The fun of being scared is all about what comes after: the giant sigh of relief as you realize that ghost wasn't real, that shadow was just your clothes, or that monster wasn't breathing down your neck. So with a few more nights of frightful festivities ahead of us, the GamesRadar staff thought it would be fun to share some of the moments that made us shriek the loudest, cover our faces the fastest, and hold onto traumatic imagery the longest. So this Halloween, enjoy our misery. We certainly do.
Encountering the dreaded Twitcher in Dead Space
I got past Dead Space's ghastly body horror after a few hours of play. Its tortured, twisted corpses moved in sickening ways, but at least those movements were predictable; I knew exactly how much space I needed to put between me and a Slasher to safely remove all its limbs. Then I met my first Twitcher. I see this dark figure further up the hallway, probably 10 meters away. My Plasma Cutter's up and ready - but its crosshairs are empty. The creature's quivering in my face, ready to plant its horrid bone blade in my kidney. I'm used to teleporting bad guys, but the way it twitches between normal time and fast-forward ruins me: lurching and sprinting like the worst of both zombie worlds. My Plasma Cutter feels useless. I don't have time to swap between vertical or horizontal fire and line up the perfect shot. My combat method falls apart and I die, desperate and afraid. I turn the game off and decide to try again tomorrow, once my heart rate returns to double digits. I stand up and walk to my bedroom, and wonder how long it would take one of those things to clear the length of my apartment.
Meeting Mia in Resident Evil 7’s Kitchen VR Demo
Ok, so the bit in Resident Evil 7 where Mia actually slices off your hand is probably the most shocking moment from this game but, for me, the biggest scare actually came two years before release during the game’s Kitchen VR demo. Here you’re tied to a chair in the Baker family kitchen, surrounded by gross detritus - your only company the character from the Beginning Hour demo, who wakes up and attempts to cut your bonds. Inevitably, though, he gets a knife in the gut as Mia appears from nowhere to end his life and torment yours. The scares really make the most of VR, as Mia taunts you from behind before dangling in front of your face and waving her carving knife at you. She also stabs you in the leg, and you can almost feel blade cutting flesh. The fact that you’re bound to the chair, and just have to sit through it is the neatest of finishing touches to an already terrifying experience.
The alien abduction and tests from Fire in the Sky
Growing up, you often hear about alien abduction stories. South Park made the phenomenon a butt joke, and other pop culture renditions usually showed a slow, peaceful beaming process accompanied by ooooWEEEEEEoooo-style music. Fire in the Sky throws all of that out the window as it violently tears its human victim from the Earth and then subjects him to brutal experiments that are more reminiscent of torture than anything scientific or medical. Add in the claustrophobia and fear of suffocation when the aliens (who are just fleshy enough to look a bit uncanny valley-esque) wrap protagonist Travis in a type of tight-clinging material, and you've got a recipe for long-lasting emotional scars.
Whenever Jim Carrey's eyes pop out in The Mask
Everybody hates the ghastly bug-eyes on Judge Doom, the infamously freaky antagonist of Who Framed Roger Rabbit - so why the hell does The Mask get a pass? Jim Carrey is already plenty capable of distorting his face in ghoulish ways without the help of CGI - but when you add in giant, vaguely slimy eyeballs popping out of their sickly green sockets, the result is horrifying (at least to me). These bits were done up for comedic purposes, but the finished product - with details like fleshy eye stalks and a subtle opalescence that make the sclera look all too lifelike - was an image that scarred my six-year-old self like you wouldn't believe. I seemed to be the only kid who found these bits of explicit body horror disturbing - so when a trailer popped up or The Mask was on at a friend's house, I equated looking at the screen to staring into a soul-stealing abyss. As an adult, I can stomach these scenes despite their complete lack of humor - but to this day, I occasionally have recurring nightmares that trace back to how The Mask violated my childhood. I'm trapped in a room where disgusting and/or terrifying imagery is being projected onto the walls, floor, and ceiling; I try to close and cover my eyes, but my eyelids and hands are suddenly see-through, and I'm forced to witness the horror. Thanks, Jim Carrey!
The 1988 The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe
I'll admit this is a pretty deep cut for even the British readers, but before Hollywood came a calling there was a adaptation of The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe that rocked old-school effects and classic BBC enunciation. I was five, and deep into Narnia back then, and the sight of Maugrim the wolf - or rather, Canadian actor Martin Stone with a disturbing rubber snout - was so terrifying that I had to actually turn away during each of my many rewatches of the show. The slightly malformed mask just makes it all the more grotesque, and it doesn't help he's essentially part of the White Witch's version of the SS and drags off the darling Mr Tumnus. He gets merc-ed by Peter later on (be still my beating five-year-old heart) but the psychological scars were already formed.
The Gentlemen chasing Tara in Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Hush
For a show about a vampire slayer (who also kills demons, stops witches, and saves the world from anything from giant snakes to gods from other dimensions - she doesn’t discriminate!), Buffy the Vampire Slayer isn’t really, truly scary… most of the time. The episodes which are terrifying though, you remember, and Hush is definitely one of those. The season 4 episode sees The Gentlemen come to Sunnydale and apart from being creepy, floating monsters in suits with demon minions in straight jackets, they also steal voices which leaves everyone powerless to scream when they slice them open. The whole episode is shudder-worthy, but the moment which really makes my skin crawl is when Tara is being chased by The Gentlemen. It’s already been a couple of days so not only is the stress of losing the ability to speak getting to everyone, but people have already turned up dead so Tara knows exactly what’s going to happen if they catch her. And yet, she’s completely unable to scream, call out for help, or make any noise at all. It’s disturbing on a whole other level and somehow the sinister yet silent approach of The Gentlemen is more horrifying than anything I’ve ever seen before.