‘Rent Dead Redemption’: Sydney Studio Creates Video Game About Real-Life Rental Horror Stories
Fuzzy Ghost, an award-winning Sydney-based developer, has revealed a new trailer for its next comedy horror game, Janet DeMornay is a Slumlord (and a witch) (JDM for short), launching on Steam later this year. But unlike many horror games that have graced our consoles and PCs, this one is about your real-life horror rental stories. An online competition (which ends on 25 March 2023) will source real-life rental horror stories submitted on its website to be featured in JDM as collectible Case Files hidden throughout the game’s world. Winners will also receive a free copy of the game. Though considering the comedy horror angle, perhaps it’s more about taking the mickey out of our misfortune than scaring the socks off us. Those rent rises do have us shaking in fear.
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Janet DeMornay is a Slumlord (and a witch) is a horror comedy game about renting, inspired by irreverent horror-comedy classics including Beetlejuice and Poltergeist. The tongue-in-cheek video game sees players become Andrew, who has signed a new lease to an enchanted but crumbling queer terrace house in Sydney. It all sounds so familiar, doesn’t it? Well, the worst part is you’ve been transported to another dimension. Bummer.
Using unique puzzle mechanics, players will explore their dilapidated home and attempt to return to the real world as their “faded television shopping channel star landlord (and witch)”, Janet DeMornay, becomes increasingly threatening. Fans of Resident Evil and Silent Hill will welcome the interactivity of the world (or home) and problem-solving mechanics. The trailer asks viewers if they have a negligent landlord and quickly replaces the word with “nightmare” before the horror begins. Landlords who refuse to fix black mould leave their stuff in your garage, replacing your defective oven with a more defective one. If this sounds like you, Fuzzy Ghost wants your rental horror story.
“We wanted to make a horror game, so we asked ourselves: In Australia in the 2020s, what’s something that’s truly terrifying? To be honest, the answer came pretty quickly—being a renter,” said Scott Ford, co-founder of Fuzzy Ghost and experienced renter in Sydney’s inner west. “JDM is a horror comedy about renting, and it feels like everyone we know has had a rental experience that’s horrible, or hilarious or both. We wanted to share their stories, as well as our own. Just have a great big bitch session, really. But in a game. And with witches.”
Fuzzy Ghost’s previous game, Queer Man Peering Into A Rock Pool.jpg, won the 2022 Australian Game Developer Award for Excellence in Emerging Games, was acquired by the Australian Powerhouse Museum to be part of their permanent collection, and is on display for the Absolutely Queer exhibition for WorldPride 2023 here in Sydney.
At the heart of these games is a developer looking to share “the lives of queer individuals as they navigate the world around them.” Queer is a foundational part of the game’s “mood board,” alongside tone and look. Aside from the 80s classic style of ‘Beetlejuice and Poltergeist via The Real Housewives of Sydney‘ and a look of ‘the stop-motion horror of Henry Selick (Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline) and a little bit of Junji Ito if he got into paper mache. Content warning – body horror’, the video game steam description also reads, “there’s gay on gay relationship content. With no homophobia or coming out stories. JSYK, we don’t write sad endings for our queers.”
But on top of the importance of queer messages, JDM is about being a renter and the all too common landlord overreach. Or as co-founder Pete Foley puts it, “JDM is a ridiculous but horrifyingly relevant story about found-family, queer lives, and landlord overreach”. Janet DeMornay is a Slumlord (and a witch) and will launch in late 2023 and will be available via Steam. You can submit your real renter horror stories here.