Whenever someone mentions the Gamecube cult classic Eternal Darkness, someone else will mention the bathtub scene. This very brief moment is just a few seconds long – and yet it’s probably the most famous moment from the game. It is a jump scare, but one implemented in such a way that it catches you completely off guard – provided you don’t know about it beforehand, of course.
So what is it? Well, Eternal Darkness had an interesting concept: it let you play with many different characters in different timezones, from a soldier from the Roman Empire to a firefighter in the 90s. The protagonist of the game is Alexandra Roivas, who, by reading through a book found in the mansion of her grandfather, experiences past moments, allowing you to play as several different characters. In between those moments you are free to explore the mansion, which serves sort of as a hub world, and a moment of rest from the fighting scenes and from the tension. Though there is an eerie atmosphere with some strange things going on (such as moving statues whose gaze follows you as you walk past), there are no enemies in the mansion, and it’s very quiet in its abandoned halls.
This is why the bathtub scene is so effective: it happens when you least expect it. You may have expected it during one of the combat sections, but not now. Now, you are simply exploring the mansion, looking for clues and extras, in a completely different state of mind. You enter a bathroom, and walk towards the bath tub. The prompt ‘examine’ appears on screen.
A shrieking scream suddenly shatters the silence, and the camera jump cuts closer and closer to the mangled corpse of a woman, stuffed into the tub (what’s funny is I never realized it was Alexandra herself, it’s over so quickly I had not recognized her). This moment stopped many a gamer’s heart. Looking back at it, it may not seem that shocking. But you have to consider the context: the game deliberately messes with the false sense of security you have in the mansion, breaking its own rules, in a way. All of this combined makes for a moment many people won’t soon forget.