The Symbolisms of The Evil Within

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Symbols are used extensively in video games, although many times we inevitably focus on the action factor and we may not notice them or not give them enough attention. Symbolism in itself is a great means of conveying hints and highlighting stuff, often shedding light on aspects that look secondary but are, in fact, much more important.

With its elaborate and complex story and its unforgettable characters, The Evil Within is a fortunate blend between Jane Jensen's Gray Matter and the Resident Evil game series. It is one of those captivating games that go far beyond the action level and, although its gameplay is of a very high standard, it offers a good deal of other elements that are worth noticing and analyzing. A game with such heavy imagery and such a powerful and compelling atmosphere could but feature numerous symbols, direct or indirect, major or minor, but all equally essential for a better understanding of scenes, characters, actions and reactions.

There are certain symbols that are very obvious, like Ruvik's monsters which represent several states of his mind and are depictions of his traumatic memories and as those affected his life and how he got to eventually live through them. But there are also some others that are worth examining, as they often develop along with the story's progression.

Male and female symbols

The men and women in The Evil Within carry strong symbolisms which are manifested in several different ways. The main characters are four men (Sebastian Castellanos, Ruben Victoriano aka Ruvik, Joseph Oda and Leslie Withers) and three women (Juli Kidman, Laura Victoriano and Tatiana Gutierrez).

Sebastian as the archetypical male is the good and brave hero who struggles to survive in the collapsing world created by Ruvik's twisted mind. A gifted and educated detective with great skills, fair thinking, high intelligence, physical strength and attractive appearance, Sebastian, apart from symbolizing Good, gathers all the good elements that make a man admirable. In this light, he symbolizes masculinity with all its positive connotations.

Sebastian is a brave and tormented hero

His rival awe is, of course, Ruvik, a clear symbol of Evil, who has all the opposite characteristics: he is evil, ugly, deranged, ruthless and, essentially, a coward. Ruvik symbolizes a crooked and weak masculinity that, deep down is, techincally and practically, almost non-existent. His only strong element is his ingenious mind which, however, he is using for evil activity. As he gains control over Sebastian, he can see that Sebastian is someone with an equally powerful mind which, however, he uses only for good things. Ruvik wants to infect Sebastian and attempt to make use of his bright brain for his own twisted plans.

Ruvik is an evil spirit that attempts to taint Sebastian

Interestingly, Sebastian's female rival awe is not Kidman, as one would expect, but Laura. Ruvik's sister is an extremely strong and aggressive ghost with the terrifying form of a multi-armed spider-like creature. Pretty much like Myra in The Evil Within 2, Laura is the symbol of the Matriarch; a protector who, just like Myra, will attack lethaly anyone who attempts to harm the person she loves the most.

If she happens to catch Sebastian, she will kill him in a most vicious way, establishing her victory over a man who is a symbol of masculinity, taking her revenge, through him, against the people who caused the injust ending of her life and those who murdered her brother. The fact that Sebastian is a good person does not interest her; for her, and for Ruvik who made a monster out of her in his memories, he is only a symbol and he is what he stands for, albeit unwillingly. Her soul won't rest unless Ruvik is stopped.

If Laura catches Sebastian, he will be defenseless against her vicious strikes

Kidman, for her own part, is more like an outcast, since Sebastian considers her a traitor; the irony is that she is an outsider in Mobius as well, as in there too she is partially a rebel: she won't comply to their orders and even if she will, it is because she has no other choice. We could say that Kidman's female identity is just typical; her role goes far beyond her status, and at this point the fact that she is a woman does not matter.

Everybody calls her Kidman or Kid - even Leslie. It is as if her given name is being ignored by everyone, even herself. Kidman is the actual puppet of Mobius, and not Sebastian or Joseph and the others, because the latters were trapped without them knowing, while Kidman became consciously a part of Mobius, falsely believing that she was a valuable asset when, in fact, she was expendable, a harsh truth that is revealed to her by Ruvik himself. In that sense, Kidman is a neutral character that acts like some sort of wild card: although her essential role is crucial, she never exposes too much, keeping herself half-hidden in the dark, so as to be able to adapt her strategy to any given situation.

Juli is merely a pawn for Mobius and she is as expendable as the others

Joseph, on the other hand, Sebastian's partner and friend, is the symbol of friendship and loyalty on one level, but on another he also expresses the well-hidden dark side that all people have and are too afraid to let it show, but will easily succumb to it when found in a vulnerable state. Joseph, who always appears to be collected, conservative and down-to-earth, discovers an evil and twisted side within him that is full of complex desires and dark thoughts. What unsettles him is the realisation that he is starting to like this dark side and part of himself desires to turn.

Joseph confesses to Sebastian that he actually wants to turn into a Haunted

Leslie, the albino kid with a mental disorder, is chased by Ruvik who wants to use him as a host in order to get out of STEM. In the end of the game, Sebastian catches a glimpse of Leslie walking out of the hospital and it is as if he is a different person. It is clearly implied at this point that Ruvik finally achieved his goal and managed to be reborn in Leslie's body. The symbolism associated with Leslie is very clear, as he is the ignorant carrier of the evil in the world.

Ruvik will do whatever it takes to be reborn through Leslie

Tatiana, the nurse who is in charge of the safe clinic where Sebastian can resort so as to upgrade skills and open lockers containing useful items and supplies, may not be a part of the main plot but still her role is vital in the game. She is a good-looking young woman with a stern face that shows no emotion and talks to Sebastian with the same tone always, no matter what she says. She seems to be unaffected by what happens around her and she is unable or unwilling to give Sebastian any info about the situation. As it is revealed by the end of the game, Tatiana is actually part of Mobius. She can be seen walking past Kidman and she is the one to whom Juli says to leave Sebastian, faking his death so as to help him escape.

Tatiana's familiar face (left) is clearly discerned as she passes behind Kidman

Having played The Evil Within 2 and knowing about how 'Sebastian's Room' was a place created by Mobius using Sebastian's memories, we can deduce that the safe clinic in The Evil Within was a place also formed by Mobius in some way. Tatiana was a nurse working at Beacon, who one day disappeared - probably, like Juli and others, willingly joining Mobius. Being a member of Mobius and obviously among the ones in charge of the STEM room, she was several times present in there. It is more than likely that Sebastian saw her in a possible waking interval that lasted for fractions of seconds, and in his STEM reality she took the role of a nurse as Sebastian's last memories before entering STEM were in the hospital.

Throughout the game, Tatiana acts as a counselor for Sebastian and many times she speaks like his conscience, although her words are generally cryptic and, often, confusing. Tatiana mostly represents Sebastian's thoughts that are messed up in the state he is in and are trying to take shape, in an attempt to explain the nightmare in which he is trapped and from were there seems to be no way out.

Symbols of a destroyed childhood

Ruvik was a child prodigy with an eccentric and lonely personality. He spent his days doing experiments that were particularly gross - in a vision, Sebastian sees him slicing the cut head of a pig. Nonetheless, he was a scientific genious who had his own way of thinking and was, inevitably marginalized by his family. The only person who understood him and cared for him was his older sister, Laura. Ruvik adored his sister and was very attached to her, she was the world to him.

Sebastian sees, through a vision, how close Ruvik and Laura were

Neither Ruvik nor Laura were happy kids. They were living isolated in their family estate, and they only had each other. Ruvik, in particular, never experienced a normal childhood, something that becomes even more stressed by the total lack of things like toys or family souvenirs, for example, in the rooms of the Victoriano mansion. The house looks more like a vintage museum, and several of the paintings that decorate its walls have negative and depressing imagery.

On the contrary, the items that symbolize Ruvik and Laura's ruined childhood can be seen scattered in several random places like the city streets or the hospital. Since it is through Ruvik's mind that the plot progresses, it is expected that he has sort of scattered fragments of his memories everywhere around.

The first item that we come across that is related to this symbolism is a vintage doll that is sitting naked on a table in the basement of Beacon, in Inner Recesses. Sebastian comes across it as he is making his way through the dark and hostile halls of the hospital.

The doll has something disturbing about it

Such dolls can be seen thrown around in the sewers in a couple more places and the feeling that you get by looking at them is rather disturbing. Pretty much like Alfred Ashford's creepy dolls in Resident Evil: Code Veronica, these dolls here accentuate Ruvik's deranged mind and act as a creepy reminder of his presence.

Later on in The Craftsman's Tools, Sebastian enters a bizarre dark room that looks like it came straight out of a nightmarish amusement park. When Sebastian accidentally activates a trap mechanism, the whole place becomes operational and it is revealed that it is in fact a lethal carousel that consists of a rotating blade and hanging cages most of which are empty but in one or two there are mannequins inside. As the blade and cages turn, a beautiful but haunting circus music is heard in the background, creating a shocking contrast between possible childhood memories associated with circuses and amusement parks, and the evil and twisted world where Sebastian is trapped.

The carousel of horror reflects Ruvik's distorted childhood memories

So in Ruvik's mind, all the happy things that are associated with childhood take a negative and evil shape and many times are used as murderous means. Further down, however, in Reunion, when Sebastian finds himself in the ruined city, he sees a normal-looking carousel among the debris. But if you think that this image is soothing, you are pretty much mistaken. The carousel looks nice and is in good shape, complete with its horses and all, but it is operational and this is what actually makes it creepy. The horses are rotating and the same circus musing can be heard coming from it, as if the carousel is haunted - which it most probably is.

The ghost carousel is a beautiful but frightening image

At the end of Reunion, Sebastian catches up with Juli and Leslie at a playground. This place seems to come out of a happy dream, with its bright colours and bubbles floating in the air. However the several parts of the equipment are in motion, as if someone is actually using them, which automatically creates the chilling feeling that the playground is haunted.

The colourful playground is more like a trap

A place directly connected to children, the playground symbolizes not only Ruvik's destroyed childhood but also Leslie's and Juli's. When arriving there, Leslie seems momentarily happy, as if he found something familiar; however it will be seconds before Ruvik arrives to look for him. As for Juli, we know from her story that her childhood was not simply destroyed; she actually never had a proper childhood. The playground is more like an illusion, an evil trap aiming at hitting a nerve and sentimentally weakening the people involved in the scene.

In the Executioner episode, we come across several graffiti on the walls of the Victoriano manor and the cells of Ruvik's secret labs, that depict morbid scenes related to the protagonists and Ruvik's victims, that look like they are drawn by a child, but they are most probably made by someone mocking a child's drawing style.

Joseph's graffiti is like it is making fun of him

These graffiti are rather strong symbols of a corrupted childhood since their themes are in striking contrast with their style.

Alice In Wonderland

The emblematic novel by Lewis Carroll is, inevitably, one of the most popular sources of inspiration in all expressions of culture that followed. And rightly so, as it is one of the most original pieces of work of modern literature. There are several symbols in The Evil Within that allude to Alice, the most prominent being the mirrors, through which Sebastian can teleport from the safe clinic to Krimson City and vice versa.

The mirror is a portal through which Sebastian moves between areas

The mirror, both as an element of the plot and as a symbol, appears in both The Evil Within and The Evil Within 2 and its role is, in both, pretty similar. In the first game, however, there is yet one more strong symbol that reflects Alice in Wonderland: just like Alice followed the White Rabbit in Wonderland, Sebastian follows Leslie in the deepest realms of Ruvik's mind. In connection to the White Rabbit, Leslie is the 'white kid': dressed in white, with white hair since he is an albino, and with skin white as snow.

Leslie appears several times in Sebastian's path, but in An Evil Within his role becomes much stronger: he literally guides Sebastian through the final stages of Ruvik's madness. At that point, he is partially possessed by Ruvik as he seems to randomly switch from his standard fast and haunched walking to a normal one, and during those intervals his senseless muttering is replaced by regular talking.

The 'white kid' serves as a guide and as a bait for Sebastian

Duality symbols and the Alter Ego

Everything in the story of The Evil Within works with mirrors - both literal and metaphorical - and opposites. There are the mirrors through which Sebastian moves between places, and there is also the mirrored and, essentially reversed and distorted - version of reality. Almost all the characters involved exist in two versions: their real one, which is in a sleeping state, and the virtual one that is wandering inside STEM. Both Sebastian and Juli, at some point while in STEM, have the chance to see their sleeping versions in the tubs. Ruvik appears in two actual states as well: one is his ghost form which floats around, and the other is his brain that is serving as the Core of STEM.

Juli cannot believe her eyes when she sees that she is also connected to STEM

Very early in the game, specifically at the start of Remnants, Sebastian is experiencing a weird vision or living nightmare during which he is being carried through a hospital corridor, tied on a bed, by a doctor and a nurse. Both these people appear nowhere else in the story and there is something very strange about them: the nurse's face is motionless, as if she is going through a trance; and the doctor has an uncanny facial similarity with William Butler Yeats.

The unnamed doctor (left) looks like the Irish poet Yeats (right)

What is even more interesting is that Yeats, in his book 'Ideas of Good and Evil', mentions the following in relation to Magic:

"I believe in the practice and philosophy of what we have agreed to call magic, in what I must call the evocation of spirits, though I do not know what they are, in the power of creating magical illusions, in the visions of truth in the depths of the mind when the eyes are closed; and I believe in three doctrines, which have, as I think, been handed down from early times, and been the foundations of nearly all magical practices. These doctrines are:1. That the borders of our minds are ever shifting, and that many minds can flow into one another, as it were, and create or reveal a single mind, a single energy. 2. That the borders of our memories are as shifting, and that our memories are a part of one great memory, the memory of Nature herself. 3. That this great mind and great memory can be evoked by symbols. I often think I would put this belief in magic from me if I could, for I have come to see or to imagine, in men and women, in houses, in handicrafts, in nearly all sights and sounds, a certain evil, a certain ugliness, that comes from the slow perishing through the centuries of a quality of mind that made this belief and its evidences common over the world."
Yeats, poet, playwright and essayist, had shown a great interest for the occult and even participated in events centered around the summoning of spirits. All that he describes in the above lines seems to connect strongly with several elements of The Evil Within, in relation to the function of the minds and the idea of evil.

At the end of the scene, the doctor and the nurse leave and seconds later a hideous creature appears from the bottom of Sebastian's bed, crawls over him and attempts to attack him. The scene ends abruptly, but we have the chance to see that the creature is the Alter Ego, one of Ruvik's monstrosities; it is tall and lean, with huge claws instead of fingernails and two heads - one being relatively normal and another looking like a bundle of skin and blood.

The Alter Ego attacking Sebastian could also imply his own inner struggle

This creature is the result of connecting to STEM a person with personality disorder. The several personalities that this person has, manifest themselves via the two heads sticking out of the same body. Apart from its direct symbolism, this creature also symbolizes the identity crisis that several of the characters experience in the story: Kidman is a double agent, Jospeh struggles to suppress his evil side, Laura was a good-hearted girl but became a vicious killer after death.

Sebastian manages to maintain his mind in a relatively sane and clear state, although this experience took its toll on him, as we can see in The Evil Within 2, where his nightmares not only had not gone away, but they are back with a vengeance in the form of yet another creature with strong symbolism, the frightening Anima.

Anima has the form of a creepily tall woman who is able to float in the air, move very fast and pass through walls. She is usually heard singing a distorted version of Claire de Lune - the piece that Ruvik is playing on the piano in one of Sebastian's visions, which is also the theme that is heard when he is near a teleporting mirror. Anima is clad in torn robes, like Ruvik; and she has long black hair and several arms, just like the monster version of Laura. Every time she appears, the environment turns blue and/or is distorted, like what happens whenever Ruvik shows up. Her attacks will kill Sebastian instantly, like Ruvik's and Laura's.

Anima (center) is like a hybrid of Ruvik (left) and Laura (right)

The Anima is a sum-up of Sebastian's haunting memories from Beacon, which in turn were associated with Ruvik, therefore Ruvik is again responsible for a good deal of Sebastian's mental and emotional tortures in Union. The fact that Ruvik is still there somehow implies that he still manages to dominate part of Sebastian's mind, something that seems to get to an end when Sebastian, after one final encounter with the Anima, discovers that his old self is still trapped in STEM and shoots him. This reflects a scene from the first game where Sebastian, while being connected to STEM, visions his virtual self aiming and shooting his real sleeping self.

Sebastian's vision is as creepy as it is perplexing

This vision symbolizes Sebastian's desperate attempts to escape from the situation where he is trapped, but also serves as a conveyor of a message that Mobius tries to impose on him and which implies that he too has an evil and ruthless side, and that if they want, they can make him act as it serves them best. In other words, Mobius attempts to create a false alter ego of Sebastian so as to manipulate him.

Later on in Losing Grip On Ourselves, Sebastian finds himself again in the same hospital room of Remnants, with Dr 'Yeats' and the ghostly nurse above him. As the doctor approaches Sebastian to shoot him with an injection, his figure briefly switches to Kidman's a couple of times. Since we know that Kidman was indeed hovering over Sebastian while he was connected to STEM, it becomes clear that in this scene, it is actually Kidman who comes to inject Sebastian - the environment around momentarily changes to the STEM room when Kidman 'replaces' the doctor - and, in Sebastian's vision, she changes form.

Kidman (right) takes the form of a man in Sebastian's vision (left)

So why Sebastian's mind decides to envision Kidman as a man? This is partially related to what I mentioned earlier in 'Male and Female Symbols'. It is as if Kidman has no gender, and, to an extend, no personality. Being manipulated by Mobius, she has lost herself and her attitude is marginally automated. It may also be a subconscious connotation that the sedated Sebastian makes from her surname's ending: he briefly manages to see her, he recognizes her as Kidman, but he is too drugged to be able to think clearly and his mind creates in front of him the figure of a man (Kid-Man). It also implies his realization that he doesn't really know her at all.

The masked enemies

Among the Haunted that Sebastian encounters, there are a few whose face is covered with a horrifying smiling mask. These enemies, although being regular Haunted, are a bit stronger than the others and they usually carry guns, molotov bombs or knives. They are extremely creepy and frightening to look at, and they seem to be one more extravagant result of Ruvik's doings aiming at terrorizing Sebastian.

The masked Haunted are both lethal and freaky

The mask as a symbol stands for everything that is concealed, ambiguous or hypocritical, therefore the masked men seem to be derived out of Ruvik's subconscious, expressing all that is still hidden or deeply buried. The Guardian from The Evil Within 2, the monster with the frozen smile and the chilling laughter, vaguely alludes to them.

Interestingly enough, the mask brings us back to W.B. Yeats, through whom it is linked with the Alter Ego. Early in his career, the Irish poet had shown interest in the modern psychological studies of the time about the subconscious and was fascinated with the concept of a divided self or a self which is covered by a mask. According to Yeats, the mask, which symbolizes the alter-ego or a protective shield, mainly acts as a metaphor for an internal struggle. In that sense, the masked enemy is a more vague and general depiction of the Alter Ego, which, in turn, subconsciously uses its dual identity as a shield so as to be able to handle its different personalities. So we could say that the masked men are a lighter variation of the Alter Ego enemies.


Mannequins appear in several places in The Evil Within. Sebastian sees quite a few in the Victoriano estate, and close to the end of this stage he reaches a nightmarish room full of cages and giant mannequin heads. While being chased by yet one more of Ruvik's monsters, he has to dash through a corridor where more mannequin heads are threatening to crush him. The mannequin heads, clearly associated with the mind, symbolize the power of Ruvik's brain who was total control over everything and everyone, including their private throughts and their own memories.

The giant mannequin heads are part of Ruvik's freak show

Later in Reunion, Sebastian enters a back yard full of mannequins and mannequin body parts. Mannequins symbolize illusions and everything that is false and fake. Moreover, as they cannot move and have no will of their own, they represent a static state, where people are unable to move on or decide for themselves. The mannequins are hinting at the heroes that what they are going through is a deception, something that is not real, something that is essentially staged and which they have no power to control.

The Subway

A standard symbol of the subconscious, the subway comes into play close to the end of the game. As Sebastian gets closer and closer to Ruvik, he infiltrates the depths of his paranoia and enters his subconscious which takes the form of a destroyed and spooky subway. Abandoned platforms, ghost trains, chilling ambient sounds, lethal and vicious monsters, create an atmosphere that pretty much sums up Ruvik's corrupted mind.

The deeper Sebastian gets inside Ruvik's mind, the more complex things become.

The subconscious plays a very important role in the story of The Evil Within. As the characters are connected to STEM and are abruptly thrown in bizarre sceneries made of Ruvik's 'jumbled up memories', as Joseph comments, their own mind travels back and forth and their own subconscious mixes their memories with Ruvik's. The subway acts both as a metaphorical means of transportation through this nightmarish voyage and as the tangible depiction of a place that is basically mental.

The Sunflower Symbolism

The sunflower is a dominant and recurring symbol in The Evil Within, as it is associated with Ruvik and is part of his memories. Sunflowers can be seen in several spots, first as hints and then connected directly to Ruvik. As a symbol, the sunflower represents power, adoration, lasting happiness. It also symbolizes the strong bond between two people. For Ruvik, it is also a constant reminder of the day when he and Laura were heavily injured in a fire caused by the local farmers, who burned the sunflower field of his family, subsequently leading to Laura's death and his own disfigurement.

Early in the story, Sebastian finds a room which shows a stage from Ruvik's life. The wall is covered with calculations and scientific designs as part of his research, and on one corner there is a sketch of a sunflower.

The sunflower was always Ruvik's symbol

An interesting fact about the sunflowers is that Alan Turing started a research in 1954, attempting to prove that the spirals on the sunflowers correspond to the Fibonacci sequence. He died before being able to complete his study, and although independant experiments carried out afterwards showed that his theory could not be proven in its entirety, still all this shows that the sunflowers were not randomly chosen to be associated with such a complicated character like Ruvik, as they are rather complex and peculiar flowers; not to mention that Turing, just like Ruvik, was a scientific genious.

Ruvik uses the sunflowers as some sort of guiding lights that gradually lead Sebastian to the revelation of his life's tragedy. While Sebastian is in the safe haven of the clinic in The Cruelest Intentions, the main room changes and several paintings appear on its walls. These paitnings are part of the art collection in the Victoriano manor, but what dominates is the depiction of three giant sunflowers on one wall.

Ruvik turns the clinic into his own safe haven and the three sunflowers appear on the wall

At this point, the clinic is transformed into Ruvik's realm. The portrait of his family is high up on another wall, but his own face is torn out and cockroaches are coming out of the hole. Sebastian cannot use the mirrors to teleport and he starts walking along the corridor of the patient ward. The environment turns black and white as the corridor turns into a countryside path. At the end of the path, there is a giant sunflower. As Sebastian approaches it, Ruvik appears through it, gets close to Sebastian and transfers him in the Victoriano estate.

Ruvik appears through a sunflower and transfers Sebastian to the memory of his home

As Sebastian explores the house and goes through a series of trials, he comes across several depictions of sunflowers, either in paintings or actual flowers thrown on the floor. At the conclusion of the chapter, Sebastian finds himself in the sunflower field. The compelling imagery of this part gives both the impression of something protected - the field is revealed behind a double gate, after a long corridor and several trapped rooms - as well as of something threatening and imminent. The yellow colour of the sunflower petals even paints the sky yellow and it is as if this whole scene is taking place inside a sunflower.

The immersive beauty of this scene is exactly what makes it haunting

The sunflower as a powerful and constant symbol gradually identifies itself with Ruvik, and vice versa. The peak of its symbolism is reached in the sunflower field and, subsequently, inside the barn. When Sebastian enters the barn, there is no way back out to the field. He gets trapped inside Ruvik's memories - just like Ruvik and Laura were trapped in the barn when the farmers set the field on fire -  and is forced to witness a series of visions that revive Laura's tragic fate.

Blood and The Colour Red

With the exception of the aforementioned stage in The Cruelest Intentions, the rest of The Evil Within is coloured in faded tones, as if desaturated a bit, with an overall vintage-looking effect. Brighter colours, wherever they appear, look almost striking, like the yellow of sunflowers I wrote about in the previous section. Another colour that seems to appear regularly is red.

To begin with, the name of the fictional place where the events of the story take place is Krimson City. Krimson reads like crimson, which is the deepest red, and its reference to blood, which is so dominant in the game, is quite obvious.

Blood is Ruvik's most frequent way of exposing things and conveying messages. From his childhood, when he slaughtered animals and exprimented on their dead limbs, to his youth when he used patients from the Beacon Mental Hospital for his research and eventually killed them, to his after-death activity when he was able to use his supernatural powers to eliminate people.

Blood is one of the most essential elements of the game. It mainly symbolizes death, disaster, revenge and also the struggle for survival. Very close to the start, Sebastian is chased by the Sadist and as he runs away, he falls in a round tank which is full of blood, with corspes and body parts floating around. Close to the end of The Patient, and while being with Leslie and Dr Martinez, Sebastian is distracted by Ruvik's appearance and as he attempts to follow him, he loses his companions and ends up in a pool of blood from where Ruvik summons about a dozen Haunted. Soon after, in Inner Recesses, Sebastian enters a bizarre hall with three small square holes on each one of three of its walls. Looking through each of these holes, he witnesses three stages of Ruvik's life in three separate rooms. After looking from a hole, he has to enter the respective room and press a button. Every time he does this, a trap is activated, releasing a blood line in the main hall outside. When all three buttons are pressed and all three blood lines are set, they all unite and flow towards the fourth wall, which is immediately covered with blood as bloody handprints appear on it and chilling screams are heard all the while. Suddenly, the blood disappears, and is replaced by a door. The corridor beyond it leads to the room where Sebastian finds Joseph, whom he considered dead until then.

The vivid apparance of blood intensifies the strength of its symbolism

Ruvik likes to appear and disappear through floating blood cells, as we see near the end of Claws of The Horde, where the Sadist, after being killed by Sebastian, dissolves into blood cells which form a floating path that leads to Ruvik. Much later, in The Cruelest Intentions, while Sebastian is exploring the Victoriano estate, more floating blood cells lead him towards a series of rooms where he sees young Ruvik again doing his experiments. In the conclusion of these scenes, the blood cells unite with ghost Ruvik and form the Blood Man, to whom I will refer further down.

The blood cells fill the rooms while the environment's colours gradually fade

Blood and death are directly connected with Ruvik, and he uses both to frighten and manipulate his victims. All of them are in a state where they cannot understand if they are alive and dreaming or they died and are floating in a hellish world.

Apart from its direct connection to blood, red symbolizes many positive things like passion, love, lust, sexuality, desire, physical energy, confidence, courage. It is also associated with the most primitive means of survival and self-preservation. However, it comes loaded with some negative things as well, like anger, violence, revenge. In Japanese culture (remember: the creator of the game is Japanese), it is associated with several deities and it is perceived as a means, as a charm., that keeps away evil forces, sickness, demons, bad luck.

The most memorable tangible apperance of the colour red is on Laura'a dress. Tatiana has a red jacket on, while both Sebastian and Joseph wear red ties. Young Ruvik, as he appears in the family portrait in the Victoriano estate, is also wearing a red tie. In Juli's version of the events, the red colour also appears on a few notable occasions.

Ruvik has a red tie while Laura's dress is red

Ruvik is the one who caused all this in the first place. Living in the shadow of his imposing and stern father, with a mother who loved her children but was too weak to stand up to her husband, he grew up with a progressive insecurity, while being strongly attached to Laura. His evil genious led him to kill his parents after Laura's death and carry out his extreme experiments, dragging everybody in his twisted mind. Red for him is mostly associated with his anger and murderous intent towards his potential victims.

One of his manifestations is The Blood Man, the weird and ominous creature made of blood cells that I mentioned previously, which appears in the estate and chases Sebastian, leading him to the sunflower field. The Blood Man, who appears uniquely in The Cruelest Intentions, is directly associated with Ruvik's tragic memory of the arson that was the start of his downfall. He shows up again in the chapter's conclusion in the barn, where he releases blood cells that form Haunted who attack Sebastian. The reason why, in this part, Ruvik decides to not fight with Sebastian directly has to do with his own sentimental attachment with the place. The barn is where he essentially lost his sister, but also where, moments before the arson, he was playing joyfully with her. His most cherished memory and his most tragic one are perpetually linked and he clings on to both in an attempt to keep Laura's memory alive forever. Which is blatant tragic irony, of course, as he is also dead himself.

The Blood Man is yet one more trick by Ruvik

Tatiana is Sebastian's connection with the outside world, although he doesn't know it. She acts like a guide, an objective observator, and a bit like the chorus of the classical greek tragedies: she comments on the hero's decisions and trials, makes cryptic predictions and gives hints without getting involved any further. For her, red signifies caution and it also represents her status as it is part of her uniform.

Tatiana's cryptic lines always make sense afterwards

Laura is the reason behind everything in the story. It was because she died that Ruvik started losing his mind, and it was because he wanted to find a way to be reunited with her that he came up with the insane research and the subsequent experiments on which later STEM was based. In that sense, Laura is, if not the strongest character of the game, at least as strong as Sebastian is; and it is not random that, as a boss in her monster form, she is incredibly hard to defeat. For Laura, red has a dual symbolism: it represents the love for her brother and her sacrifice that saved him. but it also stands for the anger and thirst for revenge that characterizes her ghostly identity.

Laura's self-sacrifice saved Ruvik but also condemned him to a tragic life

In The Assignment and The Consequence episodes, that narrate Juli Kidman's nightmarish journey in STEM, there are three appearances of the red colour that stand out. The first is in fact a dual one, on two things that always appear in Juli's path together: a red leather couch and a black cat with a red ribbon round its neck.

The cat is strongly associated wit Juli's memories

Every time Juli reaches such a couch with a cat, the player can save the game, but speaking in terms of the game's universe, Juli finds a safe spot to rest for a few seconds and put herself together. The cat, linked to her childhood memories, gives her a temporary joy, giving her a brief feeling of warmth and protection. Red in this case is, for Juli, a sign of life and familiarity in the ghost-like hostile place that she is exploring.

The second appearance of the red colour in Juli's story is on the Shade, the terrifying monster that chases her relentlessly, an unnaturally tall creature with slender long legs and red high-heeled shoes. The Shade, that acts both as a Nemesis and a guide for Juli, looks like a monstrous depiction of the female figure. Juli, who never had a normal childhood, is like a child trapped in a woman's body. Even her surname partly hints to that. Her only feminine feature is her own high heels, which however are more like weapons and less like actual accessories - she even defends herself at some point with them, hitting the Haunted Connelly on the chin. The Shade, despite her hideous appearance, is wearing stylish red shoes, at the same time walking clumsily on them, as if mocking Juli for being psychologically unprepared to be a woman. The red colour here symbolizes primarily Juli's numbed femininity, and on a sublevel all those elements of her personality that she was forced to keep suppressed all her life, first in her family environment and then in Mobius.

The Shade makes unpleasant noises while strutting on her red high heels

The third appearance of the colour red in Juli's episodes is on her evil clones, an illusion created by the Administrator to attack Juli attempting to kill her. Those clones look like damaged versions of Juli and they are wearing a red shirt. The red colour in this case represents an evil side that, however, is artificial; moreover, combined with the mechanical movement of the clones, it symbolizes Juli's inner fears and the fact that she is always faking her real identity and, inevitably, her real feelings.

Juli's clones look like mechanical versions of herself

Joseph is among the few of Ruvik's victims who are able to fully realize their condition, and even control it. He has many secrets and hiden desires and from the moment that he becomes a Haunted for the first time, he kind of develops an evil twin who battles with his normal, good self so as to dominate him completely. For him, the red colour symbolizes his hidden passions and the violence that he expresses when he turns.

Joseph is constantly battling his dark side

Sebastian is the only one who doesn't have evil within him. Despite his confusion and agony, he manages to keep both his mind and soul clean of the evil that Ruvik is trying to inject in him - although Ruvik is sure that he will be able to manipulate him completely and in one single instance he seemingly manages to possess him. All the others around him are affected one way or the other; even Leslie, who is an ignorant and innocent boy, is like a blank canvas, ready to receive, absorb and eventually spread anything evil - just like Lily, in The Evil Within 2. Juli may not be categorized as voluntarily or involuntarily evil like the others, but her status as a double agent inevitably places her on the side of the bad guys, albeit she was a victim as well and later, in The Evil Within 2, she atoned for everything. Joseph becomes a Haunted and it is something that he enjoys, while Dr Jimenez stole Ruvik's research and then had him killed.

Sebastian manages to keep evil away from him

Both Joseph and Sebastian having a red tie like young Ruvik could hint at the latter's twisted attempts to find and live through a strong and healthy male body - in contrast with Leslie, who is a compatible host and whom he will eventually have to use, whose body is sick and mind is unstable. It is as if he has both Sebastian and Joseph on a noose, and he cannot decide whom he will sacrifice. The fact that Joseph is too weak and tends to succumb to his evil side does not satisfy Ruvik, though. His sadistic instinct leads him to turn to Sebastian, eagerly wanting to torture him by forcing him to evil actions, then watching him in delight as he suffers while struggling to fight it. 

Ruvik will do whatever it takes to control Sebastian's mind

Nonetheless, Sebastian is the only one with a pure heart. For him, the red colour symbolizes passion, sexuality, physical strength and survival skills. He is a thinker, an investigator in the wider sense. His mind is constantly active, even when he is in a sedated state. He questions things, and his instinctive objections to what is imposed on him are that essentially save him.



Unknown said...

Hey man I don't know if you'll see this, but I've tried to explain to people before that this game is pretty thoughtful and well put together and mostly met deaf ears. I really appreciate that you took the time to do this. It's a great game that deserves a lot more respect than it got.

hisbrokenbutterfly said...

Thank you very much for your comment! I absolutely agree with you!