Fertility in the horror genre usually ends up going terribly wrong for a lot of reasons. Either an individual end up giving birth to Satan and live the rest of their days running for their life, or they are infertile and are therefore twisted into something horrific that often leads to them being perceived as insane. It also has the potential to lead to two disturbing, yet fascinating narratives that I can’t help but love: the intruder and body horror.
In both BioWare’s fantasy RPG Dragon Age: Origins, and Capcom’s PS2 survival horror Haunting Ground, fertility, and infertility holds a pivotal role for both men and women throughout the game. But more importantly, fertility is a daunting, controversial subject, as unlike intruders in your home, the intruder in both games refer to the invasion on female bodies by men and women alike, as well as becoming a prisoner in your own, tormented body.
Fiona, the main protagonist of Haunting Ground, is kidnapped and taken to Belli Castle due to her holding the key of ‘eternal life’ called ‘Azoth’ in her womb. Her punishment for merely existing is her ancestor and uncle both want to take the Azoth away from her by any means necessary. The disturbing, incestuous desire aside, there is also another character who wishes to take Fiona’s womb from her. Her maid, Daniella.
What makes Daniella’s desire for Fiona’s womb so different is what she is: a prototype gone wrong. Daniella’s story is that she was created by Fiona’s uncle to be the perfect woman, yet according to him she’s incomplete due to one reason: she cannot reproduce.
It is this ‘missing part’ that drives Daniella to insanity as she chases Fiona throughout Belli Castle to rip her womb from her body and paints a terrifying, and to be frank, sexist picture of being infertile and the horrific consequences of that. Daniella intrudes on Fiona’s body again and again as the game goes on, grabbing her vagina multiple times and in one instance if she kills you, succeeds in removing Fiona’s womb from her body.
Daniella’s desire to be the ‘perfect woman’ means she must become the intruder and tear Fiona’s body apart as though she’s cracking open an egg to get at the yolk. It plays on a fear that I assume we all have had once or twice: the fear of being out of control in your very own body. Fiona is awake, but out of control as the denizens of Belli Castle have the opportunity to rape and destroy her from the inside out.
Of course, this all depends on what ending Fiona gets as Haunting Ground has multiple alternative endings, but the underlying message is clear: Fiona is not seen as a human being, but a live experiment that is perceived as nothing but a doll.
This brings me to the topic of another character who becomes trapped in her own body, but unlike Fiona, there is no happy ending.
Dragon Age: Origin fans will remember Hespith, a dwarven-woman who they encounter in the Deep Roads. Hespith’s poem about Broodmothers and how they are created will most likely go down as one of the disturbing moments ever to happen in Dragon Age history, but for those who don’t know: switch the light on, grab a cuddly toy. It’s about to get disturbing.
“First day, they come and catch everyone.
Second day, they beat us and eat some for meat.
Third day, the men are all gnawed on again.
Fourth day, we wait and fear for our fate.
Fifth day, they return and it’s another girl’s turn.
Sixth day, her screams we hear in our dreams.
Seventh day, she grew as in her mouth they spew.
Eighth day, we hated as she is violated.
Ninth day, she grins and devours her kin.
Now she does feast, as she’s become the beast.”
Broodmothers are created through darkspawn kidnapping and violating women by vomiting into their mouths, raping them and forcing them to eat their kin. It’s a grotesque process that drives the women insane as their bodies transform into a tentacle monster that gives birth to dozens and dozens of darkspawn that end up repeating the process.
While Hespith does not become a monster, she tells the tale of Laryn who the player ends up fighting later in the game. This scene is particularly disturbing if you’re playing as a female Grey Warden, as while Grey Wardens are infertile, the potential of what awaits them when they go to the Deep Road is something that is just too difficult to ignore.
The existence of the Broodmother in Dragon Age shows that, once again, female bodies are often intruded on in horror and how fertility, particularly through rape, is used to strike fear into the heart of the player through the threat of the gruesome and grotesque treatment of the body.
Both Haunting Ground and Dragon Age have two very different takes on invading the female body, with the first focusing on scientific enlightenment through the experimentation of the womb, whilst the latter uses a personal threat of the obscene against female bodies to both cower and fascinate the player.