Sep­tem­ber 1999

Sin­is­ter suburbs in Sep­tem­ber 1999.

PC GAMER (US) - - CONTENTS - By Tom Sykes

It’s hard to imag­ine now, but found footage hor­ror films used to have real power. There was an el­e­ment of verisimil­i­tude to The Blair Witch Project and The Last Broad­cast that made them all the more ef­fec­tive at get­ting un­der your skin. There hasn’t been much of note since, but 98de­make’s Sep­tem­ber 1999 is the most un­set­tling found footage ex­pe­ri­ence I’ve come across in ages. Its un­can­nily do­mes­tic set­ting feels like a real place, al­beit one you’ll be des­per­ate to get away from. In the last minute alone, roughly 80 bil­lion free hor­ror games have been re­leased that use a VHS cam­era fil­ter to hear­ken back to the ’90s, but this is the first I’ve en­coun­tered that feels more real be­cause of it, that feels closer to pho­to­re­al­ism with use of flick­er­ing and warp­ing noise over­lay­ing the screen. The 3D mod­els and tex­tures that com­prise this dingy sub­ur­ban house must be ex­tremely high qual­ity, while any gaps in the un­canny val­ley have been filled in thanks to that hefty VHS smear.

Pre­sented as an ac­tual reel of tape, Sep­tem­ber 1999 be­gins with­out any menu or in­tro­duc­tion, but with the cam­era sim­ply film­ing an empty room. Con­trol­ling that cam­era, you’ll ex­plore the house a tiny bit, as un­set­tling sounds sug­gest un­sightly things just off in the dis­tance, and as jar­ring jump cuts grad­u­ally bring the hor­ror closer. There’s an end­ing, which is as am­bigu­ous as it is toe-curl­ing, be­fore the game sud­denly cuts out, the tape un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously switched off.

Hor­ror is more ef­fec­tive when it’s pre­sented in a mat­ter-of-fact man­ner, as it is here. There are no jump scares, and no mu­sic cues to re­mind you that it isn’t real.

It’s not clear whether you’re the vic­tim or vil­lain.

Now, to send the tape off to You’ve Been Framed.

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