Lovingly called by its community of killers and survivors the Horror Hall of Fame, Dead By Daylight is a massive collection of quirky monsters and iconic villains that have driven people to use nightlights for decades. The Asymmetric Murder Festival is home to a roster of violent villains and their victims – from movies and TV shows to video games. Freddy Krueger, Ghostface, the Demogorgon, and Pyramid Head all meet under one roof, so it’s clear why developer Behavior earned this moniker. With Pinhead on the horizon, I’m free to start crossing my fingers and flooding the frequent Behavior fan polls again with my number one suggestion – add Ju-On’s Kayako.
If you instruct me to pick a movie, I’ll take us right to the horror section, so it should come as no surprise that Takashi Shimizu’s disturbing and depressing Ju-On series is my favorite. Ju-On from 2002: The Grudge is my favorite, not to be confused with the American story of the following years. It might just be the best version of something really terrifying that stays with you in bed at night. While I can long shake off the unease I feel from killers like Michael Myers, Ju-On’s furious Kayako Saeki is still the reason I make sure my feet are covered at night. This is why I can’t look into the dark corners of my attic and why I have a lingering fear of stairs that I can’t see the top of.
I’d bet that for most horror lovers, Kayako – and its equally popular cousin Ring, Sadako – stands out as one of the genre’s most memorable haunts. While I grew up with scares like Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street, there’s something in the nature of Kayako’s twisted tale that really makes his films sit down with you. And while I think the plot threads and fears are what make Shimizu’s work the definitive artwork that belongs to any “Horror Hall of Fame” as a centerpiece, it’s also just the nature and movement of Kayako that makes her feel like an incredible Dead by Daylight worthy.
More than anything else, I’m constantly amazed at Behavior’s ability to break its own game in the best possible way and then fix it. That is, there are a lot of killers with weird new mechanics that feel like they don’t really fit in or will work with the way Dead by Daylight plays, but it does. still anyway. It can be a bit tricky at first, but it ends up working. Killers like Victor and Charlotte Deshayes have been reunited into one, making for an odd duo that you swap between matches. The Resident Evil expansion introduced Nemesis, and with it came zombies that roam the maps attacking survivors. The Demogorgon can use Upsidedown to warp quickly. So when I think about Kayako, and how much I fear it won’t work, I realize it’s a bit of a silly block in a game that continues to be so inventive.
When introducing new antagonists, Behavior doesn’t seem to really force its in-game gadgets to make everyone function the same. Instead, we get these neat little murderers who all play differently enough that everyone feels like a unique experience. For the original characters, this seems less of a problem, but for iconic horror villains, I’m not interested in interpretations that seem totally foreign to their source material.
Kayako’s supernatural contortions and creepy crawl are the elements that make her look like a flawed fit – I don’t know how you add a killer dragging the ground in Dead by Daylight. But that’s part of the draw, isn’t it? It’s not as if Kayako has never stood upright before, but the front crawl, the terrifying dragging of his weight, is perhaps one of his most striking and definitive traits. Figuring out how she would go about pulling herself through windows and around pallets is a winning formula. If you add her unforgettable, tense gurgling sound, she once again becomes someone who makes Dead by Daylight really creepy.
And then there’s her baby boy, Toshio Saeki, who is an important piece of his imagery. The mechanics of Dead by Daylight with Doctor – a killer who hallucinates himself in front of survivors to reveal their location – feels like an easy dot connection. Ju-On’s rich lore built on the Japanese myth around avenging and angry ghosts seems a bit like a treasure trove of perks, though I find it hard to think of how we would implement the iconic haunted house from the franchise. I think we would settle for one of the other lesser-known places where Kayako terrorizes its victims.
Behavior is a brilliant team. They’ve proven this enough with their iterations on Dead by Daylight, so I’ve long since given up on the idea that there might be too much ordering when it comes to collaboration requests. For the untalented and unconscious person like me in the game development world, I have a hard time understanding how, conceptually, we could take Ju-On and put it in an asymmetrical horror game, but that’s a request that I bring to more imaginative creatives which means a lot to me. Ju-On looks like such a great cultural setting in horror movies that I don’t want to keep imagining Dead by Daylight without it. While I know Behavior must receive thousands of requests, it’s Ju-On that stands out as something that truly deserves a spot.
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