Every day we walk nonstop in the hallways and hallways. They are dead, boring, empty, bland spaces that deserve no consideration – they are not so much an architectural element to watch as they are infrastructure to be rushed through. Its function is to guide us through buildings, to move us from one room to another. While we often take these in-between areas for granted, rushing through them to reach really important places, they can also be incredibly evocative.
Hallways are uncomfortable places that generate anxiety; The horror type has historically used them to sideline us. They are not usually places of terror or explicit violence, they simply lead us towards them. These are areas that generate fear in advance; the hallway is conducive to horror for its ability to increase suspense by opening the way to the unknown. What is hidden around the corner or behind that door? Each hallway is a world of indeterminate possibilities.
Roger Luckhurst, professor at the University of London and specialist in everything related to terrorism, recently wrote a book on the corridors. It quickly evokes the Resident Evil saga and the various installations of the Umbrella Corporation, where horror is sometimes locked up and compressed in a particularly pure form. Often times, the video game hallway turns into a dungeon (in Resident Evil spin-offs, for example). In these gangster shooters, the restrictive hallway shape allows you to condense an adrenaline slaughter, forcing you to blast your way with bullets or machetes through a tight, zombie-infested space.
On the more cognitive side of the scale we have the Terrifying Hallways of PT, the playable teaser of Kojima and Del Toro that has been taken out of the story and is the definition of a confined space. This little game features a minimalist loop: a single home runner separated by 90 degree turns from which endless possibilities seem to emerge. Gareth Damian Martin, in his article on the repetition of the hallway and corner in PT, identifies the source of the architectural horror at this turn. The player’s inability to see the back of the room and the uncertainty caused by this absence make the game an experience that generates anxiety.
The corner is not the only way for the corridors to create tension, allusions to the unknown or to create jumps and twists. Imagine an endless horizontal hallway, for example, a hallway that seems to have no vanishing points – it stretches out until you can’t see what’s at the end. Luckhurst also points out “the appalling anticipation generated by every door the player walks through.” If the hallway simply leads us from one room or event to another, then every door and threshold is the occasion for a terrifying encounter. Horror is often considered the most effective when its true source is unknown.
Much of Luckhurst’s book describes the hall’s long history, from its utopian beginnings to its modern connection to dystopias. While I think the hallway’s special structure is important, in reality the historical context of this maligned architectural form is what really allows the horror to ferment. The associations it generates are those that create the captivating atmosphere of the corridors that we know so well.
In the ancient world, temples had what Luckhurst called “towering hall structures” – passages that anticipated an imminent divine encounter. From the start, the hallways had anticipation and revelation among their intrinsic features. They are also imbued with “mythical labyrinthine resonances, referring to ideas of lost souls and wandering monsters.” Likewise, games use lanes to isolate, disorient, and sometimes attack. ” The word “runner” has its origins in Latin for “to run”, a verb that all players are used to. The original corridors, as Luckhurst explains, were city perimeters designed for messengers to move at full speed in times of crisis. Long before the hallways became an archetypal location for horror genre chase scenes, they were built with the intention of being walked through by the user.
In the 18th century, architect John Vanbrugh constructed Blenheim Palace, one of the first buildings to use internal corridors to connect each room. The Baroque palace, with its symmetrical and organized layout, was built for the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough. These names will be known to those who watch the 2018 film La Favorita, which features a dispute between the Duchess and her younger cousin, both eager to become the court favorite of the Queen. Although the film was not shot or filmed in Blenheim Palace, its expansive dark galleries and secret passageways seem to be imbued with the same characteristics as the modern hallway. “In the shadows… amoral anonymity, illicit conspiracies and sexual corruption” seem to be emerging, writes Luckhurst.
When the wealthy created corridors in their large houses and palaces to distinguish between their private space and the spaces of servants, the corridor also became a state tool of rational organization. In the 18th century, hallways adopted new designs for prisons, hospitals, and madhouses. They became a means of distributing space logically, and even reformers began to believe that they could “rearrange their own subjectivity.” In Madhouses, “taxonomies of madness” were “attributed to architecture,” with emerging states recognizing the psychic faculties of brick and cement.
Although the corridor started as part of a utopian project to improve the health of society, the corridors of power and discipline came to be viewed with suspicion. Luckurst explains that places like Madhouses began to “be seen as environments that led to madness rather than a cure.”
“The infinite and anonymous corridor is one of the founding images of the totalitarian condition, the individual absorbed by the great structures of the State.”
These austere and dehumanizing corridors are a potential source of terror. There is something remarkably awe-inspiring about the empty halls of a school at night or walking through countless antiseptic hospital wards, but again, the Mad House is the one that appears over and over again in fictions. gender. Horror titles like Outlast or The Evil Within make use of these locations, but even stealth and action games like Thief: Deadly Shadows and Batman: Arkham Asylum are recreated in the oppressive atmospheres that the hallways of mad houses naturally summon. .
In the twentieth century, we began to distrust, even directly despise, these bureaucratic labyrinths. The austere, monotonous hallway was a “Kafkian annihilation of the self,” architecture that categorically cooled us down and turned us into instruments that were moved from side to side and manipulated. This historical background is what creates the discomfort we feel when we walk down a hallway, even though we know there isn’t a monster waiting for us at the end. We look at the corridors with suspicion, we walk through them with nervousness, we distrust those we find there and we observe each doorknob with suspicion.

Resident Evil 2, which recently received a remake, does a great job of generating stress through its claustrophobic hallways, but what’s most interesting is the specific context of its setting. The Spencer Mansion in the first Resident Evil and the Baker family residence in Resident Evil 7 are homes that plunge into the realm of the impossible. These buildings make the familiar weird and affect the psychological drama of their family life, while Resident Evil 2 is set in a cold, calculated municipal building. Raccoon City Police Station is a bureaucratic maze just like 19th century prisons and hospitals.
Inspired by Osaka City Hall built in 1918, the Resident Evil 2 Police Station is a huge public building that aims to highlight the power of the state and overwhelm the individual. So when we walk through the halls of the police station, we sense that something is wrong. You never feel calm in its inhuman corridors. Unlike the haunted returns and repetitive temporality of the basements and attics of the original game, the halls of the suite represent a superficial and insipid modernity. It’s the difference between The Haunted House, with its metaphors on the conscious and unconscious mind, and something more similar to the terrifying hallways of the Overlook Hotel that Stanley Kubrick featured in The Shining.
According to Luckhust, the layout of the corridor of the Overlook Hotel is “an uninterrupted space which unfolds and which (…) limits the action but multiplies the number of threats that can come from the screen”. The hallway of the “anonymous and historic” hotel perfectly captures our existential angst. It is an absolutely alienating space where all “individual lives are normalized” and identical doors, tasteless murals and carpet patterns stretch endlessly. It is not uncommon for us to feel anxious in these places of transition.

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Polish studio Bloober Team recreated these haunting hallways in great detail in their latest game, Layers of Fear 2. Inspired by movie history, the game puts you as an actor in a flamboyant new director’s production. disturbs. The action takes place in an Ocean Liner (essentially a floating hotel). The developers bend their aisles and create PT-style curls, albeit in much longer combinations. Here are a thousand different variations of the terrifying and tormented hallway of the hotel! It’s confusing and twisted, but in my opinion, Bloober’s previous game, Observer, creates the best lanes.
Observe, which is a horror game but also a science fiction game, takes place in a huge residential complex in Krakow (Poland) of the future. According to Roger Luckhurst, we now live in an “anti-corridor” world. For the past few decades, we’ve avoided hallways and instead opted for open-concept homes, huge glass atriums, and cabin workspaces. It is a turn not only against the dominant institutional spaces such as the mad houses, but also against social housing. In other words: it’s political.

Former British Prime Minister David Cameron once described “the brutal skyscrapers and dark alleys” as “a gift to criminals and drug dealers”. This perception is not new. Architect Oscar Newman defined the residential skyscrapers in his studio in the 1970s as an “underground world of fear and crime”. Instead of blaming poor city planning or growing poverty, community life and even the design of the hallways themselves have been blamed for the horrors that have emerged.
As in Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange, where the brutalist Southmere Estate building in Thamesmead was the dystopian backdrop for Alex and his hooligan street gang, the Krakow housing in Observer is a decrepit opposite full of illicit criminal hypotheses fulfilled. of concrete. A mutant serial killer wanders its hallways, and the hallways themselves become an antisocial no man’s land.

Another recent release that delves into the haunting interiors of public housing buildings is Devotion by Red Candle Games. Set in 1980s Taiwan, the game explores not only the narrow confines of your old apartment, with an L-shaped hallway straight out of PT, but also the longest and twisted hallways of the apartment complex itself. even. even. Time and time again you approach the “house” from the outside, the stairs, and the anonymous, terrifying hall that seems to revolve around you.
The Devotion housing complex is dark, shabby, and neglected, but it is also the historical backdrop for the oppressive state control, classifying and compartmentalizing human life on a large scale, which causes us distress as we walk through its hallways. . Red Candle Games is now facing a different kind of deletion as the game rolled off stores in a state-approved debug, its distributors’ commercial license revoked.
In the institutional failures of the corridor and its passage from utopia to dystopia, we find the source of the terror that this architecture generates. Video game developers can do wonders with the narrow, compressed hallway structure, but it’s their long history that makes these spaces so disturbing. Lightly scratch the surface of your rigid walls or the abstract decorations of your rugs and you will find something dark and unpleasant.

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