Guillermo del Toro's 'P.T.' Game Gives Us The Creeps

By Marielle Shaw in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 14, 2014 9:00PM

When we first saw Pan’s Labyrinth, we didn’t know what to expect. Was the movie “just” an Oscar darling? What made it so compelling? But once we saw the dark, elaborate world that wrapped around the bleakness of the Spanish Civil War, we knew this was something totally different. Guillermo del Toro creates deep, dark and beautiful worlds and creatures. And whether he meant to or not, he gave us some of the most intricate, interesting nightmares we had ever had before. Pan’s Labyrinth was the introduction, and since, we’ve made del Toro’s projects a priority on our “must-watch” lists. And as The Strain picks up steam, it’s this eye for detail we’re hoping sets it apart from what is a glut of mediocre vampire shows and films.

But del Toro had something else up his sleeve. In what appeared to be unrelated news, this week Sony announced “P.T.”; an “indie horror game” for PS4 at Gamescom in Germany. Pretty soon the Internet was buzzing about how terrifying the game was, and word got out that this was, in fact, a “Playable Teaser” for Silent Hills, the latest game in the Silent Hill series, a genius collaboration between del Toro and Konami’s VP, Hideo Kojima.

As one who enjoys a good scare but rarely get one, I was skeptical. But it was free to play, so I downloaded it. "Avoid playing if you have a heart condition" OK, I thought, rolling my eyes, and continued along with it. I would have done well to remember Silent Hill’s Pyramid Head, or the Pale Man that triggered so many nightmares in Labyrinth. That was all the evidence I should have needed that this is one hell of an unholy partnership. The “teaser” is honestly one of the most frightening things I’ve seen in the past few years, on any screen. It’s what good horror is.

Thanks to the Internet, we knew we were trying to “beat” the game and get to a trailer for Hills, which it was also revealed would feature Norman Reedus. Other than that, we knew nothing. The beauty of P.T. is how little happens, and just how scary that becomes. You just walk. Through the corridors of a married couple’s home. Then things start getting scary. What we loved about it was that we couldn’t tell when this would happen. Several times we noted just how much time we’d sunk into “playing” and how little was actually happening. We had no real direction, no discernible goals, and we were just…wandering around. Subtle changes would happen as we appeared stuck in the same loop in the house. Creaky lamps, a radio turning on, laughter. A ghost. It’s not as if this hasn’t been done before. It’s all the things we yawn and grab a handful of popcorn through anymore.

Except this time, we were scared. With no direction, and incredibly long intervals between some scares, with others coming in rapid succession, we were, for once, not sure at all what to expect. We didn’t know what was triggering the things that were happening, or where to go. There were cryptic messages we tried to figure out, writing on the walls, but ultimately, we were stumped most of the time we were playing. In fact, even the internet doesn’t seem to know exactly how to “beat” P.T. There doesn’t seem to be one consistent method of activating the trailer. And maybe that seems frustrating. It is. But it’s unsettling. Just when you’re about to put down the controller, call it quits, and youtube the damn trailer, something changes, or lunges at you from out of the darkness. And at least for us, hooks us for another half hour. It’s insidious. The atmosphere is dark, shadowy and silent enough to give you a full on case of the creeps. It’s immediately apparent why this marriage of talent is absolutely genius, and totally evil at once. We confess to a number of jumps and perhaps a few screams, even after we thought we knew what was coming.

This is what horror should be. Suspense. The feeling that you’re going a little bit crazy. Atmosphere that creates a certain dread. The scariest thing about scary movies, shows, and games, is what you create in your own head when nothing is going on, and P.T. gives you plenty of time to imagine what could be lurking around the corner, wears you down with repetition, and then absolutely terrifies you. It’s exciting to feel that again, and we can’t wait to see what Silent Hills brings, if this is only a taste.

We’re coming into a time when video games are being recognized for more than button smashing distractions. Character development and story lines are rich and touching, and people are starting to see games as the art form they are. It’s an exciting time to be a gamer. With the addition of a brilliant artist like Guillermo, the sky’s the limit, and we can’t wait to see more.