I think we can all agree that people’s choice in movies says a lot about their psyches. Perhaps someone unhappy with their love life frequents sappy romantic-comedies to swoon and dream that their lives might one day turn out like those from the movie. Or perhaps someone with low self-esteem loves to watch uplifting underdog movies because they feel they can relate to the hero and hope they too might get their chance to shine. Because of this, it probably says something very unfortunate about those of us who enjoy watching slasher flicks.
As much as I love horror movies in general, the slasher flick serves a special role. They’re cathartic. We watch them as a way of venting our repressed frustrations toward those around us. We enjoy seeing the characters tormented and killed. Their story structures are pretty much the same: a group of people do something or go somewhere that no rational, intelligent person would willing choose, do stupid things & die, but not after being tormented for various amounts of their on-screen time. Typically this group is composed of the most obnoxious stereotypes. The macho jerk, the harlot, the nice guy, the partyer, the comedian… & usually one person (typically female) that the audience is supposed to actually care about & want to see survive. Sometimes she’ll even hook up with the only surviving guy, who were crushing on each other but never got around to saying it, but bond over some trauma. But there’s a reason for this formula; it’s so we don’t have to feel bad when the people die. It’s the same reason you see so many Nazi’s in games. They’re just ubiquitously evil so no one has to feel bad when they kill them. We enjoy seeing annoying characters get what we feel they deserve — makes me wonder if people who really act like that ever feel self-conscious when watching slasher flicks.
But that’s what horror is. Horror stories have always served as a warning. Don’t go to dangerous, creepy places. Don’t do stupid things like making out in the middle of the woods at night. Don’t be a jerk or be mean to people.
I bring this analysis up not because it’s a new commentary, but because everything I heard about Until Dawn said it was the slasher flick in game form. Only this time I get to decide who lives & dies. I decide how obnoxious the characters get to be.
Here’s a little stream-of-conscious writing about my thoughts will playing through the game for a few chapters:
– Who do I want to die first? The blonde chick or Mike?
– What is up with these creepy stalker camera angles?
– The facial animations are impressive, but they emote too much. No real person’s mouth moves that much. And why is everyone’s teeth so big & white? It’s like tic-tacs.
– Why is there no invert controls option? Don’t tell me it’s in this stupid update that’s still downloading.
– I don’t appreciate the doctor calling me a liar because I say one thing during his “exam” & then supposedly do something different in-game. If I’m always playing based on my own genuine responses, then they’re coherent.
– I’m getting major Cabin in the Woods vibes. Not that that’s bad. I liked that movie.
– This is why you don’t date within your sphere of friends. And if you do, you certainly don’t keep them in your group of friends after you break up. And you most certainly don’t start dating another person within this same group of friends. In fact, these people shouldn’t be dating period. They’re clearly too stupid to handle relationships.
– Why am I staring at Mike’s face? Oh! That’s why!
– Doc, we really need to talk about your decorating sensibilities. First the creepy painting on the wall. Now there’re boards on the windows & a giant tarantula giving me the evil eye in this jar conveniently next to me.
I actually completed the entirety of Until Dawn in one massive, day-long session… & then promptly went to ice my hand. For anyone curious, I saved all but one person my first time around. But I want to wait until I’ve played through at least some of the game a second time to get a feel for how much different choices actually affect the story progression before giving a final review. And I’ve got an interesting experiment planned where I’m going to have a non-gamer tell me what decisions to make. So expect both of these posts sometime soon.