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Chiller Instincts

Children of the nineties: do you remember being abandoned at skating rinks for what felt like days at a time?

Perhaps that was just me even though I was never actually abandoned at a skating rink, but these skating rink moments felt like an eternity in this big, dark oval rooms where neon lights from the rink, from the snack stand, from the video games were all you had to see with. I feel like there were weeks where I was left skating (or bowling or playing) in some environment that was not my home but a “fun place” for kids to participate in a vague sport with an arcade. I never actually did “the activity” (skating, bowling, etc.) but I almost always played the video games in the left-of-center arcade, a place always filled with truly bizarre games that dedicated arcades left out.

One of them was Chiller.

Chiller was a particularly gruesome, ridiculous horror-shooter from 1986 that involved torture porn before the concept was created in the mid-aughts. The game involved shooting bodies on stretchers and guillotines before shifting to kill skeletons and giant disembodied heads wandering down hallways and graveyards with however many arcade bullets you had. It was very scary, in a 1991 way, because pixelated gore left so much for your mind to wander off with.

I remembered the game this past Summer, while in New York for a family thing. I was hanging out with friends, chatting about horror video games, discussing disgusting games as a way to outdo each other. I insisted that the game I played as a child was the most fucked up. They didn’t believe me. Then I Googled “hallway, horror, video game, 1980s” and found a video to show everyone that, yes, that game I played when unattended by adults was way fucked up. It was Mortal Kombat before parents knew that they had to worry about something like Mortal Kombat

The game apparently did really terribly but became a mild hit overseas, marketed elsewhere when domestic buyers didn’t bite on the gore. The game is also renowned for being so highly contested for it’s insane depictions of horror. It’s gross, sure, but also crudely done in terms of its representation of such subjects. Is an 8-bit rendition of a head being squeezed to a pulp gross? Not really. But conceptually? Fucking disgusting.

It’s absurd but it brings me back, to being a small Kyle, trying to hold a giant gun to aim at ghosts passing through digital sewers so that they won’t kill the bodies that I want to kill. And you wonder why I love horror so much. If you’re intrigued by the game, watch a walkthrough above and a more comprehensive exploration of the game below.

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