Resident Evil's Window Dogs Set The Standard For Video Game Scares

Horror movies and video games have been my passions since I was a wee bonnie lass, but I didn't know they could coexist until the day in 1996 that I found Resident Evil on a shelf at Blockbuster Video. I was looking for something to rent for the weekend, and it seemed right up my alley: The words and pictures on the back of the longbox promised mystery, zombies and giant spiders, none of which I'd encountered in a game before. I snatched it up so quickly that I'm surprised it didn't catch on fire.

Screenshot: Capcom (MobyGames)

Today, Resident Evil is a legendary game for countless reasons: The hokey live-action prologue and even hokier voice acting throughout, the fabulously cheesy dialogue, and - oh yeah - its trendsetting survival horror gameplay. It recently celebrated its 22nd anniversary and has spawned a juggernaut of a franchise that spans films, novels, comics, toys, and a ludicrous number of games. But the most revolutionary thing about it for me is that it featured my very first video game scare.

The story is a tale as old as time: The STARS Alpha Team is searching the outskirts of Raccoon City for Bravo Team, who vanished while investigating a spate of "cannibal murders" plaguing the area. Things get FUBARed very quickly - you find evidence that Bravo Team ran afoul of something bad, and before you can say "Jill sandwich" you're being chased through the dark woods by ravenous, angry, mutant dogs. The game proper begins as you take refuge in the mysterious Spencer Mansion, where things go from bad to worse. Alpha Team members go missing and it's obvious that something ain't right in the mansion.

For my first playthrough, I was the intrepid Master of Unlocking, Jill Valentine. I briefly teamed up with Barry Burton and in short order we found a pool of blood (we hoped it was not Chris') and a "creature" nibbling on the face of Bravo Team member Kenneth. Barry suggested we split up to cover more ground (classic horror movie mistake), which led me to an empty, brightly lit, completely innocuous hallway.

There was a loud crash.

Frantic music.

A mutant dog, now inside the mansion, nipping at my heels. Then, another crash, another broken window and another dog.

GIF: Capcom (YouTube)

That jump scare probably took a good five years off of my life.

It was also a revelation, one that established new rules: Nowhere in the Spencer Mansion was truly safe (except, you know, save rooms), and horror games could be as terrifying as horror movies.

Jump scares are perhaps the cheapest of scares. They're exhausting when they're used too often, and the returns are diminished every time there's another loud music sting, another character unexpectedly popping out from behind a corner. Thankfully, there are very few of them in Resident Evil beyond that first big one.

However, the mere threat of a jump scare was enough to make me nervous for the rest of the game. I was on edge, well, everywhere, but particularly whenever I had to pass through what my friends and I dubbed "doggo hallway", anticipating more loud noises, more bloodthirsty monsters. I was also as thrilled as I was nervous, getting to experience my love of horror in ways I'd never anticipated.


Comments

    The zombie entry was great but that never scared me but the window dog got me good. I loved the troll in the Director's Cut version of the game that they don't appear until much later in the game when I thought it wasn't going to happen. Well played CAPCPOM.

      that also took me by surprise haha! Tell you what I would love to see announced, a remake or reboot to dino crisis!!!

    This is probably where my absolute hatred for enemy/hostile dogs in *any* video game started.

    That jump care would be the last time a game made me jump. I don't usually react to things like that, but it was so perfectly set up that it got me. And like you say, was enough to put me on edge for the rest of the game. Alone in the Dark was the only other game I can think of that did it as well.

    For me, its the greatest use of a jump scare in video games. It wasn't cheap, and wasn't overused by any stretch, and really served the purpose it needed to. So many games get the jump scare wrong, but not Resident Evil.

    I remember pausing and walking away from the game to just take a breath when that happened to me. Great great moment

    Brilliant moment.
    The best kind of dogs are window dogs

    I will always remember that moment. I wasn't playing the game, but was watching my friend play it (I am pretty sure we were 10 years old. Maybe 11. Totally old enough to play the game).

    My friend enters the room and states "oh, there's no enemies here!" or something along those lines. I still remember saying "I don't know about that," after he said that and sure enough... window dogs suddenly appeared.

    He died, obviously. We were both freaking out. It was a scary moment and I had nightmares for days :)

    This one got me good too. I mean my gaming skills are refined enough I survived it first time round, but damn did I not see it coming.

    I dislike a jump scare being advertised as a good thing tho. Jump scares are lazy horror. Its what has always kept Resident Evil as a B movie survival series (or B movie shooter) rather then a Horror series.

    Literally anyone can set up a good jump scare. The only reason this scene makes you jump is because youve walked the hallway so many times you assume there wont be any enemies. Jump scares arent horror, their just startling the player.

    Most memorable JS for me was in RE3 in the police building. There's a landing and there's a window on it, but the genius part of its design is that as you collect keys and whatever else to open new areas, you pass next to that window dozens of times. Even if you were wary of it, by the time when something actually crashes through (whilst in the middle of another menial task), your wariness has been so dulled by familiarity that it's completely unexpected.

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