If you ask me, the scariest things are the ones that feel a little too real.
Calendula is an upcoming horror game (currently on Steam Greenlight) that wants to be scary before you start "the game" proper. It might sound silly on paper, but even the main menu is eeeeeeeeeevil:
So basically, the battle to get this "glitchy" game of the damned up and running is part of the game. Meta as fuck? You betcha. Here's more about how it will work from the game's developers:
"Calendula begins as a usual game... until it is not anymore. The player's goal will be to unveil the mystery behind an apparently broken game, but it won't be easy. Calendula's mechanics are entirely focused on the struggle of trying to start a game, exploring the limits of the 4th wall and breaking with conventions. Calendula's aesthetics follows an increasing obscure atmosphere, plunging the player into a disturbing, thrilling experience. The narrative is built within a labyrinth of metaphors and abstractions, ready to be unravelled." "Unlike other games, the player will feel as if things didn't work the way they should, similar to Twin Peaks' Red Room (David Lynch). The player's journey goes from simple to complex, from bright to somber, from real to dreamlike. To follow Calendula's path, the player will have to use his wit and think outside the box. In this case, a tiny oppressive box."
Sounds like it could be damn strange or damn hokey -- maybe a little of both. Either way, it certainly doesn't seem like a typical horror experience, which is refreshing in these horror-saturated times. I think there's something to be said for this "oh god, it's in THE COMPUTER" horror aesthetic (that's also shown up in sub-par horror movies like Unfriended) too -- even if I haven't seen it done particularly well in many places.
I mean, I've scared myself to the point of having to turn on all the lights while reading about bizarre television hacks and, of course, video game creepypastas. Problem is, that stuff's often scary because it's so close to being real. Putting it in a safe, hermetically sealed fictional bubble serves to seriously muffle the screams.
Here's hoping Calendula finds a way around that dilemma, because it looks pretty slick so far. It will be out early in 2016.