The consensus surrounding b-movie horror is near universal among genre fans: a bad movie can make for a good viewing experience. Whether it’s hilarious by intention or just a laughably bad attempt, camp horror has its own place in cinematic history. Admittedly, I’ve never been a fan. I just wish someone reminded me before booting up The Quarry.
It’s always a hard choice between going in blind (which I usually side with as it makes for a better experience) versus reading a few spoiler-free reviews to make sure the game would be something I would enjoy. Usually, I find the very range of experiences that a game, whether groundbreaking or not, can create for me to be rewarding by themselves. It was in such a mindset that I found myself entering Hackett’s Quarry.
After an extremely promising cold open, we join a group of camp counselors at Hackett’s Quarry on their last evening. Summer camp is over: cabin doors are locked, bags shoved into trunks. Some summer flings have come to an end while other crushes remain unconfessed. If only we had one more night, laments Jacob, the dumb jock archetype who doesn’t want his vacation romance to come to an end. Unfortunately, his wish comes true with a cruel twist of fate – the group must spend the night surviving mysterious hunters and what seems to be an otherworldly predator tracking them across the camp grounds.
Low-Impact Exploration and Choice
Camp horror doesn’t interest me, but interactive movies do, which is probably why I still had fun exploring Hackett’s Quarry, looking around every corner for clues and evidence. Certain segments of the game allow you to freely explore the environment, giving you more lore on everything from the history of the Hackett family to the fate of a travelling circus show which met its end at the quarry. The idea of collecting evidence which could later be used to prove the horrifying events of the night to the authorities (as the game helpfully advises you to keep in mind) seemed exciting at first, but like many things in the game this never comes to fruition. The ‘authorities’ in question turned out to be a paranormal investigation podcast, which is safe to say wouldn’t exactly make waves in national news.
I always enjoy choices in dialogue, though I am not exactly sure how it affected the larger outcome of the story here apart from the momentary reactions of those around me. The story also seemed to be pushing me towards pre-defined paths at certain points. In the initial hours of the game, I took a stand against disobeying Hackett’s orders and going outside the main lodge at night, sticking to my guns and declaring I wouldn’t be joining the group for their party outside. Surprisingly, I ended up present at the campfire in the next scene as if nothing had happened.
Hey, Good Lookin’
Visually, the game looks stunning on the PC. With different filters that you can choose from to customize the visuals, and a host of graphics settings to tweak, the sun has never looked this good setting over a lake. Character animation is elevated with expressive motion capture, which seems to be standard stock for AAA interactive movies now.
A large part of that performance credit goes to the actors, at least the ones who make their characters stand out. Dylan (Miles Robbins) was by far one of the most interesting and well-rounded in the group, and one of the few with whom I tried my best to survive the night. His pairing with Kaitlyn (Brenda Song) later on in the game produced some of the most intense sequences of the night for me. Sparing a couple of other exceptions, the rest of the cast is forgettable at best. While they attempt to make the most of the script given to them, the writing itself is so bad at times that I can almost imagine them groaning internally while delivering their lines.
This is not me picking on campy tropes – the writing really does suck. Ryan (and keep in mind that this is one of the most levelheaded and calm characters in the game) is in constant denial. He tries to explain away a secret lair, phone lines going dead and the lights going out. This isn’t limited to just one character, in another sequence Dylan witnesses a live feed go dark right in front of his eyes after a menacing hunter grabs the camera on the other side. ‘It’s probably nothing,’ he remarks nonchalantly before joining the others. In what world is a camera being taken down in front of you not something to be concerned about? For some bizarre reason, people also do not respond to their names being called out (quite loudly, I should add), cursing or apologizing after they’ve been maced or almost shot to death for being mistaken as an intruder. It is clear that these situations are deliberately scripted in this manner to serve as setup for later scenes, but it only ends up making the story weaker. Add in some truly bizarre scenes such as this one (mandatory spoiler alert, however keep in mind that you might never come across this during your playthrough given your choices) and you have to wonder what the writers were thinking when putting this down on paper.
All roads must lead to a joke. Our counselors are almost Marvel-like in their single-minded pursuit of one-liners, and not even losing a hand or facing imminent death can deter them from delivering their cringeworthy quips. Perhaps the worst of these are given to Jacob, an absolutely insufferable character, closely followed by his vlogger love interest Emma. As chance would have it, both of them did not survive my playthrough for long (I gladly skipped past the prompt when the game asked me if I would like to use one of three lives to save them).
This is not to suggest that The Quarry is a challenging game. In fact, it is probably the simplest one I’ve played in a long time. Quick-time events are limited to holding down a button or mashing it, and the prompts that come up when fleeing an enemy, for example, give you plenty of time to hit the right key before disappearing. Settings can be changed to suit your level of comfort, making the game even more straightforward if you’d like it to be. For those who want to sit back and experience it without any interactivity, there is a ‘Movie Mode’ that lets you watch predefined paths through the story.
Drawing inspiration from some of the most popular slashers of the past few decades, The Quarry’s premise and central mystery held great potential for a video game adaptation of campy horror. The Hollywood talent and graphical fidelity are unfortunately squandered with bad writing and overloaded exposition that transforms fun horror cliches into a tiring experience. Few characters are worth rooting for, with the rest landing somewhere between downright boring to I’m-glad-it-got-you. For all its 186 possible conclusions, the ‘ending’ (if you can call it that) feels rushed and needlessly impersonal, a major letdown after nearly ten hours of patient buildup.
I don’t believe I have outright said this for any game before, but only the staunchest of horror fans with a penchant for ‘so bad it’s good’ content will find something to like here. Others can pass on The Quarry without worrying about missing out.
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