Update: As Halloween is fast approaching, we're republishing this piece just in time for the spooky season. If you haven't played Resident Evil Village yet, be sure to check out the game before reading forward and check out our review in the meantime!
There’s been a lot of buzz, opinions, and emotions to Resident Evil Village, but if there’s one part everyone is in unison of, it’s ‘that’ scene. You know the one I’m talking about. It seems social media has gone in a frenzy in reactions for what is being heralded as the scariest moment in the franchise’s history. It’s already become a classic moment for the series’, and now many of us have experienced it, we need to sit down and talk about it.
Spoiler warning for Resident Evil Village ahead. If you haven’t finished the game, I would recommend doing so before reading on.
Still with me? Cool. Let’s revisit the scene that most of us were glad to be done with and see what makes it work so well. If for some reason you’re still confused, the sequence in question relates to the House Beneviento segment of the game. An hour of sustained terror, build-up, and finally an explosive release of all-out horror. It’s a masterly crafted set piece, and one that will be remembered in the genre for years to come. More wonderfully, is how this entire situation was largely missing from the game’s promotional material, including its downright terrifying antagonists.
It all begins after taking down Lady Dimitrescu and escaping the castle. While intense and creepy, it’s fairly standard Resident Evil gameplay. A large space to explore, puzzles to solve, and a daunting pursuer lurking throughout its many halls. Up until this point, the game has effectively switched between gameplay situations similar to Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil VII. It’s not until you unlock the gate to House Beneviento and task yourself to find the next main quest item that the game turns a 180 on everything you know.
The unsettling vibes begin almost instantly, as you venture through the forest, covered in dolls hanging from the trees. Accompanying this are visions of your wife and daughter, who tantalise you forward towards House Beneviento. As you approach it along the cliff side, the bombarding bass from the waterfall (which is perfectly orchestrated through the Xbox Wireless Headset) invites you closer to explore the house that resides besides it. Like a tightly wound guitar string, you’re just waiting for the tension to snap and be released of its taunting grip, but alas, the worst is far from over.
You’d be easily forgiven for being lulled into a false sense of security as you enter. The house is clean, warm, and in some ways, quite cosy. The quaint cliff side house could have doubled as a romantic getaway and you’d have been none the wiser, but as you slowly push through, all is not what it seems. Paintings on the wall showcase the disturbing inhabitants, Donna Beneviento and her doll Angie, and this is all before you take that dreaded elevator ride down into the basement. The lights go out, come back on, and you know you're in for a bad time.
What transpires is essentially an escape room setup, similar to the birthday party sequence in Resident Evil VII. A mannequin of your wife Mia lays on a table and is the catalyst for the treasure hunt you embark on to escape. It’s tense, claustrophobic, and the need to revisit certain areas over and over again builds up a sense of dread. But throughout all of this, nothing really happens. Some lights flicker and some bangs can be heard, but for the most part it’s an extended sequence of sustained dread that claws under your skin. You’re waiting for a release, but the game doesn’t give it to you, and that’s what makes it work.
Many have cited this section feels reminiscent of the iconic horror demo, P.T., but it sort of feels like a concoction of multiple horror movies. There’s elements of Saw with the puzzle solving, a well which feels stripped from The Ring, and even some creepy found footage that would feel right at home in Sinister. There’s a love for the horror genre poured into this sequence that just oozes out of every frame, and for an aficionado like myself, it stuck with me way after the credits rolled.
But we haven’t even got to the crescendo yet, which culminates in escaping the basement from a giant mutant baby monster. The fact it’s never truly contextualised adds to the horror, and the lack of weaponry puts you in a feeling no other combat encounter can manage. Much like games such as Outlast and Alien: Isolation, you’ll have to out run your pursuer and use lockers to hide. It’s something the series has never really handled, and the change in gameplay direction is at first confusing, but forces you to adapt to the situation as you would in real life. Coming face to face with the creature as you hide inside a cupboard is one of the tensest moments of the whole series and delivers some truly striking imagery.
Of course, you eventually escape and return to the elevator, but you’re left with one final image of it trying to get its gargantuan mass through the doors. It’s a sense of relief combined with the realisation that you never actually defeated it. It’s left there to rot away and await its next prey. Will it appear again in the game? What did it all mean? And where has it been hiding all this time? These were questions I pondered as the elevator slowly raised, but unfortunately, gave me very little time to react as the mutant baby was only a precursor to the true terror.
Yep, you’re still yet to deal with Angie and Donna, and if you’re like me and have an irrational fear of dolls coming to life and mutilating you, the next few minutes is absolute hell. Angie taunts you in a house now filled with hundreds of dolls, as she playfully invites you to track her down amongst the selection. As you race from room to room trying to desperately end this horrific sequence, the dolls shake erratically and giggle louder and louder. Even typing this puts shivers down my spine, as little did I know, but it’s actually a timed challenge to find Angie, as the louder the giggling signals when an unexpected attack from various mutant dolls will happens.
I screamed - a lot.
I felt like I was trapped in Sid’s room from Toy Story, as his creepy creations stalked me through every room. Confession: I used to fast forward past that part as a child, and even today there’s something unsettling about the design of those Toy Story characters - even if they’re not all bad on the inside. House Beneviento forced me to come face to face with some fears, and despite me having to force myself through some parts, I came out victorious. Despite all the high octane fights and elaborate boss battles, this was the one part of the game where I truly felt like I accomplished and overcome something, which is a win in my eyes.
Mark my words, in a few years, the House Beneviento segment of Resident Evil Village will go down as a classic gaming moment. It effectively manages to sustain a sense of dread through its lengthy build-up before providing not one, but two intense moments of horror. It genuinely feels like a condensed narrative thrust into one house. If I have any complaints, it’s that I wanted to learn more about its inhabitants. There’s some diary entries which provide some exposition for how the demonic power manifested, but I would have loved more. Maybe that’s the beauty of it. The unknown of what I faced is what is most unsettling, and maybe answers to that would diminish its power. I’m set to do another playthrough On a harder difficulty, forcing me to work harder, and again, experience the fairground terrors of House Beneviento.
Anyone else want to pick up the controller for me?
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