It’s Been 25 Years Since Resident Evil’s Dogs Made Us Sh*t Ourselves
A humble corridor one moment, home to one of gaming’s greatest jump scares the next. Today marks the 25th anniversary of Resident Evil on PS1.
A well-employed fright can be one of the most cathartic cinema experiences. You watch with a big crowd, you let out a big yelp or ‘f*ck me!’ before laughing your way back to comfort.
It’s different in games. Unlike films, they can be rarely considered ‘cheap’, mainly because of how actively we’re immersed – whether it’s Batman: Arkham Knight’s Man-Bat, P.T.’s nightmarish Lisa or even Super Mario 64’s sharp-toothed piano. Then there’s the Cerberus from Resident Evil; the ultimate scare.
On March 22, 1996, the world got its mitts on Resident Evil for the first time when it debuted on PlayStation. The voice-acting is even more dated now, and the survival horror genre has far advanced – but this is arguably where it properly began, where audiences got a taste for fear and fun with genuine challenge.
It’s not like gamers were unaware of the scares coming their way. We all knew to expect zombies; to find them, shoot them, often run from them. Nobody foresaw the raw terror of the L-shaped corridor in Spencer Mansion.
As you walk through the area, you feel safe. You’re temporarily away from the bites of the undead. Then, suddenly, smash! A dog leaps through the window, the music ramps up, another dog crashes through. Within this narrow space, you’re now running or fighting for your life. At the time, it was enough to make you scream.
Earlier writing about the same scene for Kotaku, Stacie Ponder explained: ‘That jump scare probably took a good five years off of my life. It was also a revelation, one that established new rules: nowhere in the Spencer Mansion was truly safe (except, you know, save rooms), and horror games could be as terrifying as horror movies.’
Discussing the moment on Reddit, one user wrote: ‘My first video game scare as a child. Still gets me.’ Another commented: ‘Fuck. Those. Dogs.’
Another gamer on YouTube dubbed it the ‘mother of all videogame jumpscares’, while another wrote: ‘From the good old days of the lights being off, the volume being too high, and the controller flying across the room.’
In the 2002 remake, the dogs don’t break through right away. Instead, they leave a crack in the window, upending the expectations of players familiar with the scare. Later, upon re-entering, they come for you.
Even after a large number of sequels, the original game’s jump scare is one of the defining moments of the franchise.
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