Descend into Abject Terror with Kitty Horrorshow


“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” – H.P. Lovecraft

This quotation, perhaps more than any other, has shaped the media I consume and the art I explore, acting as a crimson thread tying me to an unspeakable, unknowable fate. From the games I play to the books I read to the films I watch to the music I listen to, I find myself returning most often to the eldritch realms of Lovecraftian fear. This pursuit of the oldest and strongest of emotions has even shaped the articles I have written for this very blog; during my tenure here as curator of the more noxious and bizarre facets of media, I’ve explored weird fiction, horror shorts, subversive films, transgressive art, alarming media experiments, deviant games, and some of the strangest, most disturbing corners of the extreme music spiderweb. My journies take me to uncanny places, but thankfully, many of you have often been there with me, plumbing the obsidian depths at my side. Friends, I ask you once again to venture with me into the unknown. Today, we explore the obscene, even perverse world of Kitty Horrorshow’s interactive horror stories.

I first encountered a hint of the miasmic conjurings of Kitty Horrorshow on a Metafilter post discussing the intrepid creator’s recent abomination Anatomy. The post description called the game a big, bold exploration into body horror and interactive storytelling, and the comments echoed with a resounding furor of panic and fear:

“I have opened and closed this game 8 times tonight because wow, this game’s atmosphere is unbelievably terrifying. That fear of taking a single step forward is better than even PT.”


“Maybe tomorrow, in bright light, I’ll get through it once, perhaps more.”


“I bought it but now I’m afraid to even play round one.”

Obvious hyperbole aside, the concept of an interactive experience that evokes both body horror and that certain je ne sais quoi that makes tales of eldritch terror so powerful intrigued me, so I answered the clarion call and navigated my way over to Horrorshow’s webpage. There I discovered a cornucopia of perversions, with a number of free-to-play games available alongside the inexpensive Anatomy. I decided to test the waters with a different game first, so after a brief installation, I set foot into the barren, primal landscape of CHYRZA.


When you awaken in the monochromatic, potentially alien netherworld of CHYRZA, you find yourself in proximity to a stark, likely abandoned village of some sort. Within the center of the village you find a glowing crystalline shape seething with arcane mystery; touching the artifact begins the narration of the story, and clues within the hollow, somehow fearful dialogue guide you to your next objective. As you wander around the pyramid-shadowed desert, exploring cyclopean monuments and coming to terms with the atrocities that seem to have gripped this small community you begin to assemble the scattered pieces of an unlikely puzzle. There is no HUD, no instruction, no guide other than your senses. Nothing is true in the world of CHYRZA aside from the black pyramid that forever lurks with brooding malice on the periphery of your consciousness. As the narrated soliloquy reaches an emotional peak, the game approaches a final showdown with the pyramid, one that leaves you in perhaps deeper ambiguity than before.

CHYRZA as an interactive story is effective because of how little it gives you. Every detail, every hint, even the controls themselves must be gleaned through (albeit brief) exploration into the unknown. It is a game of meddling in the dust of an unclear past without a clear resolution. There is no absolution or revelation. Only darkness.

If you enjoy staring into the void of the unknown and have a spare 20 minutes or so, CHYRZA is most definitely a worthwhile diversion. The music is minimal yet subversive. The subtle drones and monochrome static accentuate the fevered, reclusive dialogue that evokes the spoken-word sections of Pig Destroyer‘s Natasha. The restrained color visuals and creeping audio work in tandem to perpetuate a mystifying glamour that never truly answers the questions it asks you; some may find that frustrating, but for adventurers who seek the thrill of exploring the deepening mysteries, the experience is a brief but wholly enjoyable (in a twisted way) one.

I encourage you to play through the game yourself, though you can also watch a video if you so desire.


If CHYRZA was a vaguely tangible descent into fear and doubt, 000000FF0000 is a naked rebirth into full-fledged insanity. Where the former granted you space to breathe in the dust of rot and panic, 000000FF0000 corrals you like a rat in a glitchy, corrosive labyrinth of irrational design. In this realm where the sky bleeds and the air pulses with malice, all concept of reality is abandoned at the altars of alien deities shaped like plague doctors.

Of the two games, 000000FF0000 feels fresher, albeit directionless, a more modern take on the age-old premise of fear of the unknown. Much like the Sad Satan interactive experiment I covered, Horroshow’s creation seems more intent on bewildering you with a dizzying graphical approach, nonsensical gameplay, and unintuitive design. From the download page that looks more like a malware installation to the veritable ziggurat of poorly labeled files you must navigate to even find the installation application, the game is a byzantine wreck that in my mind captures the paradigm-shattering effect a revelation of eldritch horror would truly have. As the game forces you between angles and squares you off against grim, sanguine specters, it certainly feels like a modern incarnation of Brown Jenkin’s witch house.

Whether you find the game effective or merely annoying is entirely up to your tolerance for being bombarded with vertigo-inducing imagery and walls of noise.

Although the sound design of both games is perfectly serviceable, I’d like to take a moment to suggest a potential release that you may also use as a soundtrack. Mhönos are a droning doom band on French label Necrocosm, and their new album Miserere Nostri seems the perfect accompaniment to the buzzing of the maze and the scorching of the desert sun. Split across four tracks, Miserere Nostri revels in slow-burning, malicious release. Riffs bubble to the surface like black tar amid swaths of sickening reverb and callous, perilous percussion. Throaty, apocalyptic vocals ring out like chants of the damned welcoming you to a subterranean, forgotten tomb. Though there are moments of levity, they serve only to lower your guard before dragging you back into the depths with hulking, juddering, alluring, and mysterious doom. Miserere Nostri, then, is the perfect eulogy for a final exploration of an alien catacomb.

Kitty Horroshow and Mhönos have certainly granted me an experience and slaked my thirst for unsettling atmosphere. I find myself wanting more, and I fully intend to wind my way deeper into Horrorshow’s primal, arcane world. Perhaps my own hunger for the thrill of fear will be my downfall. I hope you’ll join me for the ride.

If you like Kitty Horrorshow’s games, you should definitely consider supporting her work here. You can find Mhönos on Facebook and Bandcamp. If you try any of Horrorshow’s other games, let me know what you discover in the comments below.

(All Photos VIA)

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  • Eliza

    This article is absolutely fantastic, and I enjoyed reading them to a great exetent, even though the subject at hand isn’t one I care about.

  • RustyShackleford

    “Riffs bubble to the surface like black tar amid swaths of sickening reverb and callous, perilous percussion. Throaty, apocalyptic vocals ring out like chants of the damned welcoming you to a subterranean, forgotten tomb.”

    Dubs I’m officially starting the campaign to get you a heavy metal Pulitzer. This shit is fucking tight man, awesome job. p spoopy. Yep!

    • Eliza

      Yes, he totally dseserves something like that.

    • Mother Shabubu

      The Puditzer

    • Dubs

      I’m just a nerd.

  • Janitor Jim Duggan

    This is 3spoopy5me

  • i love Walking Simulators, as the kids call them, i’ll definitely check one or both of these out. CHYRZA looks similar to Kairo, which is in my top 20 video games.

    • Eliza

      Walking Simulator sounds like something that would exist in Wall-E.

  • brokensnow

    Great HP quote.

  • EsusMoose

    I may try these later, lacking headphones and having daylight probably isn’t the correct environment for this

  • Joaquin Stick

    The guy doing the Chyrza walk through is awesome, his voice almost sounds part of the game, like the characters monologue. Side note, I love the form of story telling that the game uses, where you’re just thrown into something that has no reference. No opening “here’s what happened in this world” speech or text. Mad Max was a recent perfect example of it.

    • i have been so in love with that very facet of Mad Max. movies need to back off with the exposition.

  • tertius_decimus

    A drop of controversy into the conversation.

    You know, all these horror-art things be it the book, or game, or movie, or something else, fail in what they intended to do: to scare. One can argue if the fear is the primal and the first of all senses among living species and I seriosly doubt that to be true. No one can exactly remember pre-natal feelings, because at the moment the brain is underdeveloped, so maybe sole shit what a child feels is warmness of mother’s womb. During first two weeks after birth children don’t react to visual stimulus for the same reason: the vision is barely connected to the mind and the mind at such early stage… don’t even let me start on this one.

    So, with all due respect, H.P. Lovecraft lies or is just stupid. I’ve read enough of his books and my take on his legacy is pretty lenient: he uses artificial methods to scare someone with a mind of six-year old boy. On top of that his dry, almost clerical, red-tape lexicon doesn’t help to gain fearful atmosphere he describes. Every Lovecraft’s story has that “it’s sooo scaary, woo-o, do you feeeel the feeeaaar-r-r-r?” vibe that’s laughable at the start. And it becomes annoying while you contiunue to read his horror books. So, where exactly he lies? There, where he states that the fear is the base, the bottom of human emotional pyramid. In reality, the fear is very complex multistage thing, it demands pretty high level of intelligence to interact with surviving instinct and these interactions are so complex that to date there is little understanding what’s going on inside heads of mammals, insects, fishes, birds and so on.

    There’s no paradox in there, despite it seems like so: the fear, as the multistage feeling (definitely not a basic one), requires certain level of brain’s developement but the true source of it lies in lack of knowledge. I know a 31-year old person who trembles before the storm. While she understands that there are defined processes in the atmosphere, the painful footprint on her childhood memory makes a barrier in her mind she can’t overcome. Fear of the unknown has sourced her fear. Though, the storm isn’t unknown anymore, mind inertia works out.

    This being said, there are no fears for a knowledgeable person. If you fear that some dude will strike you with a baseball bat in the back of the head, it’s because you don’t know how to deal with strangers, how to read their intentions and predict what comes next. If you fear spiders, you don’t know that spider bites something as big as a human only in defence, because he scared much more than you. If you fear dark spaces, or to be precise: someone or something that’s hiding in there, you have no knowledge how to deal with dark spaces. Don’t let me throw flashlight picture at you. On top of all: if you fear uncertainity in the life, in economical state, not sure if you’ll survive starvation, joblessness, homey, social injustice, war, etc, you don’t know how to deal with these events (or lack of thereof). Learn. Try. Experience is the only mark of intelligence. Someone tries and wins, so can you.

    If you have enough guts to overcome obstacles on your map, watching horror movies that won’t scare you a priori, becomes waste of time. I’ve watched both Chyrza and 00ff00 (whatever silly name they’ve gave it) and found nothing more complex than same Lovecraftian horror cliches that are intended to make me shudder. They just don’t work.

    • Dubs

      Hey Tertius, I appreciate this comment, though I respectfully disagree for a couple of reasons. The main reason is that I think you’re projecting your own interaction with an art onto a genre, which is something we all do on an almost daily basis when critiquing art. I believe with your cultural background and life experience that art that attempts (successfully or otherwise) to kindle fear does not resonate with you because there are other, more pervasive emotions that you experience and acclimate to, and that’s okay. With any art, however, it’s important to look at the historical narrative from which it was birthed. Lovecraft began writing around the beginning of the 20th century, a time that was gripped with a significant amount of fear, particularly fear of the unknown. That unknown was embodied in infectious diseases (like the Spanish flu), world wars, economic depression, religious failure, and more. I believe Lovecraft’s art is a reflection of all of this uncertainty, and you can see a parallel to how the surrealist art movement started after WWI as an embodiment of the detachment from the harshness of a post-war realism. Though I can’t say for certain what Kitty Horrorshow’s personal experiences are, I can say that I feel the US is another state of great uncertainty, and I feel that pervasive fear of the future and the unknown it brings all around me. To analyze this art and the atmosphere it attempts to evoke, I think we need to look at that cultural atmosphere as a guidepost.

      Second, I think your quotation, “This being said, there are no fears for a knowledgeable person.” actually proves Lovecraft’s craft. If there is no fear for a knowledgeable person, then I think it makes sense that facing a situation of which foreknowledge is impossible would in fact be a terrifying scenario for many.

      Thanks for your thoughtful reply, though. It made me think a little more about all this. For the record, I don’t find the media above particularly frightening, though I do think the bewilderment it tries to invoke is a bit thrilling.

      • tertius_decimus

        Thank you for the comment! Very interesting read. Now it’s deep night over my house, so I’ll think and answer a little bit later, okay? I love such thoughtful talks.

      • hey Dubs, i often wonder if the fear of the unknown has a greater impact upon a person who appreciates the comfort of control. one who is more adaptable to foreign concepts and/or environments will be less afraid of the unknown than one who always chooses to be surrounded by known variables.