Fatal Frame

A camera that can capture photos of the long dead…

The “Fatal Frame” games (bafflingly called Project Zero in Europe) are another classic example of finding novel ways to draw the audience into an eerie situation. A Japanese series (and we all know how creepy the Japanese horror aesthetic can be), it is centred around a camera created by an occultist which has the ability to capture photos of the dead, and makes good use of Shinto culture. Each game is a standalone story (despite a few knowing references and links between).

In my previous post I mentioned the tendency of games to rely on combat for surviving the creatures-out-to-get-you, and though it is more traditional in some other ways this is where Fatal Frame really innovates. Because you have no other way of defending yourself from any spirits which might be malevolent, you have to rely on the camera, looking through the viewfinder in first-person perspective and trying to remain focussed on them. Trying to stay tracking something as it glides elusively closer, needing to hold off till often the last moment trying to get a good clear shot of it, finite amounts of film, all ramp up the tension and make you feel anything but confident. With the intentionally restricted and limiting form of defence, sometimes in less-than-ideal confined spaces, you feel vulnerable, and every time you realise something unwelcoming is approaching it is with a feeling of dread and being outmatched.
A great deal of attention goes into locations- something as simple and innocuous as a certain hallway can become the most uncomfortable place on earth.

Each instalment has steadily improved- by the third the makers are playing with the audience psychologically, predicting player reactions and expectations and laying traps to scare. It’s there that I cease to be an expert; after the third the games went Wii exclusive (having been on Playstation&Xbox before).


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