trust anyone.
Keep in mind also that unlike Rapture's splicers, the people of Columbia didn't need Vigor abuse to become the warped madmen you come across—they already were.
Enemies hit with an upgraded Possession will commit suicide when the Vigor wears off. If they have a gun, they'll just shoot themselves. If they have a melee weapon, they'll beat themselves to death with it. If they have an RPG, they will point it at their feet and blow themselves all over the place. The worst part is you can't tell if they're doing it because the Vigor compelled them to or because being Possessed is just that horrifying.
Actually, you can tell: the description of Possession in the loading screens explains that being Possessed really is that horrifying. It specifically states that they commit suicide because of what they've done while possessed. Or, if they didn't kill anyone, presumably they commit suicide simply because they were possessed by the False Shepherd—and considering how fanatically religious Columbia is, it's perfectly understandable why that would be considered a Death Equals Redemption situation.
As Possession is advertised as a date-rape drug, the suicidal consequences are either that specific machine's upgrade (and the cheapest in the game—50 Silver Eagles!), or due to Booker being the one possessing folks. Given how things were arranged just-so by both the Lutece and Comstock, both might well be the case.
After boarding the first airship you come across, there's a woman you find praying in the cockpit. After Comstock gives Booker a "The Reason You Suck" Speech, the woman sets herself on fire. Not long before, Booker's first words to her were "I'm not going to hurt you", making the whole spectacle even more creepy.
Seeing this plus Comstock House arguably cements Comstock himself as the scariest thing in game (at the very least from an Adult Fear perspective). You have this psychotic Knight Templar who, holding absolute power over an entire city, has not only cyborg monstrosities and Vigor-enhanced zealots at his beck and call, but also enough raw charisma to have his otherwise sane, normal human followers go so far as to perform self-immolation without even a hint of hesitation. In other words, this is the nightmare you get when you take Jim Jones and give him access to state of the art steampunk/sci-fi techonology.
Believe it or not it was originally going to be even worse: according to an early preview, that woman was originally a young boy.
The scare morphs a bit if you are Genre Savvy about scares in horror games. When you see the woman praying, it's almost a given that she's going to attack you, especially with the perfect opportunity of her boss pontificating outside. What you don't expect is the aforementioned self-immolation, and the entire airship going up in flames around you.
Comstock: The Lord forgives, but I'm just a prophet... So I don't have to. Amen. Woman: Amen. *sets herself on fire*
What makes it even more frightening is the realization that Comstock is Booker.
The motorized Patriot in of itself is creepy enough, but then there's how you're introduced to it as well. Slate brings to life a motorized Patriot from the other side of the room, while it breaks itself free from the glass display it's in.
All the vending machines are mounted with animatronic salesmen who are constantly waving their arms around. In the dark, its easy to mistake that movement for an enemy, and their clanking gears can sound like a Motorized Patriot. They're also way louder and more talkative than Rapture's vending machines, which means you're be constantly hearing voices, even when they're on the other side of a wall.
Every so often you come across an inactive vending machine that has the salesman frozen in a position leaning forward and staring at a Gear or Infusion under it. With open mouth and glowing yellow eyes. It's extremely eerie considering the normally talkative and energetic vending machines.
Worse still, the vandalized machines which originally sold Gear (modeled after Jewish tailors) have not only been stripped of their contents and broken, but have the word "YID" painted on their sides. Anti-Semitism runs deep in Columbia.
Songbird's introduction when you're rescuing Elizabeth from Monument Island is also very freaky. You're running at first from some kind of faceless terror that's wrecking the place around you, and just before you get out it smashes the door open and peers inside, the visible eye glowing a hellish orange before a piece of superstructure falls on it, allowing you to escape. It then hounds you across the Skyline as Monument Island collapses, and as Booker and Elizabeth fall into Battleship Bay it dives in after you, braving water pressure to try and kill you for taking her and only stopping (with its eye right in front of your face) when the water pressure causes one of its eyes to break open. The music doesn't help, at all.
At one point, later in the game, you can overhear a Vox Populi fighter talking about eliminating anyone who could be a threat. This includes people with guns...and glasses. What makes this especially frightening is that in Real Life, the Khemer Rouge did target people with glasses, as they were considered "intellectuals" and thus enemies of the revolution. It gives you a good idea of where the Vox Populi is going to be heading.
As you make your way through the city after the Vox uprising, you can see all of the horrible things the Vox have done. Dead civilians litter the streets, while you see dozens of captured Founder soldiers mercilessly executed and left to rot. There is even one point where you see several high ranking Founders who have been scalped, with their bloody scalps nailed to a board.
When breaking into the vault of the Bank of the Prophet, you will keep catching flashes of a Zealot running by just at the edge of your vision, making it so that you're never quite sure when he's going to ambush you. It doesn't help that sections of the vault are rather cramped and very dimly lit.
A truly horrifying use of Public Domain Soundtrack occurs in Comstock House. It's in the room with the surreal film that's punctuated by glaring, accusatory eyes, which also contains the audio diary in which Elizabeth reveals when and why she crossed the Despair Event Horizon: she eventually came to believe that Booker was not going to come and rescue her. Given how much both Booker and the player care about Elizabeth at this point, it's definitely a Player Punch already, and it gets worse when you realize that the distorted music accompanying all this is Pachelbel's Canon. There's also some Fridge Horror involved if you initially failed to recognize such a frequently-used piece of music because of just how badly it's distorted, which definitely fits the state of Elizabeth's mind at that point. If that's not enough, consider this: this piece, which is well-known for being played at weddings, foreshadows the horror that Booker and Elizabeth shippers feel when they learn that that the two are father and daughter. Even without that, though, the use of a wedding piece when the relationship between Booker and Elizabeth is at its absolute nadir is cruelly ironic. Finally, the distorted classical music, grainy black-and-white film, and mental degradation of a major character are horrifically reminiscent of Alex's undergoing the Ludovico Treatment in A Clockwork Orange.
What's worse is that the film has subliminal messages in it, just for that extra bit of creepiness.
The use of wedding music becomes Fridge Horror when you consider that many weddings traditionally feature the symbolic act of a father giving away his daughter.
As one of Comstock's warnings to Elizabeth as they try to reach the First Lady is that Booker would abandon her, it becomes clear that the Prophet has again looked at the possibilities, and that he'd been planning out the breaking of Elizabeth as an contingency from the very beginning.
Like with BioShock's Plasmids, taking Vigors for the first time is... disturbing to say the least. For instance, the "Devil's Kiss" Vigor gives us a vision of Booker's hands burning away to the bone. And his terrified screams really don't help...
Taking the "Undertow" Vigor will have Booker's arms have suction cups appearing on them... leaving massive holes in his arms. Body Horror indeed...
The only two Vigor-using foes— Firemen and Zealots— are both brimming with Fridge Horror of various flavours. Little is explained about them other than what powers they fight with and small tidbits about their backgrounds (the Zealots being cultists and the Firemen being former criminals trapped in burning suits), but they exhibit freakish traits that even Booker can't replicate with the same Vigors, like the Fireman's extreme heat resistance and the Zealot's ability to dissolve into a flock of crows at will. And considering that neither enemy has a visible human face, one is left alone to wonder just how Vigor overuse has ravaged their bodies, or how human they may (or may not) still be after it all. It's markedly different from the original, Splicer-like "Vigor Junkie" concepts seen in the official art book, trading the obvious horror of visible Vigor-related deformities for a more subtle Nothing Is Scarier approach.
For one thing, you see what it says up there about what Devil's Kiss does to Booker's hands? Yeah, try to imagine that happening to your entire body, 24/7, with no way to make it stop. That's what it's like to be a Fireman...
Speaking of the artbook.... oh god, the artbook. Facial Horror galore, of people's faces just so incredibly twisted... or stuck to another instance of their face, with the artbook saying "Quantum rifts splice different instances of people together with varying results," in a clinical tone rivaling the SCP Foundation. Faces are stretched like rubber into other versions of the same face, the mouth too twisted and too long on one end to make you ever want to know how they open them. The eyes aren't usually on the same level of the face as each other, and are often curved downwards in ways faces simply should not work, one face looks like raw hamburger on one side, with the jaw exposed and a single tendril of muscle connecting the upper and lower jaw on that side of the face, and one... vaguely face-shaped... thing with a single eye twisted into the middle and three mouths. Check out the scans, if you have the stomach.
WHO ARE YOU? CHAAAAAAARLES!! ATTEND! When they said communists were red devils, we don't think it should have been literal. Doesn't help that the man is obviously suffering from tear sickness which we didn't learn about until the game came out three years later... Then you find his scalp nailed to board alongside Fink's. Yeah, he may have not appeared in the final game, but the developers made sure he died a horrible death like everyone else.
I've studied American history of the period at university, and the religion of "Comstockism", the mercantile philosophy of Fink and the chaotic mindset of the Vox Populi are all 'dead-on representations of late 1800s-early 1900s US imperialism, capitalism and anarchism/early-Communism. It is somewhat of a comfort that while such people actually existed, they had no access to tonic-induced superpowers or murderous clockwork automaton presidents, but still...
At the very end of the game, Booker and Elizabeth wander through Rapture's "Welcome Center" in 1960. Nothing happens, but the atmosphere itself is unbearably eerie and quiet.
By the looks of the way things are situated, this is almost immediately before Jack sets foot in Rapture himself. The signs you first see when you step off the Bathysphere are pretty much in the same place. Hell, it might've been after. You're in this whole situation, might even be able to prevent it and you can't do anything about it.
Chen Lin's brutal interrogation. The man's corpse makes the most disgusting SQUISH sound when his head rolls to the side. It's absolutely disgusting. How long was he alive during the torture? Even in the universe where he lives, the video tape of his interrogation has his eye swollen shut, his neck bruised, and him just drenched in blood. Who's to say that this is even the first or last person this happened to? You find dead bodies in cells being eaten by beetles in the police station. They don't even bother to move the damn bodies.
The scene where the Vox finally turn against you. First of all, the way Daisy calls you a "complication" is subtly threatening, then the elevator stops with a few Vox soldiers staring at the corpses they just made out of people. They don't do anything, so you think for a moment that maybe, MAYBE they are still your allies. Then they see you, pull arms and start trying to murder you despite the fact that you're with Elizabeth, an innocent looking civilian. You helped save their lives not ten minutes ago by taking down the Zeppelin, but now they want you dead.
When you have the Murder of Crows Vigor equipped, you may see an idle animation◊ where the fingernails on Booker's left hand become black claws. It is surprisingly creepy.
When you're given your shield by the Luteces, Rosalind comments, "Surprising that it didn't kill him". How many Bookers have died from that Infusion malfunctioning?
After escaping from the tower and Songbird, Booker passes out and finds himself back in his apartment, much as he does when he "dies" in-game. However, in this instance, Elizabeth is with him in the apartment, staring blankly ahead and slowly repeating the phrase "Bring us the girl... and wipe away the debt," after the demonic-sounding voice outside the door. Booker begins to call uneasily, "What do you want with her?" and becomes increasingly frantic. This instance is reprised later in the game when things have become even more dire. Haunting, to say the least.
Towards the beginning of the Soldier's Field area, you're pointed to an ice cream shop where you're given the option to steal from the cash register there. Given that this is the first instance of the ability to steal anything being presented to you, many players probably won't be able to resist the urge to at least try it, resulting in the police being called and everyone in the area turning hostile. However, if you can resist your curiosity and push onwards, you can freely explore the entire area, experiencing Columbia's nightlife in one of the extremely rare instances where everything around you at least seems mildly peaceful and almost normal, at least until you reach the trolley station at the end. At that point, a loud message is broadcasted to the area, warning of the False Shepard's presence, and the minute you turn around, literally every civilian in the area will have disappeared. There's no short scenes of people being evacuated or running away, they just vanish into thin air. Seeing the lively, bustling area that you just strolled through completely empty is an extremely eerie experience, and then the militia shows up to makes things worse.
Another creepy moment from Comstock House. When you first get to the room where you fight the Boys of Silence you can clearly hear Elizabeth screaming her lungs out in the other room. it's actually coming from a tear, you discover upon returning to the area later in the level. Which arguably makes it worse. Her dialogue will even show up in the subtitles if you haven't started the fight. It's horrible to listen to especially since you've been doing everything you can to protect her the whole game, but some of the things she says made my blood run cold.
"No, please! I'll be... I'll be your daughter! *screaming* I'll be your daughter! I'll be... I'LL BE YOUR DAUGHTER,PLEASE!!!"
One brief moment in the trailer for the Rapture-based "Burial At Sea" DLC— during the montage of various people walking around a pristine, happy Rapture, there's one shot of a stern, schoolteacher-type lady holding up a sign and seemingly lecturing a group of Little Sisters. They look completely identical to one another, and they all move in unison, at one point turning and staring right at the camera. There's a subtle but distinctly creepy air to the scene, even without context.
Which isn't helped by how said schoolteacher-type lady looks suspiciously similar to Sofia Lamb.
In the game proper, it happens much more quickly, with all the girls mechanically jerking their heads toward you the moment you come too close.
The very end of Burial at Sea, Part 1, shows us something quite horrifying. Remember the Portal Cut where Elizabeth lost part of her pinky finger? Well, that universe's Elizabeth had it happen to her head. Keep in mind that this happens to a baby.
The entire final cinematic is just one gruesome scene after another - the zombie-like Little Sister Sally presumably dropping down the red-hot ventilation shaft, the sheer contempt with which Elizabeth and the Luteces treat Comstock, and Elizabeth's face getting spattered with blood as the Big Daddy's drill impales Comstock from behind. Talk about a Player Punch.
The unsettling painting from the teaser trailer. A somber-looking Booker and Elizabeth are dancing closely in the foreground, while the background is a hellish red with rabbit-masked figures lurking in the shadows. Not surprising that it's a bit... "off", being a Cohen original.
Sander Cohen's Miasma - a painting◊ about... something horrible, certainly.
Even worse, it was inspired by Francis Bacon's works, which are Nightmare Fuel; in their own right.
There are in-game radio ads that make use of the sound of Security Bots attacking. It instinctively makes anyone familiar with the sound want to run, hide, and look for a bot that's not there.
The return of Sander Cohen. His appearance◊, mannerisms and theatrics shows that he was already an utterly deranged Mad Artisteven without the splicing.
There's a distinct Uncanny Valley feeling to his features and make-up already, but the sight of his face blown up and projected onto a giant stone carving (apparently locking eyes with another bust) is positively freakish.
Elizabeth at the ending of Episode One. The ending itself is a gigantic Wham Episode, but it's also a gigantic contrast in reactions to murder. As if her My God, What Have I Done? reaction from killing Fitzroy in the main campaign wasn't frightening enough, her LACK of reaction when the Big Daddy impales Comstock!Booker and splatters blood on her face is somehow even worse.
There's also the implication that the entire DLC was just Elizabeth and the Luteces toying with Comstock. Elizabeth's mission was to purge the remaining Comstocks from the multiverse, and if she wanted, she could've easily just shot him the moment she walked into his office, but she didn't. She dragged him around on a mission to save the missing girl he was obsessed with, repeatedly put his life in danger (only to save him when things got a little too dangerous), pushed him through the hellscape of the decrepit Department Store, and then, once Comstock realized what he had done and had just enough time to regret his actions, she let a Big Daddy slowly run him through with his drill.
Elizabeth: "This world values children, not childhood." *light flicker* "There's a profit to be made," *flicker* "and the men who make it."
And she's changing from her original clothing, to her corset and dress outfit from the second half of Infinite, to her present outfit, looking menacing all the while.
And in the final product, we see a fourth version of Elizabeth: one splattered in blood.
The sequence of Elizabeth in Paris. It goes from a beautiful place full of smiling people who adore Elizabeth and including Disney-esque singing birds, to a hellish grey-tinted nightmare-scape that is deserted of people, most of the buildings are ruined or on fire and one building advertises lobotomies, foreshadowing what is to come later.
Even the Disney sequence is rather creepy in an Uncanny Valley sort of way. Everyone greets Elizabeth by name in the same chirpy tone, and turns to watch her as she walks past, still with smiles on their faces, but the effect is disconcerting, regardless. It was almost a relief to see it turn into a nightmare after waiting for the other shoe to drop.
The boat-ride to the lighthouse. Instead of the beautiful Inn Between the Worlds we saw in Infinite that was illuminated by countless other universes gleaming as far as the eye can see, this iteration is nearly completely silent and utterly pitch black.
And if you look in the water as you're being rowed merrily along... you'll start noticing all the drowned, staring faces. That's right: you're cruising the River Styx.
In one of the random videos stations scattered about Rapture you'll get the chance to experience a short artistic film produced by none other than Sander Cohen himself! What does this film consist of, you ask? It begins with a message stating "Please Stand By" in large, bold letters across the screen, only for the image to start slowly rotating as static noises, ethereal wailing, and deranged laughter begin to play in the background. Then a deep, almost demonic voice begins to speak: WHY DO YOU STAND THERE... WHEN SOMEONE IS... RIGHT BEHIND YOU.You'll never guess what happens once the video ends andyou turn around!
For those of you curious, you turn around to see this lovely chap, just sitting there. And he does absolutely nothing. Even worse? That isn't a man. That's one of Cohen's plaster statues.
Worse still, it's thought in some circles that Cohen makes those by slathering his victims with plaster..
And the book confirms that. He just gets his disciples to torture some first or slits their throats.
The Ryan the Lion Prepatory Academy, in where children are indoctrinated into being selfish bastards. If that wasn't bad enough, there's a sign in the principal's office talking about disciplining children with Possession! The more you think about it, the worse this place gets...
The lower area of Fink's hidden lab. All of it is Nightmare Fuel, from the Handyman operating areas (one of the notes written on the chalk board mentions of some of the subjects won't stop screaming), to the areas where cruel test were preformed on innocent animals, to the long hallway filled with deceased dogs being preserved in some sort of liquid.
Atlas' torture of Elizabeth is one of the most brutal appliances of the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique ever seen in a video game. You get to witness the horror of a transorbital lobotomy (which involves inserting a metal pick just above the eyeball) from a first person perspective. Then Atlas brings a hammer into play. And it gets even worse from there when Elizabeth remains defiant and dares Atlas to lobotomize her, prompting him to lose his cool and attempt the same procedure on Sally!
The scene where Elizabeth enters the lighthouse and the first thing she sees is Sally, stuck in a red-hot grate with bars, screaming to be let out. Then it multiplies and soon they're in a circle all around her.
A bit of fridge horror, after Elizabeth's death, only Sally is present, comforting her in her final moments. But Sally is a conditioned Little Sister, and has a specific compulsion regarding 'sleeping angels'.
Some more fridge horror, how the universe with the remaining Comstock continued to exist after the drowning at the end of Infinite is never resolved. This could mean that in some of those universes, Old!Elizabeth still happens and lays waste to multiple Earths.
However, That universe was Burial!Elizabeth visiting the past, as can be seen from Infinite!Elizabeth and Booker running about while you avoid contact or arrive to places just before OR after they went past. Which means it was before the comstocks got eliminated or that the MAIN universe that booker and Elizabeth traveled through in Infinite is a constant (as undoing it would undo them undoing all the Comstocks...err..). Since booker visited Old!Elizabeth who sent him back to save an alternate path version of her, this means at least one Elizabeth lays waste to the earth before winking out of existence when Elizabeth drowns Booker.