Please note, this entire feature includes Resident Evil Village spoilers and specifically references the encounter with the game’s second antagonist, Donna Beneviento.
Teetering on the side of a clifftop, with nary room to get a pushbike around the perimeter without risking a plummet into the cold, grey water below, House Beneviento – if not quite humble, exactly – is considerably more understated than the setting of our last visit, Castle Dimitrescu.
It looks forlorn, though. Perhaps a touch unloved, maybe? The front yard is unkempt and overgrown. There’s no comfy lounge furniture stacked along the wrap-around porch. I peer in through a window on the side of the property – the glass is grubby, so I can’t discern much; it’s equally dark inside, so all I can make out is a runner on the floor – and feel a touch uneasy as the roar of the waterfall thunders down the mountain behind me.
That uneasiness dissipates when I step through the unlocked door, though. Though its exterior is cold and a little bleak, the interior of House Beneviento is warm and inviting, the double doors opening into a large mahogany foyer that’s modestly decorated and well lit. In the centre of the room sits a rocking chair and a small occasional table, adorned with a large bowl of colourful wool and ribbon.
Another developer might have made that rocking chair tilt a little when you walked in. A different one might have made the lights briefly stutter. But not Capcom. Beyond one curious, if not quite unsettling, anomaly – there’s a spool of bright yellow yarn leading from the front door to the bowl on the table and a small collection of what looks like doll hats, perhaps, on the rocker – everything looks… well, fine, actually.
There is no giveaway spooky overture. No disquieting sound effects. As you step further into the room, you can hear the gentle tick-tock of a grandfather clock and the steady hiss of the rapids outside. Occasionally, you step on a creaky floorboard, but that’s it.
I head to the door on the back wall and surprise myself by stepping through it – I’ve already grown tired of the “this door is locked on the other side” trope – moving into an equally quaint living space. There’s a worn wooden table and sideboard, plus an empty, but imposing, fireplace in the background. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the first thing that unsettles me, but that’s not Resident Evil Village‘s fault; there’s a china doll staring off into the centre of the room to my left, and a misspent childhood watching terribly non-age-appropriate horror films has given me a lifelong fear of dolls and clowns. I step away from it nonetheless, and whilst I firmly expect it to move – to pounce – at any moment, it simply stands there. Unblinking. Unseeing. Unbothered.
House Beneviento is strikingly different from the rest of Resident Evil Village for all the right reasons. While Resident Evil has always been a series that flirted hard and fast with fantastical premises and huge, mutated monsters – and I don’t just mean Lady D of Castle Dimitrescu – this is a subtle, understated affair that carefully and effectively unsettles the player. After all, I’m only a few hours into Village, but I’ve already taken on bloodthirsty vampires, a giant mouldy dragon, er, thing, and numerous hirsute villagers. Consequently, the abrupt change of pace here in House B has caught me a tad off guard and left me a little on edge.
Which is nothing compared to what I feel when I descend into the basement, of course.
It’s been some time since I’ve played anything that’s freaked me out quite as much as that nightmarish visage in the basement of House Beneviento. After several minutes of nothing – no enemies, no combat, no jumpscares; nothing – the sudden switch when you enter the basement is so abrupt and unexpected, it might give you whiplash.
Not only does it include a delicious escape room puzzle – and if there’s one thing we know Capcom can deliver on, it’s escape room puzzles; Resident Evil 7‘s Bedroom DLC was a triumph of masterful level design – but within the walls of that house lies a shambling, grotesque creature I won’t soon forget.
Next thing you know, you’re descending a rickety ladder to the bottom of a well, and – look, we’ve all seen The Ring. We know nothing good ever happens at the bottom of a well. So you scramble back out as fast as you can, only to find out that maybe you’d have been better off at the bottom of the well after all.
As is often the case with these things, particularly in Resident Evil, it doesn’t quite make sense. There are plenty of clues that the nightmarish thing pursuing you in the basement is not real – Ethan’s apparently seeing things after his exposure to hallucinogenic plant spores – but last I checked, hallucinations can’t gobble you up feet first, slapping their gums and exclaiming “Mmm, yummy!” as they do so…
Later still, when I’m tearing through those quaint little rooms now stuffed with dozens of dolls – hundreds maybe – jittering and chittering at me, I wonder how much worse it can get as Angie, a deformed puppet doomed to forever wear a bridal gown and veil, glares at me and insists my life is on the line.
To be honest, though, I’ll do whatever the murderous Angie wants as long as I never have to go into that basement again.