- If you could rewrite our lives any way that you pleaseWould you tear out the pages of our memories?Would you take back the pain and all the hurt we create?Or could you be satisfiedWith the promise you made?So we rewrite our lives, but it's not what we thinkIn the chaos we dance as we stand on the brinkAlways one change away from making ourselves completeThe world will perish in flamesAnd I'll watch as you fade from me
Cinametech Episode 116: “It's a Very Special Cinematech Halloween”
And how. This episode is full of some great Survival Horror games. And...
Timecode: 0:26: A big, fat trailer for Castlevania Lament Of Innocence (Konami, PS 2, 2003), the prequel to the entire Castlevania saga. It revealed the origins of Dracula, the Belmont's beef with him, and the clan's Vampire Killer whip, which was super effective against the creatures of the night.
Interestingly, the story of this game has Leon Belmont and Dracula actually contrasting with each other in this game.
Another interesting thing about this ep is that it was actually censored. The producers hid the especially bloody parts of this ep by making the screen turn blood red during the offending scenes.
- Leon: ”This whip, and my kinsmen, will destroy you some day. From this day on, the Belmont clan will hunt the night!”
Ooh, so close to awesome, yet also so close to Narm. Well, I think it is pretty awesome nonetheless, but hunting a concept as abstract as the night itself? Leon makes a similar threat to Walter, the vampire that owns the castle that the game takes place in.
Thinking about this game's dialogue too much will hurt you. Just like the line from one of bosses, a vampire who tells Leon that “If you want to know, BEAT ME!” Later games in the series, such as Castlevania Curse Of Darkness and Castlevania Lords Of Shadow had better voice acting and dialogue. Really, you can't beat Robert Carlyle and Patrick Stewart.
It was the story of a widowed writer whose young daughter desperately wanted to go to a sleepy town called Silent Hill for their vacation. On the way, they ran into a young girl walking across the road, and the man swerved to avoid hitting her, wrecking his jeep. When he awoke, his daughter was missing, so he went into Silent Hill to look for her. That was when he unknowingly answered the call of destiny.
Scariest Moment # 1: The first playable section of the game. Harry tries to find his daughter, when a siren starts blaring. He enters a pitch-dark building, his only light source a lighter. The building is seriously creepy with inexplicable rainfall and metallic grating everywhere. He finds a gory body tied up to a chain link fence, and that's when the Grey Children attack. This scene was perfectly recreated in the movie.
What I didn't know for years is that the creepy sounds that the Grey Children make came from playing kids' laughter backwards. This is most noticeable when they attack or are attacked by Harry.
Scariest Moment # 2: That damn locker in the school. In an empty room, the only sound is that of someone banging against the locker door from the inside. You open the locker, but there is nothing inside but blood. You try to leave the room, and a body falls out of a different locker, shattering the silence.
Scariest Moment # 3: Some of the bosses were pretty scary, and reflected the mind-warping weirdness of Silent Hill. Near the end of the school level, Harry reads a fairy tale about a giant lizard monster whose only weak point was its gaping, ravenous maw. Guess what the boss of the level (and the first boss of the game) is? A giant lizard whose only weak point is a gaping, ravenous maw, and the room you fight it in is a circular one with a big fire in the middle of it. This boss seemingly inspired the first boss of Silent Hill 3, the Splitworm.
Scariest Moment # 4: A later boss starts off as a giant larva. It runs off after Harry does enough damage to it, and returns as a giant moth. Gross!
Scariest Moment # 6: Mixes with a saddest moment when you discover that something is wrong with Lisa, the friendly nurse.
Scariest Moment # 7: This ghastly piece of "music" that plays during the final boss: "My Heaven".
Scariest Moment # 8: When you realize exactly why Harry's daughter was drawn to Silent Hill, and what that has to do with a girl named Alessa and a demonic cult.
8:10: “James, honey, did something happen to you? After we got separated in that long hallway?” asks a blond woman in a pink outfit sitting behind the bars of a dingy cell. “Are you confusing me with... someone else?” She chuckles. “You were always so forgetful. Remember that time in the hotel?”
“Maria...?” James finally asks, confused.
“You said you took everything, but you forgot that video tape we made. I wonder if it's still there...”
“How do you know about that? Aren't you Maria?”
This is the beginning to the intro of Silent Hill 2, one of the greatest games of all time. The story of a weary widower named James Sunderland, whose wife , Mary, died from an illness three years ago. Their last happy memory together was of their vacation to the South Vale neighborhood of Silent Hill, and Mary made James promise to take her there again someday. But that day never came, and James always felt guilty about it.
Three years after her death, he gets a letter penned in his dead wife's hand:
- ”In my restless dreams, I see that town. Silent Hill. You promised you'd take me there again someday, but you never did. Well, I'm alone there now... In our "special place"...Waiting for you...”
James drags his sad carcass to Silent Hill to untangle the mystery, believing that Mary could actually be waiting there for him after all. It's the only thing he has left to believe in. What unfolds is a tragic story that maturely conveys dark themes such as violence, suppressed desires, and abuse. The story is so intentionally vague that it has invited years of analysis and theorizing by fans as to what the symbolism means and the canonical ending to the story.
As much as I'd like the “Leave” ending to be canon instead, I personally believe that the “In Water” ending is canon, sad though it is. The Japanese novelization of the game goes along with that ending, and almost makes it seem happy, paradoxical as that may seem. James's original actor, Guy Cihi, confirmed that ending to be canon as well.
Scariest Moment # 1: The first level in the apartments. Just the whole atmosphere, and the newness of the game puts the player on edge.
Scariest Moment # 2: The apartment where James meets Eddie Dombrowski. As soon as he enters the apartment, he hears someone vomiting, but doesn't know who, what, or where it's coming from. Also, there's a bloody human body halfheartedly shoved into the fridge.
Confession time: I'm extremely averse to vomiting, so I've never played through the game without mostly muting the part where Eddie's barfing. I have heard snippets of it, but not the whole thing. A slightly funny tidbit came from an interview with Eddie's original actor, David Scaufele, where he was asked about the vomiting he portrayed, and how he did it so well. He said that all the times he suffered from food poisoning while traveling around Asia in his early 20s helped as a frame of reference. Nasty!
If you can believe it, the scene was supposed to have even more grotesque audio, but Team Silent's computer crashed and they lost a lot of the data. I recall one of the producers saying that the Team took it as a sign from God that they had gone too far, so they intentionally toned it down a little. Brrr.
Scariest Moment # 3:The Historical Society. That place is jacked up with weirdness, and since Silent Hill has such a screwed-up history, who's to know that all of the weird stuff in the Society was real or not?
One more thing before we go: This game's voice acting was heavily criticized , and I can't argue that some of it is pretty ugh-inducing. But one day, I realized that it makes sense that some of the voice acting is awkward, because most of the characters in the game have been driven mad by spoiler-laden life circumstances.
11:52: A trailer for ClockTower 3 (PS 2, 2003), a sequel to the Clock Tower game series by Human Entertainment made by Capcom. I've had opportunities to buy this game before, but I never did. After reading the reviews for the game and skimming the next-to-last installment of The Dark Id's Let's Play of the game, I... I'm not so sure if I really want to play a game of questionable quality with such a brutal end boss. But then again, survival horror games are so scarce nowadays...
The cutscenes in CT3 were directed by Kinji Fukisaku, a pro Japanese director. He directed the film adaptation of the book Battle Royale and partially directed the sequel before he passed away, and his son finished it for him. I recall Tokyoscope (the live action film review section of Animerica magazine) disliking the sequel.
13:25: The Typing of the Dead (SEGA, Dreamcast/PC), an intentionally goofy spinoff of SEGA's House of the Dead on-rails zombie shooter series where you kill zombies by typing the phrases given to you by the games. Essentially a port of House of the Dead 2 (Dremcast), I recall some magazine or website putting TtofD on their list of the worst games ever, which saddens me, because it's obviously a not-so-serious attempt at turning a zombie game into a teaching tool (for goodness' sake, the good guys have Dreamcasts strapped to their backs and keyboards replacing their guns), although the goriness and horror of the subject matter means that it probably won't ever be used in schools.. Another goofy HotD spinoff is Pinball of the Dead (Game Boy Advance), and the zombies of Dr. Curien's mansion were also featured in SEGA Superstars Tennis (multiplatform).
14:45: The intro to SH3 (Konami, 2003, multiplatform), which is the true sequel to SH1. I read on an SH fansite that this game was made as a sequel to SH1 due to fan reaction to SH2 being its own game, not a sequel to the first game. This game was about 17-year-old girl named Heather getting dragged into a nightmarish world after a private detective finds her, claiming that someone wants to talk to her about her “birth”.
I was always a bit disappointed that the game was more of a sequel to SH1 and lacked some of the introspective story and character depth of SH2, but it still had some good points. The graphics were the best I'd ever seen at that point in a game, and I always felt that that part of the game was overlooked, perhaps because it was “just” a PS 2 game? The game is also the scariest game I've ever played, although it arguably relies more on shock scares than the other games, they're devastatingly effective. With that in mind...
Scariest Moment # 1: In general, the monsters and bosses are really scary and disturbing. One thing I didn't know for years was that the look of one of the first monsters that Heather encounters in the game, the Bodies, was based on a tragic birth defect called “harlequin ichthyosis”, which makes babies' skin look cracked and veiny. This defect is known for looking highly disturbing, which is why pictures of babies with the condition are used on some Shock Sites.
The appearance of these monsters is entirely intentional. Most of the fear in the game is based on Heather's gender and the fears of teenage girls. It may not be as deep, man, as SH2 and other games in the series, but it's arguably far, far more grotesque and disturbing.
Scariest Moment # 2: The environments in the game look really nasty, as if the world itself has been wounded and tortured and is in intense pain. The game is gorier than other SH games, but not necessarily more violent.
Scariest Moment # 3: The other characters in the game are not exactly trustworthy. Heather is essentially alone throughout the story.
Claudia seems cold and lacking in emotion, but has moments where anger and desperation warp her good (albeit already wrong) intentions. It's the idea of a hot and cold personality that makes her particularly disturbing. Possibly bipolar?
Douglas is partially to blame for Claudia finding Heather in the first place. Despite this, he's not a villain, just an unfortunate pawn in Claudia's scheme. He is far more sympathetic than Claudia or Vincent, and tries to make it up to Heather by driving her to Silent Hill to find Claudia herself and get revenge against her. He also has a devastating tragedy lurking in his past.
Vincent is a mysterious character who has known Claudia for a long time. Even though he has financially supported Claudia's cult for years, he doesn't like her plans and tries to help Heather stymie them, but does so in a way that is very playful and amusing for him. When I first played SH3, I didn't quite have a word for what Vincent is, but now I do: Troll, with a possible dash of You Bastard!. Vincent is the character that is notorious for the “They look like monsters to you?” scene, which may have been the game's attempt at invoking the You Bastard! trope, but the simple fact is that Vincent enjoys the twisted nature of Silent Hill and what it does to people much more than Heather does. Vincent could be a commentary on the players of SH games or survival horror games in general. How meta. Yet, he doesn't interfere in the affairs of the cult as directly as Heather or Douglas, which means he may be a coward as well, willing to use others for his own ends, as long as he doesn't have to get his own hands dirty.
Scariest Moment # 3: The freakin' mannequin in the storeroom.
Scariest Moment # 6: The final boss itself. It's hard to compare it to anything else, because I've never seen anything else like it. Not in SH games, or in other video games. It's the shape of a nightmare you didn't know you had.
17:44: The intro of Resident Evil Outbreak (Capcom, PS 2, 2004). I always liked this game more than most, which made me kinda sad, even though I know it has other fans too. It had a lot of flaws, but when it wasn't being annoyingly difficult or loading for a long time, it was really fun and different from other games on the market. I was never able to play it online, and since the servers were shut down and the game will apparently never be ported/remade, I probably never will.
I probably shouldn't have to make excuses for the game, but I can't help but wonder “what if?” for Outbreak. What if Capcom had made the game for the Xbox instead, or had given the game proper headset support? I recall reading in a magazine that Capcom claimed that letting players chat during the game just let to shouting matches, which was maybe a sign that the game was a little too stressful or difficult? No? Okay.
REO was about Umbrella Corporation's T(yrant)-Virus infesting Raccoon City and the city's eventual destruction at the hands of a targeted nuclear strike in an attempt to get rid of the virus, but seen from the perspectives of several everyman characters trying to survive and make one last escape from the city. The intro shows how the virus spread through the city: the battle between rogue Umbrella scientist William Birkin, who mutated himself with his own G-Virus in an attempt to kill the Umbrella soldiers who arrived at his underground lab to kill him and steal the G-Virus. The rats eventually found and feasted on the infected soldiers, and the rats scurried around the city, carrying the virus inside of them. The intro was rendered in high-quality CGI, and, backed by a beautiful-yet-ominous orchestral theme, juxtaposed the battle between Birkin and the corporate soldiers with imagery of viruses, cell division, and other biological procedures. Pretty cool, creepy, and slightly tragic.
This installment got to be kind of a serious downer, so let's clear the air with more lighthearted fare:
- All Silent Hill UFO endings
- Silent Hill 2's DOG ending
- The Princess Heart magical girl costume in Silent Hill 3 and Douglas wearing his boxers instead of pants
- The Surprise Ending of Silent Hill Downpour
- The joke ending to Silent Hill: Book of Memories
Reader Participation: What is the scariest game or scariest scene you've experienced in a video game? Inversely, what game was supposed to be oh-so-scary but completely flopped for you?