Video games aren’t very nice to Guillermo del Toro. The director known for films like Pacific Rim and Hellboy – as well as the excruciatingly beautiful Pan’s Labyrinth – has spent the last decade trying to get a video game idea into production. The acclaimed director has made no secret of his unabiding love of video games, but it seems that love (and a brilliantly unique visual style) isn’t enough to see one of del Toro’s ideas make it all the way to your local Gamestop.
The latest casualty in Guillermo del Toro’s not-quite video game career is the promising horror survival game Silent Hills. The the ninth entry in the esteemed Silent Hill horror franchise, Silent Hills was the brainchild of del Toro and living video game god Hideo Kojima, the man who brought you the Metal Gear series. Unfortunately, a month ago, Kojima left the project in a very public split with Konami, the publisher funding Silent Hills. Just yesterday, del Toro himself expressed his sadness at not being able to work with Kojima. As he told fans, “It’s not gonna happen and that breaks my greasy heart.”
The sting of Silent Hills’ cancellation is felt even more acutely thanks to a teaser that was released online at the end of last year. The playable teaser, naturally called P.T., was truly something for video game horror fans to get excited about. In the sequence, the player wakes up in a room that looks something like a dungeon. Climbing to his or her feet, the player opens a door on a seemingly normal suburban home. The house looks modern, though it’s in complete disarray. Trash is scattered on the floor, roaches crawl up the walls. It’s pretty unsettling.
As the player walks down a hallway, a news report plays in the background detailing a grisly murder. Turning a corner, there’s another hallway. Two locked doors lead to destinations unknown. At the end of the hallway, a single, bare light bulb illuminates another plain door at the bottom of a short staircase. Players walk down the hall and open the door to find themselves back where they started. From there, P.T. has you walk the same path over and over, changing a few things each time just to make you uncomfortable. The environment gets dingier, lights start blinking on and off, footsteps fall behind you, someone bangs on the other side of a locked door, and there’s a big, horrifying surprise waiting for the intrepid soul willing to do enough laps.
It’s immersive horror of the type that hasn’t been truly explored in a video game in some time. It’s a shame it’ll never see the light of day. Horror fans with access to the Playstation Store would do well to nab a version of P.T. before it gets yanked on April 29.
Today, the entire project has been left on the cutting room floor as Konami officially announced the death of Silent Hills. The company was quick to say that the series wasn’t dead. In a statement sent to Polygon, Konami wrote, “Konami is committed to new Silent Hill titles, however the embryonic Silent Hills project developed with Guillermo del Toro and featuring the likeness of Norman Reedus will not be continued.” At the moment, details are very scarce surrounding the exact reasons the project was shelved. Konami doesn’t exactly have a great history of transparency, so avid fans of video game gossip are likely to be disappointed.
For his part, Guillermo del Toro appears to be taking the news in stride. Del Toro is an avid gamer who has long talked about the distinct narrative opportunities that video games allow. In 2012, he told IGN that certain aspects of gaming, “are very much more bold and inventive and creative sometimes than movies because they are not restricted by budget or ratings. And now once you put “Mature” on a game, you can go really mature. It’s a looser threshold than an R rating, for example.” To a man who loves to create shocking, no-holds-barred horror films, one can imagine the allure that would hold. And for fans of Guillermo del Toro’s inventive tales, the possibility of interacting with his mind is downright tantalizing.
This marks the third game that del Toro hasn’t been able to complete. In 2006, he was excited about Sundown, a zombie survival horror video game that was ultimately shelved (though, del Toro himself claimed that Left 4 Dead looked eerily similar to his ultimate goal). In 2012, the long-gestating InSane was cancelled after developer THQ went down the tubes. At the moment, del Toro has no plans to jump back into game design, but hopes are high that he’ll be back at the drawing board before too long.
That’s not to say that Guillermo del Toro is out of the limelight (not by a long shot). In the next few years the director will be releasing a slew of promising films. There’s Crimson Peak, a gothic horror film starring two of the most talented actors working today, Jessica Chastain and Tom Hiddleston. He’s also got a dark version of Pinnochio in the works that will almost definitely haunt your dreams. If that’s not enough, he’s also slated to helm the newest entries in both the Hellboy and Pacific Rim franchises.