Until Dawn EP7: Get Probed

By Shamus
on Nov 23, 2016
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning


Link (YouTube)

It’s really bugging me that we haven’t yet settled on what genre our psycho killer belongs to. Is this a vengeful spirit? A particularly motivated and resourceful crazy person (or persons) like in Scream? A supernaturally strong (and possibly mortal-ish) killer like Jason? In some scenes we’ve got people wearing masks but in other scenes we’ve got supernatural stuff (like the girl that Rutskarn pointed out) and I have no idea where the story is going.

Note that I’m not asking you to tell me in the comments. I’m saying at this point in the story I’d like to know what sorts of disbelief I should start suspending.

In general I find ghosts, spooks, and monsters much more interesting for these kinds of stories. Enabling a mortal to pick off a large group like this usually forces the writer to cheat their ass off and make the baddie omniscient, insanely lucky, and hyper-capable. The longer the spree goes on the less I can believe in the story. Meanwhile, ghosts and monsters can do whatever the author says they can do. They don’t need to spend six consecutive hours crouching in a crawlspace while their rubber mask fills with sweat, waiting for the exact moment when the right person enters the room without turning on the light so they can be properly jump-scared.

EDIT: And yes I realize this is totally the wrong mindset for this genre. Sorry. I literally can’t help thinking about this stuff when examining a story. It’s completely involuntary, and probably explains why I enjoy Japanese horror but have such a hard time liking American stuff.

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From the Archives:

  1. Warclam says:

    As I understand it, this ambiguity is actually intentional. The nature of the killer is something of a… sigh… “twist”. Because of course it is. Everything’s got to have a bloody twist these days.

    It does get answered eventually though.

    • Kylroy says:

      We need a word for the horror movie…I wouldn’t say “cliche”, but definitely “device” (that may or may not appear in Until Dawn…) where the protagonist(s) realizes the possibly supernatural threat they were facing in fact has a perfectly logical explanation, but is still completely capable of killing them.

      • Nessus says:

        Oh, it’s not just a horror trope. Or just a movie trope. There are novelists who practically specialize in this sort of story. Mostly in the “airport thriller” category (lookin’ at you, Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child), though I have also seen classic authors dabble in it as well (Stanislaw Lem didn’t do it often, but when he did you could tell he had a thing for it).

        That said, I’m not knocking it. It’s actually a trope I enjoy.

      • Warclam says:

        Scooby-Doo horror?

      • Grudgeal says:

        There’s a trope for it (because of course there is) called “Doing In The Wizard” when a supernatural element of a story is subsequently retconned or explained away as a completely natural and not-magical phenomenon. This doesn’t mean it’s any less terrifying or bad, just that’s it’s not supernatural, and usually ends up with the plot looking somewhat silly *cough*Higurashi*cough*.

        • Christopher says:

          Higurashi does both, right? The cause of the madness of the inhabitants is either a mushroom, swamp, gas or whatever(it’s been a while) that’s seeing air because of the dam. It’s unreal, but it’s mundane. But the reason one of the characters lives the summer of madness like a Groundhog’s day until they can make it right is that the local deity blamed for the madness is totally real, and wants to save the locals.

          • Shoeboxjeddy says:

            So Higurashi went for a sound alike version of understood scientific concepts to come up with something pretty batty.

            It’s a brain parasite virus (or something of that nature) that’s constantly being pacified by a signal from the “Queen parasite” passed on by the one family in the area, currently represented by the single young girl, Rika. When she is killed (she always ends up being killed) it basically makes all the other ones go nuts leading to violent fantasies and then brain death. I think there’s also a poisonous gas leak, coincidentally in the same time period that kills everyone even if the parasite thing never goes crazy. The story always takes place in the same time period because Rika is living a Groundhog Day-esque repeated try at the one summer to prevent everyone from dying.

        • Kylroy says:

          The second of the RDJ Sherlock Holmes movies, “Game of Shadows”, does this. Problem was I never for a second believed that it was actually supernatural, because this is a Sherlock Holmes story.

      • Joe Informatico says:

        I propose “Device of the Baskervilles“, for one of the oldest stories I can think of that does this.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      I wouldnt call we are doing it all at once much of a twist.

  2. ulrichomega says:

    Unrelated to the video itself (though I’ve been enjoying the season and plan on buying this game now), but the short bio at the end of the post has been a great success, at least for me.

  3. Tever says:

    >I enjoy Japanese horror but have such a hard time liking American stuff.

    I would really enjoy some elaboration on this. I love Asian horror myself, but I never thought about the ways it differs from American horror. And now that I am thinking about it, I can’t quite put my finger on it.

    • IFS says:

      I think one of the main things is that there are cultural differences in play that immediately make the story feel more alien to you, which puts you in a slightly uncomfortable position right off the bat.

    • Sgalacticplumber says:

      Well for starters American horror tends to use more carefully orchestrated jumpscares with buildup that an attentive person will see coming and thus be less scared of. Japanese horror uses a much higher proportion of scares at any time to make everyone involved feel less safe. The monster is never there for certain. It’s also never NOT there because it’s not kind enough to announce its presence. They also tend to use a higher proportion of patently supernatural baddies.

      • el_b says:

        we obviously watch different asian horror. asian horror is usually far more slow paced and quiet wheras american horror feels like a fairground ride, with loud jumpscare chords and overdone music and things happen at a much faster rate because fuck subtlety. asian stuff often has very downbeat characters, dimly lit sets and a very low budget feel while hollywood often goes overboard and everything looks too much like a set. the characters often ham the fuck up too. look at things like darkwater, ringu, ju on, eye, one missed call and shutter when they were given terrible american remakes. the only one i can think of where the japanese version uses more scares is possibly ju on, cause kayako or toshio are hidden (often just enough that it takes you a bit to catch on) in like, 3 times more scenes than they are fully seen in.

        • Daimbert says:

          Didn’t you pretty much say what the other commenter said, though? Breaking that comment down to its basic point, the idea would be that Japanese horror is more subtle about it leading to an overall and constant feeling of disquiet while American horror isn’t subtle leading to the roller coaster ride of jump scares and faster pacing. Thus, in Japanese horror the menace of the monster is always there because you have no idea when it’s going to show up, while in American horror you can pretty much see when it’s coming and so know the parts where you have to start feeling tense, and the movie works to really heighten the tension in those parts.

          • el_b says:

            i guess, i got the wrong impression from it. western stuff is so formulaic and seems a lot faster paced with its ‘scares’ but japanese stuff especially is so slow i can imagine a lot of people would get bored of it..especially dark water, which is bleak as fuck compared to its american remake. the best way to compare though is to watch the originals and remakes. even when they are near shot for shot the different styles show. dissapointingly, the west seems to churn them out without giving much of a shit anyway, most of the remakes are passionless, especially the spanish recs remake, quarantine. they even show you the ending in the trailers and on the poster lol.

      • Daimbert says:

        I agree with the video, but I think it also highlights some of the issues with Japanese horror movies when it talks about how their monsters aren’t as bound by the rules and so can attack anyone anywhere. Yes, that does present an idea that no one is ever safe, but it also:

        1) Can make the scares arbitrary; the monster has the ability to attack at any point at any time and even after it happens the viewer has no idea how it is that they can do that.

        2) Can make the movie, plot, and monster story nonsensical; we never know why the backstory means that it can or does do the things it does.

        3) Can make the heroes overcoming it either impossible or nonsensical; if there are no rules to it and we can’t figure out what it wants, how do we ever manage to beat it with anything approaching logic? The end of The Ring, if I recall correctly, annoyed me for just that reason.

        So, given that, Japanese horror works well for stories that want to present a world where we’re the helpless, confused victims of forces beyond our comprehension, but not so well where we overcome them at great personal cost. So, more like Lovecraft than Stoker, for example.

    • King Marth says:

      Amusingly, I dislike Japanese horror for the same reason I dislike American cringe humor: The laws of physics and storytelling alike contort themselves to make a fool of the main character, especially if they see what’s really going on and try to explain it to anyone. At least in Japanese horror the people who are isolated from everyone by reality-warping nonsense can snap and kill all the people who laughed at/shunned them for freaking out and drawing attention to the strange things that spontaneously vanish when exposed to second opinions.

      Of course, I don’t particularly enjoy discomfort, so that’s more likely the core reason for my dislike of both these genres. They succeed at what they set out to do, they just set out to genuinely disturb you.

  4. noahpocalypse says:

    It’s funny that I watched this, then flipped over to SMBC and saw today’s comic.

  5. Henson says:

    I’ve not played Until Dawn or seen any Let’s Plays of it, so if I were to take a guess, I’d say the killer is a supernatural manifestation of Dr. Stormare’s desire to cause distress to the person playing this videogame. The good doctor can create a physical killer however he likes because these people are just lines of code in a computer, and creating a murderer is just adding code.

    Either that, or a supernatural manifestation of the player’s desire to see these assholes get their comeuppance.

  6. bitterpark says:

    The funny thing about Ashley is that she’s kind of a terrible person. She seems like a really sweet girl, and everyone is always too busy hating on Emma to notice this, but every time the dilemma of “try and help our friends or stay in safety and abandon them” comes up, she votes for the latter. This still doesn’t really jump out as bad, and usually seems like she’s making a pretty rational argument, until the points when she: a) votes to throw Emma to the wolves for basically no reason other than baseless paranoia, and b) actually refuses to let Chris into the lodge if he chose her as the victim at any point, even when she explicitly offers it, which results in Chris’ death.

    Also, is the ghost in the ouija board scene actually real? It doesn’t really make sense for it to be a fake, since none of the characters ever notice it

    Also also, fuck all y’all, Chris is the best. The game Chris, that is.

    • James says:

      So to outsiders this post of probably gunna mostly be spoils.
      i agree on the Ashley being a bit of a dick, perhaps not as far as horrible, shes very much about looking after her self and Chris (until the situation you mentioned).

      as for the ghost thing, i think it must be a fake, ‘cus the only supernatural element we ever see is the Wendigo’s. and its something Josh would set up, just in case it got spotted and also plays into the whole meta spooks the game throws in that arn’t actually there.

      • bitterpark says:

        But I feel like it doesn’t make sense for Josh to set up a scary thing explicitly out of sight, in a situation which he set up and controls. He doesn’t even try to make the others notice the ghost, and so they don’t, it just gets totally ignored. And while we already have magic, floating wendigo spirits, it wouldn’t be that big of a leap to have ghosts as well. I feel like something doesn’t add up here, though maybe I’m just overthinking it.

    • Jokerman says:

      Agreed about Ashley…. and it’s possible to go through pretty much the whole game and never see her being anything but nice, i only felt i didn’t like her on a second playthrough.

    • Christopher says:

      It’s interesting. Everyone else that survived in the let’s play I watched grew and shined under the circumstances. It doesn’t matter if you’re wishy-washy, bitchy, a mild jerk or a prankster if you can be heroic in the face of adversity. Ashley’s flaw, besides being sorta dull as a character, is that she’s a coward. She’s the only one who looks bad in the situation. At the end of the game, I liked everyone else better and her less..

      • bitterpark says:

        And the one time she does get an opportunity to do something heroic, when she hears Jessica calling for help, it’s a trap and you get rekt if you follow it.

        And if you don’t follow it, Ashley catches up with the others and says NOTHING. It even kinda seems like a weird omission that she doesn’t mention it at all, but the characterisation in this game is so strong, I’m pretty sure it’s just Ashley being Ashley.

        It’s almost like the “canon” way for her to react is to ignore cries for help and stick with her friends, and if you go the “non-canon” route she just gets killed off, like it’s some kind of improbability override.

  7. Jokerman says:

    aaaalll wiiiil be revealed….

  8. Nessus says:

    I’m in a similar boat regarding mundane human killers vs supernatural or sci-fi killers/monsters. A human murderer basically starts out in the same position as a monster that’s been demystified through too many sequels: you know so much about their abilities and weaknesses that they aren’t scary anymore, just a sort of tactical/strategic puzzle which has already been solved too many times to be tense.

    But also I tend to emotionally perceive human murderers (regardless of how “creative”) as unusually large assholes instead of monsters. In other words, I get angry instead of scared, which is frustrating instead of enjoyable (especially when compounded by the above). So those movies don’t even really register as in the “horror” genre to me. Instead I tend to think of them as part of the “monkeys behaving badly” meta genre along with crime dramas and grimdork stuff.

  9. Mersadeon says:

    No spoilers:

    Shamus, just wait and see. Not knowing what kind of horror it is is part of the fun! And kind of the point, here.

  10. Arctem says:

    Hey Rutskarn, you back off of Bran. He’s a nice guy.

    …though it wasn’t until the second time through that I really starting enjoying his chapters, so fair enough. Carry on.

  11. Phill says:

    I have the same problem with horror movies / thrillers: i imagine what the antagonist is doing to create these scenes, and it is invariably pointless, stupid and illogical. Much like Rutskarn’s thing about imagining stuff from the point of view of the Joker and how insane it would be to set up some of these situations that only work from the audience perspective – except that does kind of fit with the Joker’s peculiar brand of insanity.

    But when you get the shots of the creepy figure lurking in the background, or walking past the window etc., it rarely makes any sense in-world and is obviously purely done for the audience, which is fine as long as the suspension of disbelief stops you from noticing it. But if you do notice it, the whole thing becomes a farce instead.

  12. Savage Wombat says:

    Similar in concept to “The Ghost Ship Moment”.

    A term coined by Overthinking It to describe the moment in the movie where the protagonists discover what kind of movie they’re in – “OMG, this ship is haunted”.

  13. MichaelGC says:

    Rutskarn’s thing about imagining stuff from the point of view of the Joker

    Someone’ll not have seen this and be glad they have now:

    http://imgur.com/gallery/PzrlX

    Edit: Oops, ‘sposed to be a reply to Phill. Ah well; it’ll do the job just as well down ‘ere.

  14. Spiritbearr says:

    Since this episode finally has one. Those aren’t deer they’re elk. Northern Alberta is full of them they’re like squirrels. In Europe elk are moose in North America these are elk.

  15. MichaelGC says:

    How long have these guys been here? It feels like they just showed up, presumably after a long, tiring journey, and have only just got as far as banging the generator with a spanner before they’re launching straight into the ouija hijinks. Didn’t even switch on any lights! Which, well, you wouldn’t, given the ouija hijinks. But didn’t anyone need a sandwich or anything? (Or I guess you could say: ‘what do they eat?’)

    The lass who just went off for a bath has the right general idea, I reckon. (I’m only a few minutes in to the episode; I trust that won’t become horribly ironic…)

    • Peter H Coffin says:

      Though if there’s no lights, and no heat without the generator being on, the odds of there being hot water are a little slim as well. It’ll be an uncomfortable bath.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Seeing how this big ass house is hot enough for them to take off their jackets,even though its only source of heat is a small fireplace in a single room on the ground floor,there should definitely be hot water.Basically,the most supernatural thing so far is that this house has magical heating.

  16. Gunther says:

    Rutskarn mentions at one point that the atmosphere in this game is a heck of a lot stronger without five people talking over the top of it; that’s something I can’t help but notice myself. A lot of the scenes that feel dumb and hackneyed on Spoiler Warning worked really, really well when I played the game in the dark by myself without interruption.

    I wonder how well the more explicit horror moments are going to work for Shamus.

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      It should not surprise anyone that “playing a game on headphones, with the lights turned off, alone” is a lot more suspenseful than “watching a video where one person plays a game with several people trying to be funny over it.” Anyone saying the game is failing or shit or whatever just from this video has not given it a fair shake.

      Not the video is bad, mind, just a fair defense of the game is all that was intended.

  17. tmtvl says:

    My pants were frozen! Today!

  18. MichaelGC says:

    By the way I think we missed a funicular during Opposing Force. Pretty sure we are up to two.

  19. MichaelGC says:

    Oh wow, I thought he was joking! I thought chains were being yanked. But she’s right there! The woman in the background, that is, around 08:00. Although if you get to 08:00 you’ve gone leetle too far. Or perhaps it’s bang on 08:00; not sure. You know what?: I was on pretty strong ground with “around 08:00;” let’s stick with that.

  20. Dirigible says:

    So the scream they were asking about? Bats. I was actually expecting a bat-based jump scare after that instead of the Squirrels and Deer. No idea if bats can stand the winter, mind you, but that’s what I thought the sound was.

  21. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Personally,I find thhat doing it like in scream is the best way for the genre.So a small,tight knit group of killers(a cult can work too).It avoids the problems you have with a single killer doing all these things,and it avoids the problems you get with ghosts.

    And the problems with ghost(or other supernatural stuff) are just as numerous as with a single killer.Most importantly,if this supernatural thing can be this easily confirmed,beyond a shadow of a doubt,then why is the story set in our world,where ghosts do not exist?But also,if it was this powerful,how did they manage to overcome it?If the solution was this simple,how come no one did it before?If the ghosts are based in religion,why are they based on one of the younger religions and not an older one?Or,if they are based on an older religion,then why has that religion stopped existing,if its demonstrably proven to be true?Etc,etc,etc.

    Or,you know,just go the horror comedy route,and play all these inconsistencies for laughs.Thats why zombieland and shaun of the dead are amazing.

  22. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I always wonder,how come all these ghost are perfect spellers whenever theres a ouija* board?Especially when its a ghost of a teen,a teen that used txt speak when they were alive.Heck,its even worse when its not a ghost,but actually one of the people using the board,and they are a teen,a teen that uses txt speak practically their whole lives.Id expect the message to be more like “U frks kil me u bstrds wil brn lol”.

    *screw whoever thought of that name

  23. Minor to medium spoiler:
    There are cameras all over the house.

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