After surviving 10 plus hours in the nightmarish world of The Evil Within 2, there’s a surprising name that appears during the credits for the game’s lead writer; filmmaker Trent Haaga. If that name looks familiar, that’s because Haaga wrote the screenplays for the polarizing horror film Deadgirl and brutal indie darling Cheap Thrills. More recently, he wrote and directed the violent 68 Kill, released on VOD this year. In the spirit of amping up the scope of the first game, Tango Gameworks Shinji Mikami and The Evil Within 2’s director John Johanas teamed up with Haaga to build their story ideas into this sequel, streamlining the story into something more coherent.
It’s not the first time, though, that game developers have partnered with horror movie writers and directors to refine their game concepts into truly engaging, interactive storytelling. Who better to scare gamers than those who already know the genre well. Here are five more horror directors that stepped into the world of video games to deliver great horror gaming experiences:
J.T. Petty – Outlast and Outlast 2
Before scaring the pants off gamers everywhere, to the point where game developers launched a kickstarter for a “companion diaper” in case of fear induced accidents, Petty wrote and helmed Soft for Digging, straight-to-DVD sequel Mimic 3: Sentinel, pseudo-documentary S&Man, and creature feature The Burrowers. Petty’s themes in S&Man and The Burrowers run through Outlast’s narrative and tone, especially in terms of voyeurism and masochism. These first-person survival horror games see a journalist investigating one terrifying psychiatric hospital, where stealth is of the utmost priority. Instead of consuming ammo, the player must hoard batteries- you don’t want to be stuck in the dark in this nightmarish place.
Clive Barker – Clive Barker’s Undying
This first-person shooter, developed by EA, was designed and written by the prolific horror author. He even voiced the character of Ambrose Covenant, one of the creepy Covenant family members that lead character Patrick Galloway meets in his investigation of the Covenant estate. An atmospheric setting, Barker’s trademark visual designs, and a great story contributed to a worthy horror game that was well received by gaming outlets upon its release on PC in 2001. Unfortunately, sales didn’t reflect the fantastic scores, and it never made its way onto console. Barker would dabble in video games again in 2007 with first-person survival horror Jericho, but it didn’t fare as well.
James Gunn – Lollipop Chainsaw
Who better to handle a horror-comedy hack and slash video game starring a bubbly chainsaw toting cheerleader amidst a zombie invasion than James Gunn? Former Troma writer turned Marvel blockbuster director already proved a knack for injecting life in the zombie sub-genre with his screenplay for 2004’s Dawn of the Dead. His blend of horror and comedy is perfection in the cult classic, Slither. In any other hands, Lollipop Chainsaw would have fallen flat. Though it did eventually get a bit repetitive from a gameplay standpoint, there’s no denying Gunn’s warped sense of humor made the game much more fun than it had any right to be.
John Carpenter – F.E.A.R. 3
By the time the third entry in the popular first-person shooter game was announced, the already action-centric series had shifted further into its action leanings and away from the horror elements that made it so popular in the first place. So, in attempt to bring back the terror, horror master John Carpenter was brought in to work on the in-game cinematics and consult on the script that was co-written by Steve Niles (30 Days of Night). It turns out that it wasn’t so difficult to get Carpenter on board; he’s a huge fan of video games and had played through the first two games in the franchise. Ironically, though a great shooter, F.E.A.R. 3 failed to deliver the chills, but knowing Carpenter was involved is still super cool.
Larry Fessenden – Until Dawn
Longtime indie horror mainstay Larry Fessenden has acted, produced, written, and directed for over 30 years. His production company, Glass Eye Pix, can be counted on to produce unique independent features, many of which are elevated by fantastic cameos by Fessenden. Even with his extensive work in cinema, he still wasn’t the most obvious choice in penning what became the biggest horror game of 2015; Until Dawn. The choose your own adventure type of survival horror was dependent upon a compelling story, one that Fessenden and co-writer Graham Reznick delivered in spades. A group of teens trapped on a mountain with a killer on the loose becomes so much more in Fessenden’s capable hands. Even better? He appears in the game as well, as the Flamethrower Guy, one of the most intriguing characters in the narrative. Thanks to Fessenden and his writing partner, Until Dawn became the game that left fans clamoring for me. Even two years later.