INSiGHT: Resident Evil by Philip J. Reed

By Sandy Kirchner-Wilson 28.08.2020

Published and distributed by Boss Fight Games, Philip J. Reed brings readers Resident Evil, a book chronicling the length and breadth of the first game in the iconic series' development supplemented by a fair bit of his own experiences, to provide readers a deeper understanding of Survival Horror and its roots. Reed is known for his pop culture writing and his love of horror cinema. The book is available in paperback or as an ebook from Boss Fight's own website. The company publishes a lot of books of this variety, covering all manner of games. This particular book is part of its Into the Darkness series, covering five games from Silent Hill 2 to The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.

Reed presents a tale from his childhood, where he and his friends have got their hands on the now year-old Resident Evil game. Having heard about its gore and horror, the youngsters dove in. Everyone should know the creeping feeling of playing or watching horror in the dark, yet at the end of the story his younger self proclaims:

"This is a Masterpiece..." speaking the basic truth into the night. "It's like nothing I've ever played before."

Except, BAM! The author already hits with some misdirection. What he'd really said was:

"Isn't this just Alone in the Dark?"

This earnest introduction does enough to make the rest of the book's content immediately compelling. The author breaks down each of his own observations, giving them context and letting readers in on whether that viewpoint is something he still believes. He no longer believes, for instance, that Resident Evil is as similar to Alone in the Dark as he thought back then, and that it's also much more forward-thinking in terms of the evolutionary history of Survival Horror as a genre. Of course, he also remembers to point out that while "Survival Horror" games certainly existed before Resident Evil, this was the series that coined the term. While these more personal stories and anecdotes make up a large percentage of the book, a lot of time is spent explaining and breaking down horror tropes and cinematography, and fitting Resident Evil's development and angles into that frame.

Image for INSiGHT: Resident Evil by Philip J. Reed
 
Quoting from famous directors and authors, such as Hitchcock and Lovecraft, Reed dives into a discussion on crafting tension, as well as the difference between that and jump-scares. It's an interesting window into what these creators knew about building horror and tension for the audience. A particular favourite quote is:

"He argues he's given the second audience a more rewarding experience. 'In the first case, we have given the public 15 seconds of surprise at the moment of the explosion', he says. 'In the second case, we have provided them with fifteen minutes of suspense."

It says a lot that he paints this vivid non-fiction breakdown of Resident Evil and creeping horror vs. jump-scares using so few examples. It really helps reinforce the feeling he knows what he's talking about. He also covers things that were unique to the game's design and that maybe even haven't been seen in preceding games in both Resident Evil as a series and the wide gamut of Survival Horror titles using this same framing.

Image for INSiGHT: Resident Evil by Philip J. Reed

Naturally he, like many Resident Evil fans, delves deep into his initial dislike, and later love, for the crummy voice acting and stiff FMV movies. Doing the seemingly impossible, due to bad crediting of the actors, he has included some incredible interview content with the FMV cut-scene actors that the author managed to track down revealing some shocking truths about production. This content is unique and, for fans at least, incredibly compelling. This unique information is presented both clearly and in a fun way. One of the most shocking revelations is that many of the actors didn't know they starred in Resident Evil.

"It wasn't until around 2016 that he saw Resident Evil for himself."

The book offers a window into the development of the game that many people won't be familiar with; the insights from the actors being one of the main missing insights in the numerous video essays on the series.

Image for INSiGHT: Resident Evil by Philip J. Reed

The writing is full of humour and little anecdotes that make the reading experience a joy. They help to keep a flow going in a book that could have had a much more robotic, systematic layout. He has an almost coy way of revealing titbits of information before pulling in references and back-up information that makes the point mean a whole lot more than before, or before pulling out a personal anecdote that helps readers empathise with his meaning. Expertly throwing in terms and references to other games to make points, all of it lends itself to this feeling of authenticity that really makes the book hard to put down. The entire work exudes his love for the game, as well as for many other works of both horror and non-horror media. That authentic enthusiasm is imparted from the words to the reader, many of whom will be able to empathise with his crazy love-baby he's created…

That said, it's a shame the author only presents this story from an American perspective, as it means he misses a couple of points and comparisons he could have drawn with the European version, which had the auto-aim function Capcom so deftly cut from the American release. Also, make sure that as a reader you are okay with swearing, since there is a fair amount in the pages of this book.

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10
This is an invaluable look into the creation of the Resident Evil franchise and how it affected the genre, Western game production, and pop culture. The mix of non-fiction, deep lore, and development backgrounds gives this book a magnificent air of knowledge. It's a Resident Evil fan's dream read, covering everything in such depth and presenting new information about how some of the game was pulled together and the people involved. Philip J. Reed's Resident Evil comes thoroughly recommended to fans of the series or even just those looking for a geekier read.

Box art for Resident Evil Archives: Resident Evil
Developer

Capcom

Publisher

Capcom

Genre

Horror

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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