Why Red Dead Redemption 2 Deserves a Horror Miniseries

May 31, 2023

Red Dead Redemption 2 is an intense work of passion, a game whose level of detail and attention to atmosphere and storytelling is unmatched. Bodies decay if left out in the world, and people will yell at the protagonist to bathe if the player neglects basic hygiene. Arthur Morgan’s misadventures merit The Last of Us or Witcher treatment, preferably one that takes advantage of its most powerful plot lines and set-pieces, that being horror. Come for the pony rides, stay for the serial killers. Red Dead Redemption 2 is a gripping old-west PTSD simulator.

Though it acquired the reputation as a shooter and conventional action adventure, what most people overlook is just how spine-tingling the game can be if you veer off the beaten path. RDR 2 is a great narrative-driven game, but it’s an even better example of a gritty, realistic horror title, in many ways superior to the Resident Evil series, which got its own bevy of film adaptations. Red Dead could do better. Its scares are earned, the deranged characters are naturalistic.

There’s something haunting about the desolation and loneliness of this world. That said, the most terrifying moments are when you learn you aren’t alone. Something as simple as the howl of wolves means death is near. Should you deem multiple, surprise grizzly bear attacks not scary enough, it gets a lot worse. The developers at Rockstar clearly took much inspiration from their favorite horror flicks as much as westerns. Only fittingly, RDR 2 would make for an ideal horror miniseries.

Did Somebody Say Vampires?

Film Arts Guild

Players will get lulled into a false security picking flowers, petting cats, or fishing for rainbow trout, only to turn around and see a Satanic shrine littered with animal bones and still fresh human remains. One of the more obvious horror-inspired set pieces concerning the protagonist’s investigation into a serial killer on the frontier, in an old west version of David Fincher’s Se7en.

In one such subplot, the game channels Ann Rice and incorporates a vampire-themed mission in the game’s pseudo version of New Orleans, St. Denis. An article in the local paper chronicles a murder spree by a ghoul who bites his prey and then taunts the police with messages smeared in his victims’ blood. Although this vampire is clearly designed on the Gothic appearance of Count Orlok from F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu rather than the dandified aristocrat look of Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise in Interview with a Vampire.

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As for the lost princess and the body pit filled with missing members of the local baseball team, those crimes are going to remain unsolved for the foreseeable future. The backlog of unsolved deaths is piling up at an alarming rate, and Rhodes’ sheriff does not seem likely to get to the bottom of anything unless it’s a bottle of moonshine.

Don’t Look for the Night Folk

Rockstar Games

You would think a gang that mutilates travelers and rearranges their body parts into surreal poses would be the nastiest possibility to stumble across in a video game. You would be wrong. At least you can hear the Skinner Brothers coming.

Our hero, Arthur, can spend 10 hours camping in the fetid swamp of Lemoyne and never encounter the Night Folk. No, players won’t ambush the legendary Night Folk…they’ll find you, probably while you are preoccupied dodging alligators, knee-deep in a bog, or engaged in a bird-watching expedition.

Letters found on corpses can sometimes reference the murderers in the swamp, but unlike most of the game’s lore, this gang is left with little or no backstory, as if no one survives long enough to tell tales or conduct research. Taking advantage of kindly travelers, the Night Folk are infamous for bushwhacking kindly pedestrians. “The wailing lady” is one of their more dastardly tricks, punishing the protagonist for trying to help a stranded, crying woman. The existence of the Night Folk makes it clear why residents in the nearby town of St. Denis live behind spiked iron gates.

A Cheery World with Dark Secrets

Nothing quite fills a player’s heart with disgust and fear like coming across a cross-burning by a bunch of men in robes. Every stroll on the picaresque prairie is doomed to culminate with a deranged encounter. You want unsettling horror? Look no further than the regular Joes. Polite conversations quickly devolve, as you discover the soft-spoken man who invited you to sit and rest by his campfire is really a stalker pining after a widow, watching her from afar, making plans. For all the mysteries you can pursue and solve with a little patience, dozens more potential subplot threads terminate in tantalizing dead ends. Great starting points for about a dozen TV episodes. And it’s the plots with a creepy twists that make you realize how the game erred by not focusing more on the horror angle, a problem that a solid Western-
Gothic horror TV show
could rectify.
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The list of crimes that unfolds in RDR 2 is staggering. The incestuous pig farmers are just the tip of the iceberg. As a helpful reminder, if anyone in this game invites you into their house, do not enter under any circumstances unless you’re up for some traumatic shenanigans straight out of Deliverance. Everyone seems to have a dark secret. We’re not really sure what the Italian aristocrat was going to do with the abducted child, but that one at least ends well for the human trafficking victim. Not everyone is so lucky. One of the more depressing discoveries is the entire family near Emerald Ranch that succumbed to unknown causes, dying instantaneously. In a cabin north of the Heartland Overflow, Arthur Morgan (or the optional playable character John Marston) discovers a Victorian-era suicide cult. Stick around until two AM and he will find out what the cult was waiting for …

In a particularly obscure discovery, your protagonist of choice may sneak inside an abandoned taxidermist/laboratory just outside a run-down trading post. Inside, someone or some group attempted to graft different creatures together, with exactly the sort of freakish results you’d expect. A fan theory posits that this is the cause of the tuberculosis outbreak in the area. Which, if true, plays a rather huge role in the story.

An Accidental Horror Masterpiece

Rockstar Games

If you love nightmare material, then there is absolutely no better game to play, and no better source material for an HBO or Netflix project. The developers, Rockstar Games, never tries too hard to disturb the player unlike most other horror media. And unlike the Halo series that fans loathe, writers for this series have a lot of leeway of which content to indulge in, even picking and choosing which elements of the Arthur Morgan saga to discard or highlight. There are few if any jump scares, but depending on the angle the show runners choose to pursue, there’s no reason it can’t be more psychological than Dahmer or more surreal than American Horror Story. In the game you happen across most grisly scenes by accident, and linger on it as long or short as you want, looking over your shoulder as you ride away from a ritualistic murder or menacing graffiti smeared on a wall, learning where to avoid.

The horror aspects work so well precisely because they catch you off guard instead of bombarding you with countless eldritch abominations and silly, tedious boss fights for hours on end. Scares that are perfectly suited for the small screen rather than a feature length movie, allowing several dozen hours to flesh out the world and the hundreds of side characters. The more you dig and explore, the more you are rewarded with, even if that reward culminates in a gory death. Clear-eyed fans will admit the macabre side quests are more compelling than the rather dry and bloated main campaign, as the most minor detour promises something chilling. Never mind that Braithwaite girl locked up in an outhouse, she’s harmless so long as the chains hold.

How this game hasn’t been optioned for a series yet is baffling.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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