The Voice Of Horror: Resident Evil

It’s been a bit since the last issue of The Voice Of Horror but I’m bringing it back with a series that is pretty near and dear to my heart: Resident Evil. I remember reading the articles in Game Informer about Resident Evil on the Playstation and begging my parents to get me one so I could get the game and explore this terrifying mansion. Alas, it was not meant to be and I was only able to start enjoying the series by staying over at a friend’s house and playing RE2 (Leon mission first, of course). But one thing that I always enjoyed about the RE series was the music and the sound. Hell, I was walking around middle school playing the RE2 OST in my discman (you can easily tell I was not one of the popular kids). So join me in venturing into Arklay, Racoon City and beyond in this edition of The Voice Of Horror.

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The Resident Evil franchise is one of the most beloved survival horror genres, although lately it has become a series that relies more so on action than on scares. One of the reasons this genre has been so successful, aside from the joy of zombie killing and the pervasive atmosphere, is that the player never really felt cheated when it came to audio (okay, “Jill, the master of unlocking” and all other voice acting in RE1 aside). Each enemy had their own identifiable sound, so you knew they were coming even if you couldn’t see them. This alone added to the fear of playing the game: You could hear the enemy, but camera angles be damned! You couldn’t see them around the corner! In RE2, hearing that click-click of the lickers claw’s scuttling across the ceiling was one of the many “Oh shit” moments that made you joyfully apprehensive about each step you took. How many of you remember inching Leon or Claire forward until the camera angle changed so you could fire from the greatest/safest distance possible? Or how about, when playing as Claire, Mr. X came at you? His deliberate, plodding steps came and you started praying that you had enough ammo. In RE3, the almost nails-across-chalkboard quality of Nemesis’ “Starsssssss” was a terrifying warning that you were either going to have to run your ass off or stand your ground and hope that you made it. 
But probably one of the most interesting and endearing aspects of the Resident Evil series is the safe room music. Even out of context, when just randomly playing on my iTunes, the music from any Resident Evil safe room has the ability to immediately put me at ease and allay my worries. Nothing can get me once I’m in a safe room: I’m in sanctuary and nothing can enter to harm me. Trudging through Arklay mansion, where opening a new door carried the possibility of something lurking in the shadows, nothing was more relieving than hearing that sweet melody of plucked orchestral strings mixed with ambient drones. 
The music of Resident Evil was in many ways similar to the way the earlier games tried to scare you: A lot of ‘BOO’ moments. While it was effective the first few times, if you played the game more than that, you knew what was coming and when it would arrive, thus removing a lot of the scare. However, Resident Evil 4, in my opinion, took care of that by using musical styles that were more removed from the traditional orchestral arrangements and ventured more into the realm of ‘noise’. Even standing in an area that I had just cleared and knew was safe was unsettling because of the music. And that’s why Resident Evil is a series that I keep coming back to. 
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You can follow Jonathan Barkan on Twitter at @SimplyJonnyBD