Between major trips visiting different relatives in Pakistan many years ago, us kids were allowed to be entertained at home with video rentals. I don’t remember ever going to a store myself, so I have no idea who ended up choosing Wes Craven’s Wishmaster for the tiny CRT television. And I don’t remember much about it, except it was goofy, gross and strange all at once. Little did I know, as I didn’t have access to dial-up internet in rural South Asia, there was a major shift occurring for the horror genre, in both video games and film.
It all started around the turn of the century, with two films in both the Far East and the West, their influence still a major source of artistic inspiration. First was Japanese director Hideo Nakata’s film Ring (or Ringu) in 1998, with many of us becoming familiar with it through the subsequent Hollywood remake starring Naomi Watts. You’ve probably seen it or are at least aware of it by now, but the plot revolves around an infamous videotape, which results in the mysterious death of its viewers seven days after they watch it. The other film is The Blair Witch Project, a film presented as “found footage”, that follows a group of friends camping in the woods to find out whether or not there is a Blair Witch that haunts and kills locals.
The reason why these films still stand out today is because they showed that true horror lies with what can’t be seen or understood, changing the meaning of visual horror. This emphasis on psychological horror instead was translated into games too, with developers foregoing blood and guts and instead focussing on fog and shadows. Arguably, the best examples of this are still those games from that specific period, such as Silent Hill, Forbidden Siren and Fatal Frame.
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