There’s something oddly unique to consuming survival horror game cinema that is reminiscent of watching gladiators fight for their lives — the gore, ruthlessness and will to stay alive are all components humans are oddly drawn to. Voyeurs are intrigued by the human decisions made for self-preservation when life and limb are on the line, which likely accounts for the magnetism and success of Netflix’s new South Korean series, Squid Game.
Squid Game has been viewed by 111 million accounts since debuting on Netflix on September 17, according to the streaming service. The nine-episode series has ranked first place on Netflix’s Top 10 lists in 94 countries around the world.
Many survival game movies or series, including Squid Game, are centered around the root of all evil —money. During the episodes, audiences watch desperate debtors subject themselves to deadly games, normally played by children, as an attempt to amass a large sum of money. A bloody version of red light-green light, tug of war and marbles are a few of the twisted games that ensue.
In Squid Game and in other films like it, the wealthy play God, and like God, usually remain unseen by the participants. Those who hold the money, hold the power, make the rules and spectate. In Squid Game, the people controlling the games wear masks to conceal their identities, just as the big wigs in the series do. The VIPs don animal masks, which speak to the animalistic, dog-eat-dog nature they perpetuate onto the lower-class, as they watch at a safe distance from the playing field. Unable to see the puppet-masters pulling the strings, participants often feel like they’ve been removed from reality which makes them more likely to act as such.
As a result of being plucked from everyday life and thrust into a tournament of death, players become completely disconnected from the real world and fully immersed in the games. Instead of names, the players are called by numbers and must wear a green, numbered tracksuit uniform.
The contenders are stripped of their clothes and other objects linked to their identities for a reason. Stripping pieces linked to their identity, like clothing, helps players lose themselves and act in line with their newfound, twilight-zone-like environment, performing dark acts they never thought they would. Addressing players with numbers in replace of names, and knowing little about one another, also allows contestants to eliminate each other with more ease than killing a person in the real world.
If you’ve recently developed a taste for terror from binging Squid Game, you’re in luck because the concepts listed above reoccur in the horror survival genre.
Scroll on for thrilling horror survival game films similar to Squid Game that put players’ minds, morality, muscle and will to survive to the test:
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