Spoiler warning: this article discusses major plot points from the game.
Somewhere deep within a mountain canyon in rural Arizona, Outlast 2s Blake Langermann runs through dust and darkness pursued by a Christian fanatic. Looking through his eyes, the player hops wooden fences and scans through the electric green static of a handheld camcorders night-vision for a rain barrel or rotted wooden closet she can tuck the terrified journalist inside. A moment of hesitation spent trying to decide whether to sprint further or hide and time runs out. The Christian grabs Blake, beating him about the head until he slumps to the ground. The last thing we see is a knife jammed into Blakes crotch to the accompaniment of lustful grunts and panicked screams.
Searching desperately for his fellow journalist and wife Lynn, lost after a helicopter crash stranded the couple in the canyons, Blake finds himself caught up in the grand eschatological designs of two opposing groups: the homicidally zealous citizens of Temple Gate who worship self-proclaimed prophet Sullivan Knoth and a sect of hazily defined Satan-worshipers lead by a heretical exile named Val. Both groups are determined to abduct Lynn. Shes unexpectedly pregnant and is due to give birth at any moment, though this comes as a surprise to Blake and player both. (Lynn doesnt look like shes nine months along until the next time shes seen up close during the games finale.) Knoth and Vals followers are both trying to kidnap Lynn because they believe shes carrying the Anti-Christ. The Christians want the child killed immediately to ward off the False Messiahs evil; the others want it kept safe to ensure the opposite. Neither group sees Lynn as anything more than a decisive piece in a grand cosmic game.
On its surface, the obsessive Christians of Outlast 2 seem like a condemnation of religion. Amid the upfront creepiness of the fanatics who kidnapped Lynn, this theme is continued through flashbacks to Blakes days in a Catholic high school when he failed to save a classmate from being sexually abused by a priest. Her subsequent death haunts him. In the present day and nightmarish memory, Blake is surrounded by crosses. They line the walls of classrooms and hallways in flashback; they dot graveyards, top houses and occupy spots of importance in Temple Gates many houses and community buildings. Alongside the human viscera and buckets of blood covering most every surface of the games environments, the crosses leave the games strongest visual impression.
The constant association of gore with Christianitys chief symbol is overdone (its hard to walk five steps without finding some combination of severed body part and cross), but its also key to Outlast 2s preoccupation with the religions violent underpinnings. Its a game that quite rightly wishes to criticize the bloody foundation of a major system of faith, splattering the cross as a reminder of the torturous death it represents and evoking murderous extremists as a blown out, entirely unsubtle stand-in for the hate and horror so often carried out in the name of a loving God.
To that extent, Outlast 2 is a moderate success even as it conveys its message with the nuance of a teenager, certain theyre the first and only person in human history hip to religious hypocrisy. Its symbolism, though, is rich enough to be worthwhile. In the town of Temple Gate and the figure of Knoth, who refers to himself as the Modern Ezekiel, the game implies a twisted version of Old Testament prophecies regarding the building of the Third Temple. The Biblical Ezekiel was given visions of the destruction of Jerusalem and an eventual return to the city, construction of the Third Temple and the beginning of the Messianic Agesimply put, necessary preparations for Satans final defeat and the establishment of the Kingdom of God. Knoth, too, believes he has been graced with divine foresight. His obsession with individual responsibility for sin, the need to strictly adhere to Gods laws and a willingness to sacrifice in order to purify his community are echoes of Abrahamic eschatological thought, nuance hammered away into a bizarre, frightening new shape.
Outlast 2 sees Ezekiels prophecies enacted in summary. Knoth, like the Biblical figure, believes God speaks to him and prepares his people accordingly. He enforces a self-serving version of Gods law that allows him to sleep with the women of Temple Gate, control his congregants sexual behaviour and most frighteningly, kill newborns if he believes they may be the Anti-Christ. As the game progresses, Blake sees the dead rise again in visions like the prophecy of the valley of bones. He sees Temple Gates enemies (Val and her Satanist heretics) destroyed in a mass slaughter near the games climax. He sees plague visit their home just like Ezekiels vision of the defeat of Gog and Magog, enemies of Israel and allies of Satan.
The recurring, blinding flashes of light throughout the game and the radio tower looming above the canyons are implied to be signals urging the people of Temple Gate into the hallucinations responsible for Knoths prophetic visions (and the citizens eagerness to murder in the name of Jesus or Satan). The signal comes with an explosion of brightness and a bowel-loosening horn blast that resembles the Voice of God. The suggestion is that, just below a socially acceptable surface, the Christians of Temple Gate are looming extremists, ready to murder, rape and war with one another according to their beliefs when loosed from the confines of modern American culture.
This would be a clever though pretty straightforward justification for a religiously-inflected horror game if Outlast 2 contained its scares to these topics alone. (Its best moments are when apocalyptic signs manifest around Blake as raining blood, lakes full of dead fish and a freak lightning storm. The player, like the character, begins to wonder how much of what theyve dismissed as the ranting of religious extremists may actually be real.) But Outlast 2 wants to frighten players in other ways, too.
Its chief villains include a naked man wearing a sackcloth over his head and Val, a naked woman with a similarly bizarre, homemade crown made from what looks like twigs and mud. Both characters faces are purposefully obscured, highlighting their nudity. The player is meant to be frightened by the human body and sexuality for sexualitys sake. Val is introduced following several notes Blake picks up after first arriving at Temple Gate. In them, we learn she was one of Knoths priests who abandoned Christianity for Satanism in large part because she was preoccupied by recurring erotic dreams. She physically enters the game by surprising Lynn and Blake, beating them and licking their faces. Her next appearance comes hours later, naked but for a covering of light-colored clay, in the mines beneath Temple Gate where the Satanists gather. She comes toward the camera as the player kneels, the view highlighting her vagina, begging the player to be shocked.
The entire section spent running from Val, her cloth-masked lackey and the other Satanists is characterized by a desperate sort of scare-sexuality. Blake runs from naked killers, finds an altar where two skeletons are posed to simulate sex, stumbles on a ritual, torch-lit orgy and, in a telling crescendo of terror, rescues his wife, stomach now bulging noticeably and entering into labor. The final moments of the game see Lynn deliver the supposed Anti-Christa normal baby girlbefore collapsing dead on a table, legs splayed and covered in blood. Earlier in the game, the player hid in the same building as a naked woman was tortured for information.
Outlast 2, like a lot of horror, tries to unsettle its audience by homing in on a culturally ingrained fear. Like the dripping eggs and nightmare genital monster of Ridley Scotts Alien, the game tries to exploit a discomfort with sex to make its player scared. In some cases, this can function as a sort of satire that exposes the ridiculousness of a given fear by amplifying its unfounded but assumed cultural basis. Examining the source of terror can lead to a nearly unconscious revelation. (Was a doctor ever truly unsettled by Aliens monster?) But, the takeaway from Outlast 2 isnt that being frightened by nudity, birth and sexuality is absurd. Its premise is that these are valid fears that were right to have. The greatest moments of terror are naked people chasing Blake, penises swinging and breasts exposed. It wants to create revulsion and panic with a babys birth.
The game adequately finds the real horror of unquestioned religious faith in its connection between Christian scripture and the appalling actions of its unleashed Temple Gate villains. But it undermines itself by embracing the same philosophical mindset as the fanatics it hopes to skewer. Knoth and his followers condemn the impure and look properly hypocritical in couching their restrictive views of sexuality in sex-obsessed terms. (And Knoth said: Yea, thine mind is too tight an arbor for the girth of the Lords message, and would split at its penetration . . .) Outlast 2 does the same. Its monsters are drawn from sexually abusive priestsobsessive dissemblers who betray the source of their anxieties by trying to control it in othersbut it tries, too, to make horror by exaggerating an assumed discomfort with nakedness, unrestricted sexuality and reproduction.
Theres a good horror game to be made out of the terror caused by the hypocritically religious. Such an important part of human psychology and historythe shorthand for entire philosophical viewpoints and often staggeringly cruel institutionscan be personified with awful monsters and nightmarish settings. A rejection of this sort has to be self-aware, though. It cant, like Outlast 2, condemn the same systems it hopes to reinforce.
Reid McCarter is a writer and editor based in Toronto whose work has appeared at Kill Screen, PC Gamer, GQ and Playboy. He is the co-editor of SHOOTER (a compilation of critical essays on the shooter genre), edits Bullet Points Monthly, co-hosts the Bullet Points podcast and tweets @reidmccarter.
Read the original here:
- Concert Review: Spinal Taps Derek Smalls Revives Mock-Rock at the Wiltern - Variety - November 11th, 2019
- Curro pupil speaks: 'Stop the satanic panic, art is meant to provoke thought' - News24 - October 27th, 2019
- Creepy countdown the 20 scariest horror movies of all time - NNY360 - October 27th, 2019
- What does it mean to be a modern witch? 3 real-life witches share their experiences - Vogue India - October 23rd, 2019
- Judas Priests Rob Halford: The metal community has always been inclusive, yet weve been kicked around like a football over the years - NME.com - October 23rd, 2019
- The 20 scariest horror movies of all time - The Columbus Dispatch - October 20th, 2019
- What are the 20 scariest horror movies of all time? - Peoria Journal Star - October 20th, 2019
- I'm a founder of the Satanic Temple. Don't blame Satan for white supremacy. - Washington Post - August 25th, 2017
- Wash Post column cheers Satan, jeers Christians - WND.com - August 25th, 2017
- The Devil's Cradle: The Story of Finnish Black Metal - The Gauntlet - August 25th, 2017
- Court orders new trial in satanic sacrificial murder case - RT - August 25th, 2017
- We Asked Diehard Swedish Metalheads What They Consider to be 'Metal' - Noisey - August 22nd, 2017
- A Brief But Very Informative History of How Fascists Infiltrated Punk and Metal - Noisey - August 22nd, 2017
- Why Some Christians Are Calling White Supremacy 'Satanic' - HuffPost - August 20th, 2017
- Satanic Leader Calls Upon Christian America to Face Their Contribution to Racist Right - Patheos (blog) - August 16th, 2017
- The Wild Hunt | Tag Archive | paranormal investigation - The Wild Hunt - August 16th, 2017
- Nottinghamshire sees increase in Witchcraft complaints - The Wild Hunt - August 11th, 2017
- Secular doctors are realizing that demonic possession is real, and needs special attention - Catholic Online - August 8th, 2017
- Nocturnes Mist announce Sept 15th release of "Diabolical Baptism" - The Gauntlet - August 6th, 2017
- 'Embrace ICT with caution' - The Herald - August 4th, 2017
- Kangaroo Court: Of Chief Lundu orders to ban ECG church - Nyasa Times - August 3rd, 2017
- How the Satanic Temple Became a Queer Haven - VICE - July 24th, 2017
- Coltrain: Satanism and paganism are not the same thing - The Daily Iowan - July 20th, 2017
- theartsdesk on Vinyl 30: Moby, The Beach Boys, Napalm Death, John Coltrane and more - The Arts Desk - July 13th, 2017
- Satanism Making Comeback Through Witchcraft and Atheism: Rabbi - Breaking Israel News - June 27th, 2017
- Theistic Satanism - Wikipedia - June 24th, 2017
- Ritual Skulls and Other Magical Objects, in Photos - Atlas Obscura - June 24th, 2017
- Christians and Jews Combat Witches' Summer Solstice Satanic Spells on Trump - CBN News - June 22nd, 2017
- Paganism Is Back! Now What Are We Christians Going to Do? - Patheos (blog) - June 22nd, 2017
- The Occult Roots of Modernism - The New Yorker - June 19th, 2017
- Modern Satanism: Anatomy of a Radical Subculture - Chris ... - June 17th, 2017
- Witch Hunts, Resurgence and Defiance: Heavy Metal In The Middle East - The Quietus - June 12th, 2017
- The Alt-Right Is the Modern, Hideous Face of White Supremacy - AlterNet - June 12th, 2017
- Understanding contemporary white supremacy: Is the alt-right really something new? - Salon - June 11th, 2017
- Catholic Priest: MN Park's New Monument Will Attract Satanists Who Want to Molest Kids - Patheos (blog) - June 7th, 2017
- The Gallows Pole By Benjamin Myers: A Playlist - The Quietus - June 6th, 2017
- Exclusive: Bloody Hammers Use Old School Horror For Blood Video ... - Dread Central - June 3rd, 2017
- We are using witchcraft, Satanism and magic confesses ... - June 3rd, 2017
- Pagan Community Notes: Memorial Day, Manchester, Pagan Dawn, and more! - The Wild Hunt - May 30th, 2017
- What witch-hunters can teach us - The Daily News of Newburyport - May 26th, 2017
- Column: What witch-hunters can teach us about today's world ... - Gloucester Daily Times - May 23rd, 2017
- Duterte to Trump: What witch-finders can teach us about today's popular leaders - Philippine Star - May 18th, 2017
- Alison Sampson & Steve Niles Stir Up Satanic Panic in Winnebago Graveyard - Paste Magazine - May 17th, 2017
- Exposing Satanism and Witchcraft - May 11th, 2017
- Ghost Rider De-Mystified Part 1 - Movie TV Tech Geeks News - May 9th, 2017
- Meet the modern-day Pagans who celebrate the ancient gods - Salon - May 7th, 2017
- Satanism is Becoming More Saintlike Than Catholicism - ComicsVerse - May 6th, 2017
- Neo-Pagan Witchcraft vs Satanism - May 4th, 2017
- Taken For Granted Ghostbusters - 411mania.com - April 27th, 2017
- Report: Aaron Hernandez Drew 'Illuminati' Symbols in Blood - Heavy.com - April 23rd, 2017
- TEST SPIN: Ulver The Assassination of Julius Caesar - Cornell University The Cornell Daily Sun - April 21st, 2017
- Forgotten American Religion Finds Home in India: Selective Consciousness and Increased Awareness at the ... - Huffington Post - April 15th, 2017
- In literature and art from over 100 years ago, images of the cow as mother - The Indian Express - April 5th, 2017
- 5 Things You Got Wrong About Modern Witchcraft And Those Who ... - PopWrapped Entertainment Group (blog) - March 31st, 2017
- Neo-vlkisch movements - Wikipedia - March 27th, 2017
- An Intro to LaVeyan Satanism and the Church of Satan - March 27th, 2017
- No hats or brooms: ASU witches express individuality within own ... - The State Press - March 27th, 2017
- DOOMguy Knows How You Feel - lareviewofbooks - March 17th, 2017
- 'Bible torching,' 'neo-satanic' college group planned 'lamb sacrifice' at Clemson University - TheBlaze.com - March 17th, 2017
- The Awolowo Legacy And Its Message For Nigerian Youths | The ... - The News - March 9th, 2017
- Witchcraft is the new feminism - NME.com (blog) - March 5th, 2017
- How Does the New Turkish Curriculum Look Like? Conservative Changes Dominate - PoliticalCritique.org - March 2nd, 2017
- Delusions of Antiquity - Splice Today - February 24th, 2017
- Coming to America: The History of Mail-Order Brides - Utne Reader Online - February 20th, 2017
- Zeal & Ardor Devil is Fine: Album Stream - The Independent - February 20th, 2017
- Deconstructing Pagan religions - Daily News & Analysis - February 18th, 2017
- Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA - Heritage Florida Jewish ... - Heritage Florida Jewish News - February 18th, 2017
- Female cultism in Nigerian universities and other dangerous cults ... - NAIJ.COM - February 15th, 2017
- Russian lawmaker: Ancestors of Jewish politicians 'boiled us in cauldrons' - The Jewish Standard - February 15th, 2017
- Russian Lawmaker Says Jews Once 'Boiled Us In Cauldrons' - Forward - February 14th, 2017
- Unhinged 'Professor' Whose Hissy Fit at NYU Went Viral Turns Out to Be Lobster Porn Artist - PJ Media - February 6th, 2017
- The Week in Art: Sarah Crowner at the Guggenheim's Wright Restaurant and Jake and Dinos Chapman in LA - artnet News - February 6th, 2017
- Christians think 'the Rapture' is coming and the signs are already ... - Metro - February 6th, 2017
- Modern Satanism - Anatomy of a Radical Subculture | Satan - January 22nd, 2017
- An Introduction to LaVeyan Satanism and the Church of Satan - November 23rd, 2016
- F.A.Q. Fundamental Beliefs | churchofsatan.com - November 23rd, 2016
- Modern Satanism: Anatomy of a Radical Subculture by Chris ... - November 10th, 2016
- Historical Satanism - dpjs.co.uk/historical.html - August 19th, 2016
- Modern Satanism | Spiral Nature - July 27th, 2016
- The Modern Satanic Philosophy - Modern Church of Satan - July 25th, 2016