Exidy's 1986 Chiller

Chiller is one of several Exidy light-gun games, in which you aim a cabinet-mounted rifle at various targets and blast away.

The difference with Chiller is what you shoot at. Or perhaps in this case, who you shoot at.

Chiller is firmly planted in the horror genre, and has four different levels. The first two are torture chambers, where subjects are strapped into or onto various medieval devices such as a guillotine, a rack, a vice, and so forth. As you shoot the handles on the devices, they activate, and horrifically dispatch the helpless, screaming victims. You can also just shoot the people directly, blowing apart pieces of their heads, limbs and torsos in a grisly display of blood, guts and bone.

The third level is tamer by comparison. Here, you're in a haunted house where you mostly shoot at ghosts, wolves, and a mummy. This is more like classic horror than the rest of the game, and less graphic in its violence.

The fourth level brings you out to a graveyard which includes a maggot-infested open grave, impaled heads, corpses that reach up out of the ground, and a grim reaper pushing a cart full of body parts. In all levels the goal is the same - shoot everything.

In each level there are also "hidden" targets. If you can find them all, you'll enter a bonus round and get a shot at a free game. Literally.

Missing Ingredient

A sense of humor. The problem with Chiller isn't so much the gore (which, for a 1986 game is considerable), but it's how the subject matter is handled. In most levels, the victims are all chained down, completely helpless and terrified, and you're shooting at them for no apparent reason. If they were all zombies or other monsters, that would have made some sense. As it stands now, the game is more sadistic than anything. Torturing people by shooting off their limbs while they're screaming in terror doesn't make for a very fun game. At best, it becomes tedious, and at its worst, its more than a little disturbing.

A better approach would have been to add some humor to it. Monty Python was particularly adept at mixing violence and humor, and there's no reason that couldn't have been applied here. That kind of sensibility would have helped Chiller move beyond being the videogame equivalent of a "slasher movie", and made it more entertaining to play. Unfortunately, as it is, the game ends up being just an excuse for repetitive violence, without any real elements of classic horror, humor, or Halloween.

Thanks to Jeffrey Carl at ServInt for providing the space for CinemArcade


All content © Dave Dries unless otherwise stated