Horror, especially in recent years, is a very crafty and unique genre. Some movies are pretty straightforward, some make you think, and some are just weird. But some movies are pure and simple fun. Movies that are good for movie night or those that just dive into the genre. Perhaps the most interesting and entertaining concept for a horror movie is games.
Now you might think we’re talking horror video games adapted into movies, but while it’s an absolutely fun genre, it’s in a category of its own. We’re talking about in-person games turned into horror movie plots – whether they’re board games or puzzles.
The subgenre has a knack for spoiling audience nostalgia with dread and often plays on such a thing. There are versions of classic childhood games like hide and seek and complex escape rooms. What’s most interesting, however, is how different each feels from the other – where some lean more towards the horror aspect, others go for a more humorous and aesthetically pleasing route. Whatever the choice, they are always a one of a kind piece and are a great era.
The gamification of horror
It’s only natural that when you think of horror, you think of jumping, gory scares or killers stalking in the shadows – so the thought of fun games slipped into that environment seems like something that just wouldn’t work. But it’s quite surprising how well it works. It’s also surprising how much horror games can sometimes derive from the fun they seem to originate. Sure, on paper, turning silly party games like Would You Rather and Truth or Dare into horror movies sounds like a fun concept, but seeing it updated is pretty terrifying. In 2012 would you rather in particular, the film fills its audience with so much dread and a game that is normally played with the most outrageous and stupid options is turned into a game of life or death.
There are also movies like Bodies, bodies, bodies which are more of a comic version of the subgenre, opting for more modernized humor and light tricks rather than jump scares and gore. But even with the humor, it’s still a terrifying situation that seems rather helpless, especially considering that they’re pretty isolated in one place, which is often the case in horror movies centered on the game. The characters are usually stuck in one place, fighting their challenge and trying to escape. He can feel claustrophobic and anxious and only adds to the seriousness of the character’s situation.
Often these films take aspects of classic horror and mix them with a more humorous or lighthearted feel that appeals to many audiences today. It is a balance that has been most famously attempted by Scream in 1996, but has since become a bigger part of the genre, and it fits in extraordinarily well when incorporating games into horror. After all, they are just that: games. They are meant to be fun.
But there’s also the underlying morality of these films that is often lost. Since the games played often become a fight to survive, the characters will do anything to get by. Even if it means sabotaging those around them or sacrificing someone else to ensure their own safety. This sometimes makes the characters hard to root for, because everything gets so carnal, but maybe that’s what makes them so interesting to watch.
Why gamification works
Game-centric horror movies are entertaining because of how different they are. There’s so much creativity in the subgenre, and each film is different from the last, often with stellar twists you don’t see coming. But that doesn’t always equate to something succeeding in what it attempts. On paper, it doesn’t feel like horror games should perform as well – in fact, they often seem better suited to comedies or straightforward thrillers. So it’s surprising every time a new one hits theaters. But what makes them work?
As we know, horror has certain rules, and those rules help make games work so well. You can’t drink or take drugs and a lot of the games are drinking games. You can’t ask who is there. You cannot move alone. You cannot separate from your group. You cannot have sex. And of course these are all things that feel completely natural so of course they are done. It only adds to the atmosphere and amps up the tension, just knowing that these actions are big no-no’s in a horror movie.
But perhaps the fear factor also comes from playing nostalgia and transforming classic childhood games into survival of the most appropriate situations. It will always be unnerving to see a game that we know to be innocent and friendly turn into a terror-filled nightmare. But sometimes it also comes down to the fact that the situation is often hopeless, as most of the games the characters play are cheated and unwinnable, which makes the character’s situations more stressful. The biggest example being Seen sureand while not all games are truly unwinnable, there is often some sort of body modification that must be done to successfully win.
Ultimately, horror is an ever-evolving genre, and it’s always nice to see something new come out of it that gets audiences talking. And while game-centric horror is a relatively small subgenre in the grand scheme, it only serves to make each movie feel unique in its own right and like a breath of fresh air.