Why I Love: The analyst from Until Dawn

It only takes a few seconds to figure out that there's something off about the analyst in Until Dawn, played by Peter Stormare. He seems genuinely interested in your well-being when you first meet (you personally, not another character you're trying to project), telling you that you can't change the past, you're making steady progress toward the future, and that he'll be right here to help you. All that positivity should make him seem like a benevolent force in Until Dawn's brutal world. Should.

But there's something wrong about the words he chooses, his subtly ominous tone, or his creepy smile that makes you feel like there's something sinister lurking beneath that beige sweater-vest. And over the next few hours, he proves you frightfully right, using the information you've given him against you. Even if he's not about to strap you to a death machine or gouge your eyes out, he knows how to keep you scared from menacing beginning to bloody end, and I love him for it.

For those who haven't played Until Dawn and experienced the antics of not-Stormare, the idea is this: after every chapter or so in the main game, when you're done saving and/or failing to save Until Dawn's teen cast from various horrific demises, you have a quick sit-down with the analyst, where he evaluates what's going on in your head. Anyone who's played Silent Hill: Shattered Memories will be familiar with the concept.

Naturally, the entire setup is unsettling from the start. You're talking to a psychologist you've never met before, answering questions about your deepest fears and feelings. It puts you right under the spotlight as you admit to a dreadful fear of clowns, or which one of the teens you like the least. Under normal circumstances, a psychologist would try to assuage your fears and make you comfortable - but these aren't normal circumstances, and the analyst isn't the comforting type. Instead, he sets off alarm bells with his strange behavior, often in ways that hit your subconscious first: towering over you, getting in your personal space, looking visibly critical of your answers during lines of inquiry, all brilliantly and realistically acted by a mo-capped Stormare. And that's before he starts doing the more egregious stuff like slapping the table to scare you, or bluntly mocking your deepest fears.

Effectively, he's Until Dawn's most superb, subtly crafted trick, keeping the game's tension high despite making you think you're getting a breather. You're not trying to force a doorknob into place while a psycho killer is barreling toward you, but you are under intense scrutiny as the analyst questions your motivations, tries to make you sound like a horrible person, or puts you face-to-face with the very things you told him you fear (he will seriously put a giant spider on his desk if you tell him you're afraid of spiders, proving that anything you say can and will be used against you).

And he really is talking to you, the person holding the controller, which is perhaps the most unsettling part of it all. It tears away the protective fourth wall and makes you feel instantly responsible for how your choices have panned out over the course of the game, and who you've harmed in the process. While it's easy to shrug off the actions of an in-game character you just happen to be controlling, the analyst puts all the blame squarely on you - even pointing out that you're not "playing your game" in good faith for extra punch - so you're constantly made to question yourself and never feel comfortable with the choices you've made. Just by identifying you as you, he throws you completely off-balance.

Plus, while you might get used to his off-color behavior and start to tune him out after a while, Until Dawn makes sure to turn up the horror dial every time you meet him so that you constantly feel off-balance in his presence. What once was a lovely office becomes darker in each session. Then there's a mutilated body hanging in front of the boarded-up windows. Then he has a bleeding head wound and won't stop screaming that you are to blame for everything horrible that's happening. You know that it'll get worse every time, yet there's nothing you can do to prepare yourself. Effectively, the analyst embodies the best kind of horror, never letting you rest easy and constantly forcing you to question yourself, taking away the one thing you have in this "fucked up" place, as he puts it.

Everything ultimately makes sense in the end - who the analyst is, the purpose of his questioning, why he's trying so hard to break you. And while many horrifying characters lose their edge when they're finally explained, the analyst stays as sharp as ever - it's not what he is, but what he does that's so damn terrifying. He knows how to keep you scared, uncertain, and open to fear so that you're totally exposed when you get back to those hapless teens. He does it perfectly, effortlessly, and with that awful smile on his face all the while. Creepy bastard.