Legend of Zelda’s ReDead Offers Chills When You Least Suspect
Masterfully Monstrous is an article series that looks at the most frightening, unsettling, and disturbing creatures from video games.
With The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword out on Switch, I’m excited to try the game for the first time. I know I’m slightly behind, ok? I’m doubly excited that this game doesn’t contain the series enemy that frightened me the most growing up, though. Even as a teen playing Ocarina of Time, I quickly learned to fear the series’ most terrifying foe: the ReDead.
I just wanted to see what sorts of secrets lay in Kakariko Graveyard. I innocently played a bit of Zelda’s Lullaby while standing on a Triforce symbol. Snuck down into a grave to have a little peek at what was inside. I was hoping for a Piece of Heart or something valuable. I figured it would be guarded by a few basic monsters. Maybe something spooky, like a Poe or Stalfos. Well, they weren’t THAT spooky. Kinda goofy looking, honestly, but appropriately horror-themed for a graveyard foe.
What I didn’t expect was the ReDead, arguably the series’ most terrifying enemy. I heard the groaning, first. These echoing, pained moans meet you before you fully see what’s making them. The sound is unlike much I’d heard in the game until that point. It sounded oddly human, and it felt really out-of-place compared to the game’s other monster effects. Maybe compared to ANY monster effect I’d heard in any Legend of Zelda game.
Then, you see this lanky thing just standing there. Now, this series has a lot of oddball creatures in it. Goopy pillars that like to eat shields. Hands that drop from the ceiling and yank you out of dungeons. Little leafy creatures that spit at you. There’s a big variety of strange monsters you face in every one of these games.
Even so, after years of playing Legend of Zelda titles, coming across what looked like a gaunt, naked man hit me different than any other foe in these games, before or since. Seeing it just standing there, eerie groans coming from my speakers, put me on edge. It wasn’t making any move toward me or anything. I wasn’t even sure if it was reacting to my presence. Every other foe you run into in this game is at least doing something. Rushing your way. Moving around. SOMETHING. The ReDead just…waits.
However, the game’s battle music was playing. Even as the ReDead stood there, seemingly paralyzed, that music was going. You know you’re in a fight whenever you hear it. But the monster wasn’t doing anything. That made the first encounter with ReDeads feel bizarre and unsettling. It was unlike any other foe, and you knew it was an enemy from the music. Even so, looking at it, I just had no idea what it will do. At least if an enemy approaches, you know you’ll be exchanging blows, but here, you really have no idea what’s up. And it’s frightening.
That lack of motion gets the imagination going as you wonder what it will do. It’s a question that comes up any time you fight something new in Legend of Zelda, but it’s different this time. Maybe from the graveyard setting or the creature’s stillness. Maybe it’s because it looks like a creepy naked guy wearing a blank-faced mask. That appearance, the setting, and its lack of movement gave it this eeriness that doesn’t happen often in the series.
Eventually, you’ll get sick of waiting for it to do something and move. Maybe you’ll wince during that first step, but the ReDead probably won’t do anything. Not until you walk where it can see you, or get very close to it, spurring it into action. Now, if it catches you in its gaze, your ears will fill with a shrill scream. Then, the creature will start to move toward you. And you’re frozen stiff.
This moment was so abrupt and unexpected that I feel like it scarred me on some level. All of that leadup made the ReDead feel unsettling, but this attack, so different from anything else in the game, gave the enemy this terrifying presence. With any other foe, probably in almost the entirety of the Legend of Zelda series, you can at least move around. Take a swing. Do something to fight back. The ReDead freezes you with a scream, and there’s nothing you can do about it except hope the paralysis wears off.
Now, you’re the one just standing there, watching. You get to feel like the victim in a horror movie for a few moments, seeing the stalker creeping up behind their intended victim. Feeling helpless to do anything about it. Wanting to scream at them to get out of the way. You press the buttons, hoping you can wiggle free or do something. But all you can do is watch and hope your affliction wears off in time. The paralysis doesn’t last forever. Not that you’ll know that the first time a ReDead sees you. Hopefully there isn’t more than one of the things in the area.
If you’re lucky, you may escape before it grabs you. If not, you get to watch as it climbs on top of your upper body and head, wrapping all of its limbs around you. I’m not sure what it’s doing, here. Maybe strangling you or just squeezing your head. It’s such an odd attack, and it’s an strangely intimate one, in a way. Most things just hit you, stab you, or blow you up throughout the Legend of Zelda. This one crawls onto your body and starts squeezing the life out of you. It’s a close-up, slow, cruel way to kill you, and it made my panic at facing ReDeads even worse.
You can hammer the buttons here to break free, at least. Once the ReDead falls off, you have a few seconds to hit them before they can recover and attack again. It’s usually enough time to deal with them if you’re aggressive, but if you’re feeling timid after being strangled, it might catch you with another freezing glance. Hopefully, you can take the thing down before it does so again.
These encounters are quite manageable, honestly. If you’re quiet around ReDeads and steer clear of them, you should be safe. If you go after them without fear, you can probably clobber them fast, too. Even so, the strange movements, eerie groans, unsettling appearance, and creepy attacks of the ReDeads have burned a frightening power into the memories of Ocarina of Time players. They’re not even one of the harder enemies in the Legend of Zelda series, but they’re just so frightening that I really didn’t want to ever fight them.
The series isn’t really known for fear, and Ocarina of Time only had a few foes that seemed like they were meant to unsettle. I just wasn’t prepared for something so terrifying in that game, though, so I was caught completely off-guard by this disturbing creature. Its surprise appearance when I wasn’t expecting to be afraid, combined with all of the elements of its incredibly fearful design, made for a terrifying enemy I’m glad hasn’t been used much since.
I still hear that scream in my nightmares, I swear.