fatal frame

My Eyes – The Chilling Power of Fatal Frame’s Blinded Woman

Masterfully Monstrous is an article series that looks at the most frightening, unsettling, and disturbing creatures from horror games.

Fatal Frame was easily the most frightening thing I’d ever played twenty years ago. Dealing with horrifying ghosts coming out of the walls and floors left my nerves in shambles. That you’d have to bravely wait to take the perfect damaging shot made it even worse. That these ghosts were mangled and twisted in sickening ways made it almost too much to bear. One ghost stood out for me among them, though: the Blinded Woman.

The Blinded Woman was yet another result of one of the many disturbing rituals that lead to the events of the first game. This one involved having her eyes gouged out with a mask. A mask with sharp blades that get driven into your eyes. Cheerful stuff. She’s handling herself well considering that she’s both dead and blind, though, able to navigate around the mansion and find anyone who shouldn’t be there. Like you.

There’s a lot of reasons why she stands out in a game that’s already full of unsettling apparitions. The first element is her appearance. A lot of the ghosts in Fatal Frame have some element of injury, like the Female Head (decapitated) or the Broken Neck Woman. You can tell that they’re in unimaginable pain just by looking at them. It looks like they shouldn’t even be alive, based on how hurt they are. A part of me instantly feels terror at looking at something human that should be dead, but isn’t.

The Blinded Woman sports a cloth around her eyes, blood dribbling from the empty sockets. It’s actually something that looks survivable, unlike some of our other fatally-harmed ghosts. However, there’s just something about trauma to the eyes that churns my guts and chills my heart more than most bodily injuries. You feel it in moments like the eye needle from Dead Space 2. Your eyes are such vulnerable things, and it feels instantly unsettling to think of them being gouged or cut. Typing that phrase honestly left me a little queasy.

When you learn what happened to this poor woman, that feeling gets worse. Watching that mask going over her face, seeing the sharp needles heading for her eyes from a first-person perspective, left me shaken. That comes later, but even at first glance, you can sense a pain that feels frighteningly close. Like when you see a certain type of injury in a picture or video and that particular empathic twinge moves through your body. You feel this just from running into this ghost in Fatal Frame.

Already likely disturbed (and getting a real good look at those gouged eyes since you need to get a close-up picture of her to fight back), you then get to hear her cries of “My eyes…” In case the encounters with her weren’t already hard to take.

It’s not just her voice and appearance that make her such an unforgettable foe, though. The ghosts in this game are hard enough when they can move through walls and shift out of sight. You always feel like you’re being hunted, and from places you can’t reach. Something could be right behind you through a wall, and you’d never know until those hands come shooting out. The Blinded Woman uses these abilities, but will also just turn invisible right in front of you. She’ll reappear as she gets closer, but this doesn’t leave you much time to react.

Unlike most ghosts, she follows you by sound instead of sight. This doesn’t seem like a big deal, except Fatal Frame is a game about positioning when you’re fighting. Since ghosts can move through walls and objects, you’ll need to keep repositioning yourself so that you can see your enemy, and also so you won’t get ambushed from a wall. You have to continually shift viewpoints between first and third person to use your camera or check around yourself. You have to adjust all the time to get that perfect damaging shot while staying safe.

The Blinded Woman will hone in on you quickly if you make those position changes. Take a few loud steps and she’ll rush after you. Even if you take a picture at anything other than full power, the click of her camera will send her your way. This moves hurts a lot, even on low difficulties, and is disturbingly fast. The only way to avoid this is to stand as still as possible and quietly look around. If you’re in a bad spot, you need to just be ready to snap that picture quickly when she comes out of the wall.

Being unable to move adds a deeper tension to playing Fatal Frame. The ability to step out of the way of an incoming attack made it feel like you weren’t helpless while fighting the ghosts. At least you could run, if only a little. You have SOME hope of being able to get away. The Blinded Woman makes you stand perfectly still, and punishes you hard if you don’t. So, that small sense of hope and confidence you have when you can run gets tossed aside. All you can do is stand still and stare, praying you make the shot.

Now, this might not be too bad, except that she can also teleport. Teleport right behind you, that is. She does this with alarming frequency, so when you feel like you’ve finally got a clear shot, she fades away. At that moment, you have a second or two before she rips into you from behind, clawing at your head. This happens so often that you pretty much know she’s there. This makes the fight a bit predictable in a sense, but also terrifying because you know, the moment she disappears, that she’s directly behind your shoulder. She’s about to pounce on you. And you can’t run, or she’ll get you anyway.

fatal frame

The idea of something scary right behind my back – something I can’t run from – makes for this paralyzing moment of absolute terror in Fatal Frame. You know what is going to happen to you, but you’re almost powerless to stop it. There’s a finality to this moment – a kind of despair along with the fear – that maybe makes you feel a small connection with what these people must have felt as they died. It’s a strangely empathic fear (although I doubt I’d say so when I’m being mauled).

This ghost is also one of the more persistent foes in the game. You’ll face her multiple times, and she’ll keep getting tougher. Keep fighting you in smaller spaces with more junk in the way. She is relentless in her pursuit, and each time, you have to stop, breathe deep, and focus on her. Hope you’re fast enough with that turn before she grabs you and rips your health to pieces.

It’s unsettling to deal with ghosts that can teleport and move through walls. Frightening to have to fight them off by staring into their ghastly visages. The Blinded Woman makes you look deep into her bloodied sockets to fight her off, standing your ground rather than fleeing to safety. She makes you take in her wounded eyes, feeling a kinship to her pain, before she strikes you from where you’re most vulnerable. The encounters with her were an endless source of fear throughout Fatal Frame, making for an unforgettable enemy I’d rather never see again.

Except that means she’s probably right behind me.

Add Comment