Dario Argento, the writer and director of the 1977 cult classic Suspiria (recently remade in 2018), has decided to turn his talents for visual storytelling to the world of video games with the help of Clod Studio. Argento got his start as a film critic before breaking into screenwriting, helping to pen the script to Sergio Leone's iconic spaghetti western Once Upon a Time in the West. From there, Argento went on to specialize in giallo film, a style and genre of film making that blends pulp thriller with horror and psychological drama. This landed him jobs collaborating with a number of great horror directors like George A. Romero on Dawn of the Dead. Director John Carpenter has frequently cited Argento's work as a major inspiration for the film Halloween.
Unfortunately, outside of a few breakout hits, many of the director's films failed to find a large audience and the critics of his time viewed his work as low-class. Luckily, many of them found cult followings and today many of them are held up as the finest examples of horror and giallo film making. However, in more recent years he's become less active due to age, but at 78 years old he still shows a passion for creating new films and has taken a liking to Clod Studio, becoming their artistic director. "Dreadful Bond is a project that's very close to my themes, to my films, to my dreams: it has something deep that struck me immediately. I got carried away on this new journey with Clod Studio," said Argento while explaining how he had fallen in love with what the game could be.
Clod Studio itself is relatively new. It formed in Milan, Italy in 2016 and has been refining their idea of what Dreadful Bond might become since then, growing to over fifteen people in the years since. Their vision of a giallo-like game exploring issues both psychological and supernatural culminated in a Kickstarter that has unveiled both a short film created in-game with the direction of Dario Argento and a playable demo that allows players to explore Wharton Manor.
Dreadful Bond is an atmospheric, first-person dive into surreal horror. Players take on the role of a mysterious individual whose identity slowly reveals itself as Wharton Manor's estate is explored. The mansion, as one might imagine, is not a happy place. It's glory has long since faded and been replaced with a collection of horrible events that have left their marks strewn through its many rooms. The developers warn that the underlying horror of Dreadful Bond might strike people as an incredibly disturbing and possibly off-putting reveal. Their Kickstarter reiterates this point by saying, "We are serious about this: if you're not willing to face a disturbing truth, do not support this project!"
The mansion plays host to a variety of supernatural entities, visions, and memories. The memories play out in a unique style, they are projected onto walls as shadows. At the heart of all of this lies something called "Empuros," something that inspired the horrific acts that afflicted the people who entered Wharton Manor. The team describes the player's journey as an experience of that individual's personal hell, melding science and mysticism to concepts of love and death.
One of the interesting stylistic choices for Dreadful Bond is the use of hyper-realistic environments mixed with the decision to make the entire production a black and white affair. It even makes use of a subtle film grain effect to harkens back to the game's roots in giallo cinema which also used black-and-white heavily during the 60s and 70s. The team at Clod Studio has created the game using a technique called photogrammetry in which they scan objects and environments that can then be reproduced in-game almost perfectly. Even the shadows seen in-game were captured from real actors performing the scenes. This lends the game a very grounded feeling and heightens the feeling of disconnect when supernatural events begin to occur.
The Kickstarter... might not make its goal. As of this writing, the project has only amassed a little over $24,000 of their $67,000 goal. Less than five days remain for the team to raise the remaining funds. However, the game appears to be far enough along that it seems inconceivable to me that it won't get made. It already has an impressive short film, "For Bridget," that you can watch below and a demo of Dreadful Bond has released that shows off a good chunk of the mansion. At the very least, I hope the world is blessed with the insanity that is a horror game created under the artistic direction of Dario Argento, one of the best horror directors working today.
Honestly, if you are a fan of horror games, this should be on your radar. It looks like a lot of time and care has been poured into this project by a team that feels passionate about horror alongside the input of one of the greats of the genre. The presentation feels fresh and eye-catching. The subject matter seems bold and twisted. Even if this eventually comes out and receives some harsh criticism for elements we haven't seen yet, I have no doubt that Dreadful Bond will be incredibly interesting and unique in a genre that has contented itself with ripping off Amnesia: The Dark Descent for the past seven years. This could be a breath of fresh air in a genre that really needs it.
The Kickstarter ends on the April 24, so be sure to back it if you find it interesting. Dreadful Bond, if successful (and hopefully even if it fails to succeed on Kickstarter) will release for PC and, possibly, PlayStation 4 in late 2020 or early 2021.
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