They say comedy is just tragedy plus time, so it’s no surprise that horror and comedy often find each other. They seem like very disparate genres – comedy wants to make you laugh, while horror wants to make you afraid. But as Monsters Inc showed us, laughter and fear are very closely related. That’s why horror-comedy is a genre unto itself, but while Resident Evil Village will certainly make you laugh, I don’t think it’s supposed to. Then again, maybe that’s what makes it special.
There are some horror-comedies that strike a perfect balance between the two genres, like Cabin in the Woods or Shaun of the Dead. There are also those that lean further into comedy, like Tucker and Dale Vs Evil or The Babysitter, and those that are more like horror movies with a couple of laughs, like Midsommar or American Psycho. Resident Evil Village is nothing like any of those. It’s more like Jaws 3-D or the remake of The Wicker Man. It would be harsh to say ‘it’s so bad it’s funny,’ because I don’t think Resident Evil Village is bad. But there are some moments where it wants to scare you and it misses the mark so completely that you can’t help but laugh.
Spoilers for Resident Evil Village ahead, by which I mean ‘spoilers for gaming’s best punchline of 2021’.
Near the start of the game, Ethan Winters finds himself in Castle Dimitrescu, fleeing from the internet’s favourite big lady, Lady Dimitrescu. He grabs a switch, and the game transitions from gameplay to cutscene in an instant as the indomitable Lady Dimitrescu sneaks up behind you and slashes off your hand. There is no comedy in this moment – it is raw horror. Ethan’s lifeless hand, still gripped around the switch, flops lifelessly while the rest of his arm sprays blood and he screams in agony. Once you regain control, you need to escape from Lady D and retrieve your hand, and it feels like Village is a game where anything goes. I know he loses and reattaches his hand in Resident Evil 7, but this feels different. Because surely they wouldn’t pull the same trick twice, right?
Except of course, that’s exactly what Village does. As soon as you get your hand back, you escape from Lady Dimitrescu, pour some nebulous goo on your wound, and reattach your hand in an instant. Ethan’s reaction to this traumatic and horrific situation? A single word – “good.”
You put Eddie Murphy, George Carlin, Robin Williams, and Joan Rivers in one room, and I guarantee you they would not write a funnier reaction to this situation than “good.”
Ethan Winters seems to have no lasting damage from this injury either. He’s able to climb ladders, hold heavy weapons, slash at bad guys – this weird health potion, a mixture of Chem Fluid – whatever that is – and a random herb mixed together on the fly turns out to be a miracle cream. It’s not even just an adhesive either, the hand is clearly still functional, which is helpful, because half of his other hand has been bitten off. Ethan Winters truly has the most unlucky hands in the world.
That’s not even the best part – this magnificent health potion works on clothing too! Check out Winters’ arm when he’s climbing a ladder – you’ll see a clear cut where Lady Dimitrescu’s claws severed it at the wrist, but you’ll also notice that the sleeve is now reattached at that seam. Every time I climb a ladder in the game, I’m constantly reminded of “good,” and burst out laughing all over again.
It’s not just this moment either, although that is clearly the peak. At one point, Ethan decides that his best chance to escape a burning building is not to try and reverse the car out of the garage, but instead to drive into a flaming wall, in the hopes of making it collapse. In fact, the whole opening sequence with the villagers, when they’re such obviously hammy and over the top tropes, would be genius if it was intentional. The only problem is, I think I’m supposed to feel unsettled by these creepy characters, when they’re trying so hard all I can do is laugh.
Then there’s your mission – you need to collect four flasks with your daughter’s essence in them, or something. The mission objective? It could be ‘gather all the flasks’ or ‘defeat the lords’ or ‘place the vials in the ceremonial circle’. Instead, it’s ‘collect Rose’ – it’s so obviously lacking in tact for what should be a very traumatic and painful quest, but instead it’s ‘go and fetch your daughter’s body parts, mate’. It would be hilarious if it was intentional, but again – I don’t think it is.
I will hand it (eh?) to Capcom, there is one properly scary moment in Resident Evil Village. It comes in the Beneviento chapter of the story, and serves as a reminder that Resident Evil is a horror franchise at heart. But in some ways, that just makes the hand moment worse – or possibly better, depending on your preferences. That one moment – and by extension, that chapter as a whole – plays it straight and delivers on real fear. But it begs the question, if that’s the sort of game Village is supposed to be, why have the weird hand-glue moment in it at all? Why let Lady Dimitrescu, the headline villain of the game (even if she does come and go too soon), deliver a catastrophic blow to Ethan Winters, only for him to continue onwards as if nothing has happened.
I doubt that will ever be explained, but I hope the real answer, only known to a few select producers at Capcom, is just “because it’s funny.” If that’s true, this game has earned my respect.
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