The Dark Pictures Anthology: House Of Ashes Review – The Descent

The Dark Pictures Anthology: House of Ashes has to justify its setting in a way few horror games do. While Supermassive Games’ unsettling anthology previously tapped into teen horror tropes and Puritan-era paranoia with Man of Medan and Little Hope, House of Ashes looks further afield in terms of both influences and geography. Taking place during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, its setting is a far cry from the ghost ships and witch trials featured in the series thus far–tackling a recent conflict with ramifications that are still felt to this day. Fortunately, House of Ashes uses the Iraq War as more than a simple backdrop for jump scares, focusing on both sides of the war as allegiances fall by the wayside in the face of a more terrifying threat.

Much like its predecessors, Supermassive’s latest also uses real myths and historical events to flesh out its supernatural elements. House of Ashes begins in the ancient Mesopotamian city of Akkad in 2231 BC, with a compelling prologue that takes inspiration from the “The Curse of Akkad,” a poem detailing how the Akkadian Empire was destroyed after its king, Naram-Sin, declared himself a god and plundered the chief god Enlil’s temple. Naturally, this angered the Sumerian deity, who exacted revenge by summoning an invasion from the neighboring Gutian people. House of Ashes deviates from the Akkadian myth, however, by making this a temple to Pazuzu, the king of the demons. This sinister spin, and the appearance of frightening underground creatures, poses a much greater threat to the remaining Akkadians than the attacking Gutians.

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Fast forward to 2003 and a mission to find Saddam Hussein’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction leads to a group of marines discovering the dilapidated Sumerian temple and the monsters hidden within. Throwing a group of heavily-armed jarheads into a fight with supernatural miscreations is a classic genre trope, but it’s a fresh perspective for Supermassive’s brand of cinematic horror. Switching from civilians to soldiers results in a significant change of pace when you encounter its antagonists. You’re still outmatched, and the winged monstrosities aren’t overly fussed by bullets, but that doesn’t stop the cast from expending a veritable bucket load of ammunition almost every time you meet.

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