Heads up, horror fans, this article contains many spoilers for Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. You’ve been warned!
Resident Evil is, for many, the epitome of survival horror video games. With the first installment in 1996, Resident Evil established a tense, horrifying, puzzle-filled world with which players instantly fell in love. The combination of limited resources and nigh invincible enemies forced players to make difficult decisions when exploring the mysterious Spencer Mansion. It’s no surprise that it then spawned countless sequels, and even a film franchise loosely based on the games. Though these sequels can be hit or miss, any die-hard Resident Evil fan can tell you why any particular game is important for the series. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is no exception.
In 2016, shortly after Resident Evil 7: Biohazard was announced, Capcom released a playable demo titled Resident Evil 7: Beginning Hour. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard caused some controversy with fans as it adopted a first person perspective and seemingly abandoned its previous story and characters. The demo played as a horror escape game where the goal is to find a way to escape from the dark and decayed guesthouse. Resident Evil 7: Beginning Hour is also where we find the first nod to horror film in the form of a VHS tape. Aside from the fact that VHS tapes elicit a very specific nostalgia for horror fans, the way in which this tape is used is inspired, and it also exemplifies an intimate love for a horror subgenre that is right at home in a first-person video game: Found Footage.
After popping the tape into the VCR, the player takes on the role of Clancy, the cameraman for a ghost hunting show investigating the Baker house. The tension is high as, unlike a found footage horror movie where the camera always points towards the action, here you are in control of the camera meaning something could be right behind you at any time! While we don’t get to see Clancy‘s fate in this tape, we do get to see how to progress in the main game, giving the tapes value beyond simply being a gimmick.
Moving on to Resident Evil 7: Biohazard proper, you play as Ethan Winters a man in search of his wife Mia who went missing three years prior. After receiving a strange message from Mia, Ethan has tracked her last whereabouts to a plantation home in Dulvey, Louisiana. No time is wasted in introducing the horror as you immediately come upon some gory totems and, if you’re fast enough, a glimpse of a large figure with whom you’ll become acquainted soon enough! Upon approaching the guesthouse, you’ll retrace much of Beginning Hour including Clancy‘s tape. It’s not long before Ethan is reunited with Mia, but it becomes immediately clear that something is wrong with her. Mia leads you through the old basement but is abducted as soon as you have your back turned. You’re not alone for long, however, as Mia returns brandishing a knife and attacks Ethan.
“Resident Evil established a tense, horrifying, puzzle-filled world with which players instantly fell in love […] Biohazard is no exception.”
Each character in Resident Evil 7: Biohazard embodies a specific horror trope or subgenre. With Mia, we see the first one: possession. Throughout this section Mia drifts in and out of a violent personality and uses a chainsaw to cut off Ethan‘s hand! That’s right, a full Evil Dead within the first 30 minutes of the game. After “killing” her, Ethan is knocked unconscious by the figure we saw earlier.
What follows is perhaps the clearest example of the love for horror film within Resident Evil 7: Biohazard. Ethan wakes up tied to a chair with his hand crudely stapled back on. Looking around the dinner table, you are greeted with a scene out of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Around the table are the Bakers surrounding various rotting plates of limbs and organs. Father Jack, mother Marguerite, son Lucas and an unnamed old woman who is completely checked out. After a tense force-feeding of rotted intestines, the dinner is interrupted by the doorbell leaving Ethan alone with the old woman. From here, the game takes on familiar Resident Evil roots with a search for keys, weapons, and solving puzzles along the way. Eventually, a police officer arrives but is quickly dispatched by patriarch Jack Baker.
I mentioned earlier that each enemy embodies a specific subgenre. Jack‘s is the slasher. In addition to the fact that he comes in and kills what appears to be Ethan‘s salvation, Jack‘s choice of weaponry is also indicative of his slasher inspiration. In this encounter, Jack wields a massive and sharp shovel, an homage to the various gardening tools used by famous slashers. Beyond that, the entire encounter is itself an homage with Ethan plowing over Jack with a car several times, setting him on fire, and shooting him to death only for Jack to come back time after time. If that doesn’t say slasher I don’t know what does!
From there, you are free to explore the mansion with the occasional help from Zoe, the Baker‘s daughter, via telephone. During this traversal, Ethan encounters the “zombie” of this installment known as the Molded. These towering, grotesque creatures are the result of an infectious mold of which more will be revealed later. The argument can be made that these creatures are meant to represent the creature feature or zombie subgenre with obvious stylistic homages to The Thing, but really they are Resident Evil originals through and through!
After another encounter with Jack, this time sporting a chainsaw scissor thing and spouting the line “Groovy!”, and after an ensuing chainsaw duel leaving only Jack‘s bottom half, Having revealed that Mia is infected with the aforementioned mold, you are tasked by Zoe with gathering ingredients to make a “cure.” Ethan makes his way to the “Old House” bringing him face to face with Marguerite.
If you have a phobia of spiders or bugs, you might have trouble getting through this section of the game. Marguerite‘s subgenre is a mix of insect horror and, more importantly, body horror. While Marguerite can control giant insects, the horror really comes into play when she becomes the giant insect herself! With long and twisted limbs and a nasty egg sack nestled in her lower abdomen, Marguerite‘s transformation is almost as disturbing as seeing her unnaturally run along the ceiling. I will say it’s very satisfying taking the flamethrower to that giant bug!
“If you have a phobia of spiders or bugs, you might have trouble getting through [the “Old House”] section of the game.”
Retrieving one of the ingredients for the cure leads you into a series of rooms that introduce that true antagonist of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard: Eveline. As you make your way through these pitch black children’s rooms, you are surrounded by sounds of giggling with toys falling out of nowhere and finally a vision of Eveline who is fittingly a dark haired girl in a black dress. If you haven’t already guessed, Eveline‘s subgenre is paranormal horror.
For now, Ethan makes his way back to Zoe only to find that Lucas has kidnapped her and Mia. Here begins a series of puzzles of Lucas‘s design, and his subgenre should become apparent upon entering his lair where you are greeted by a TV on which Lucas lays out the rules of his game. Obviously, it immediately explodes raining shards of glass onto Ethan. That’s right, this guy represents psychological horror by way of Jigsaw! To that, there is an absolutely awesome escape room that’s right out of a Saw movie in this section! Of course, Ethan makes it through, but Lucas gets away in true Saw fashion.
At this point the game starts winding down with a final confrontation with Jack (only total creature feature at this point) and a choice to cure either Mia or Zoe after having used one of the cures to defeat Jack. Canonically, Ethan chooses Mia and they ride off in a speedboat only to be capsized and taken hostage by Eveline.
Now taking on the role of Mia, you play through what is essentially the film Ghost Ship only with a lot more Molded trying to kill you. Through another VHS flashback section, it is revealed that Mia is actually an agent for a pharmaceutical company (a shock to no one familiar with the Resident Evil franchise) tasked with escorting Eveline who is also revealed to be a lab-created bio-weapon. Mia sacrifices herself to save Ethan kicking off a final showdown between he and Eveline.
After fighting his way through an abandoned mine on the property (because of course there’s an abandoned mine) Ethan faces off with Eveline who, in another revelation, was actually the old lady the whole time! We’ll count that as a Sixth Sense style homage just to keep the horror parallels going. Finally, Ethan defeats a kaiju size Eveline with the help of one of the franchise’s most recognizable characters Chris Redfield.
So ends the main game, but the horror homages and references don’t end there. In a series of DLCs titled “Banned Footage,” you play as Clancy, the cameraman from Beginning Hour. Through these tapes, you see Clancy follow a similar path to Ethan in his run-ins with the Baker family, with another escape room featuring Marguerite‘s famous cuisine and a psychotic game of blackjack with Lucas against a hooded figure named Hoffman (Saw reference anyone?). We do see Clancy’s death in the main game, but it was not in vain as it did give Ethan fair warning of Lucas‘ treachery, and for that we salute you camera guy!
“Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is the ultimate love letter to horror, but the more I think about it, I think it’s actually the ultimate love letter to horror fans.”
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is one of my all time favorite games. It was a return to the fear that Resident Evil instilled back in 1996. It toned down the action and focused instead on the horror. At the time of its release, my partner and I had just moved to a new city and were both working new jobs with misaligned schedules. It was difficult at the start, and there were a lot of times when we would each find ourselves alone while the other was working. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard was my solace during that time. I would pop on my headphones and delve into this terrifying masterpiece of a game, and replaying it for this article brought back those memories.
Horror is such an important part of our lives. If you’re reading this site I think it’s safe to assume you feel the same. It is a source of catharsis and empowerment. Horror places our fears right before our faces be that an invincible killer relentlessly chasing you, or a twisted mangled creature lunging at you from the darkness. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is special in that it not only accomplishes that to chilling effect, but it also allows you to fight back. It allows you to face your fears head on and take them down. By employing the various horror tropes, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard ensured that everyone could face their specific fear and still find comfort in that horror inspired world.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is the ultimate love letter to horror, but the more I think about it, I think it’s actually the ultimate love letter to horror fans. With Resident Evil Village on the horizon, some of you may be looking to get in on the Resident Evil craze. While Resident Evil 2 and 3 remakes were released more recently, I urge you to consider Resident Evil 7: Biohazard as your first foray!
What do you think of the Resident Evil franchise? Have you played Resident Evil 7: Biohazard? Are you going to download the free Beginning Hour demo? Let us know Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!