As great as the Dead Space remake is, I really wish it hadn’t given Necromorphs clothes. That’s not because I want to see a bunch of undead wangers flopping around, though “Cut Off Their Dicks” would be an interesting piece of graffiti to stumble across. No, the problem with giving Necromorphs clothes is that it dials the fear factor down a notch.
Admittedly, it took me a while to figure out just what was bothering me about the Dead Space remake’s regular nasties. Having spent a couple of days revisiting Resident Evil 4, it took me a good few minutes to get back into the swing of Dead Space’s limb-severing. And I jumped out of my skin when a good handful used the air vents to get the drop on me.
But facing just one or two run-of-the-mill Necromorphs, something was off — and it wasn’t until one of the NPCs talked about a former crewmate stalking him that it really clicked. He shouldn’t know that — a Necromorph is a Necromorph, right? But he did, and it’s because at least half of Dead Space’s grunts wear scraps of their former uniforms.
Why does that matter? Because it marks them as former crew members, instead of the anonymous nightmares they were in the original Dead Space. It’s clear that there’s some sort of intelligence at work in each Dead Space game, molding flesh into Necromorph Brutes and more. If you’ve encountered one of those behemoths and were able to get a proper look before you started fleeing, you’ll know that there’s more than one person’s parts in there.
So, my head canon playing the original was that standard Necromorphs were similarly engineered — that something was stitching together mounds of dead flesh, reanimating it as Necromorphs. Sure, the bat-like Infectors were quick to reanimate corpses in your presence, but I imagined them taking their time when Isaac wasn’t around.
This take is only partially supported by lore, but it was still absolutely my head canon. Where did the idea come from? It could have had something to do with the 1999 movie Virus, which star Jamie Lee Curtis called “the all-time piece of shit.”
This so-bad-it’s-good movie features an alien intelligence that uses human corpses as spare parts. There’s a scene where Curtis and co. face a monster that has the torso of a Russian sailor and the head of Donald Sutherland’s grizzled sea captain. Coupled with Sutherland’s mock Irish accent, it was a deeply, deeply unsettling sight.
It may well be this memory that the original Dead Space, with its pantless, non crew-specific Necromorphs tapped into. Alternatively, perhaps it’s down to the conclusion of John Carpenter’s The Thing, or Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines’ flesh-sculpting Tzimisce.
Wherever the notion came from, in my head every slasher Necromorph was an amalgam of whatever raw materials were on hand. They’re humanoid but not obviously human.
A big reason I love Dead Space as a series is that its foes go beyond generic zombie or mutant. I don’t find The Callisto Protocol’s foes as disturbing as the original Necromorphs because they’re more obviously former humans, whereas the latter, with their elongated forms and scythe-like limbs, feel truly alien despite their gruesome base materials. Plus, they’re a better fit for the franchise’s Lovecraftian undertones.
But putting a Necromorph in rags makes them that little less unworldly, and it creates the faint but unlikely hope that some scrap of their former selves remains. I understand why EA Motive thought it’d be truly horrifying to have one of the game’s NPCs slaughtered by a Necromorphed colleague. And maybe, for some people, that moment had precisely the desired effect.
So, as much as I love the Dead Space remake (and hope the sequels get a similar treatment), this is one area where I think the original does it better. Now, if we could just get that Nude Game+ mode…