I am not a gamer, but I do enjoy a good first person shooter. When our X-Box died last fall, I was told that the entertainment budget had gone for the new Brooks saddle on my Felt. Although I vaguely miss the online combat of Halo, I was not willing to give up an overhaul on the cross for a new system (especially since my son is no longer around to protect me from the hordes of angsty teens).
Right now Silent Hill: Revelation is on SyFy. Silent Hill just finished. Before that, Resident Evil. Something about these horror/suspense game based movies fascinates me. It is not the acting. Nor is it the plot. Although both are superior to the CGI fare SyFy rolls out on bi-monthly basis, neither is worth wasting a Sunday afternoon. I think it is the setting. The same worlds that draw gamers into exploring and doing battle with hordes of monsters pull me into the film–for a bit. 15 minutes. Half an hour.
The settings are complex; they are meant to be explored. The gore and the graphics and the monsters add life and urgency to the exploration. But the place of the film holds a secret, and that is the trick. The special effects and blood lettings falter in the face of the uncertainty of the unexplored passages. But that is the basis of good horror. Stephen King does not show us. He suggests what is lurking around the corner. The balloon in the library is one of the most terrifying scenes I have ever read. Something is there. (I was in graduate school researching a paper in the library’s basement the weekend after I had read It. Deep in the stacks, I suddenly realized how empty the place was. The scene came back to me, and I bolted.)
Like an epic which retains its oral roots even as it is read from a Norton critical edition jam packed with footnotes, these films retain their heritage, relying on the techniques that captured the gamers. The creatures are fixtures of the settings; they do not exist independently of the place. They are defined. The protagonist encounters them as she moves through the setting. Her goals, her motives, are secondary and uninteresting. There is more to the world than we will see. That is why we are there. To solve the puzzle of the place. Tolkien viewed that as a key element in effective fiction–a world that is never fully explored.
Of course, I have stopped watching the film now to write this. The exploration bogged down in exposition, a vague attempt at character development, and (shudder) a commentary on evil. (20 minutes, and now back to TCM.)