The standalone teaser for next year's Resident Evil VII: Biohazard, Beginning Hour, available for free right now to PS Plus subscribers, has attracted some inevitable comparisons. With its gloomy home corridors, it's easy to see P.T. had a healthy influence in its presentation, and parallels have been drawn between its decrepit setting and those seen in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes.
Still, one comparison has been overlooked, despite the fact that I can't seem to shake it from my mind. REVII's atmosphere is so familiar: the stacks of dusty junk, the rotting livestock hidden in the back, the elaborate traps and switches lining an otherwise run-down shack. It evokes memories of one of the most controversial and haunting television episodes of all time – the season four X-Files classic, "Home".
"Home" is something of a legend among X-Files fans, famous for airing only once before Fox removed it from circulation. It's the story of the Peacock family, recluses locked away in a worn-down shanty in the middle of a small town. The Peacocks are self-sufficient, without electricity and raising their own livestock, and nobody has seen them leave home in decades.
Mulder and Scully discover the Peacocks have a nasty habit of inbreeding, causing them to devolve to the point where they operate solely on animalistic instinct. Worse, they're keeping their mother, now the mastermind of the family, on a plank under a bed for further reproduction.
The episode's third act is a confrontation inside the Peacock homestead, with Mulder and Scully fighting off the boys while searching for their mother. Here the comparisons to REVII are the most obvious. The house is battered and dark despite the fact that the agents enter it at high noon. It's lacking any sort of modernity and is littered with relics of the past. There are bloody footprints covering the wooden floor, and rusty surgical instruments decorate tables. Put simply, it looks a lot like the REVII teaser.
Of course, that's not enough to draw a comparison. The idea of a run-down dirty shack is a common horror trope. The demo is simply drawing from the same well of horror conventions as "Home".
A breakdown of "Home", by House By the Video Store
Yet the thematic ties that bind "Home" and the Resident Evil series make the comparison more interesting. Resi has always been about familial histories and secrets. Code: Veronica X pits the Redfields against the Ashcrofts, and the Resident Evil remake added Lisa Trevor and her tragic family to the game's plot.
In REVII, we have the missing Baker couple and their son Lucas. The aggressive man at the end of the demo, presumably Mr Baker, growls "Welcome to the family, son," before knocking the player out. There are hauntingly stoic family portraits hanging around the house. Like "Home", the REVII teaser uses a house frozen in time as a symbol for dark family secrets.
In "Home", the Peacock family turned to incest and isolation out of a desire to keep things the same. "Let them know this is our home," Mrs. Peacock tells her sons, "And this is the way it's going to stay." The Peacocks are monsters because they gave into their fear of progress.
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If the Umbrella Corporation is read as a symbol of immoral scientific progress, then the Resident Evil series has a healthy heft of paranoia surrounding modernity, too. The photo of the Umbrella-branded helicopter in the attic hints that REVII may explore this paranoia. The Bakers believed they were being watched, and their fear echoes the fear that drove the Peacocks to insanity. "Home" is, at its core, about the clash between modern living and traditional values. REVII could use Umbrella to explore this conflict in-depth as well, and that's an exciting prospect.
REVII is still in development and details on the final game, which won't feature the Beginning Hour content, are scarce, but this sort of speculation is an interesting exercise nonetheless. If the similarities between the REVII teaser and "Home" point toward anything, it's a tonal shift in the Resi series from big budget zombie slaying to subdued horror, induced by paranoia and regression, poignant in an age obsessed with technology, misinformation and surveillance.
In a moment of disturbing clarity, Mrs Peacock reminds her children that all we can do about change is be ready for it. And like many other fans of the series, I'm ready to see Resident Evil change.
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