Mind the Drapes: The Aesthetics of Terror in ‘Resident Evil 7’

Daniel Motley examines the details that make ‘Resident Evil 7’ immersive and terrifying.

Written by Daniel Motley / Published on February 6, 2017

I never paid much attention to the finer details of window drapes until I played Resident Evil 7.

My mother always kept a tidy house and dad is still rather obsessed with keeping his vehicles clean. I, however, never noticed the specks and spots of dirt and muck like they did. I’ve always taken care of my things but I’m a rather unobservant person—as long my stuff isn’t noticeably damaged I’m perfectly content with a little dust sprinkled here and there.

"if you decide to play RE7, learn to slow down. Breathe. And be sure to admire the moldy drapes when you pass them."
But while walking around the bayou plantation in RE7, I stumbled across a pair of drapes that made me stop and appreciate their placement in the midst of so much decay. Jack Baker, the psychotic father of the family who wanted to forcibly remove my leg with his shovel, was a few rooms away. Down the stairs, behind the creepy basement door, the Molded were shuffling their feet while awaiting my arrival. Those drapes, however, were just too beautiful to look away from. The corruption that engulfed the rest of the house had infested the cloth. The wood that held them in place was chipped and scratched, and I wondered how long it would be before it snapped in two and the drapes came to rest on the grimy floorboards. The fabric had a sheen to it that reflected light from the sole lamp that greeted me from the save room next to me. Although completely forgettable by most standards (especially given the horrifying situation I found myself in), this image of the filthy drapes outside of a save room never left.

The environment was crafted with obvious affection by the team at Capcom. No matter where I ended up in the mansion, I knew where I was. The designers could have decided to reuse assets from other areas to fill in the gaps. Instead, they took care to fill their world with unique and gruesome details that made every room a new experience.

Because of this, I felt incarnated in the world that was far different from my own. Surrounded by horrors both imagined and real, stranded  in the bayous of Louisiana that, coupled with the foreboding sense of fear that filled the atmosphere, I was the main character—the Bakers were coming after me.

Although I was unable to play in VR, those who have reported that the expanse separating game from reality is even narrower. This is fascinating, since historically the goal of gaming is to take you out of real life and place you into a fantasy world. You’re supposed to forget who you are and take up the mantle of someone or something living a completely different life. Now, games like Resident Evil and the new VR headsets are placing us directly into the game, allowing us to see what it is like to live the life of our characters.

The story of the Baker family, their house surely designed by a madman, with plenty of tense encounters with gruesome creatures, kept me moving forward—I had to know why things were falling apart in Louisiana. But what I won’t forget are those drapes still hanging in the first floor of the Main Hall. While surely a minor item from my adventures, it signals how videogames are able to help us to actually see things. Any reminder that the simple details are worth noticing, even if it comes from a piece of moldy cloth, shouldn’t be cast aside, especially when our world champions busyness as a virtue. And if you decide to play RE7, learn to slow down. Breathe. And be sure to admire the moldy drapes when you pass them.