Dredge Has the Potential to Be the Next Great Nautical Horror Movie

Dredge isn't the kind of game that typically gets a film adaptation, but that's what makes that project so interesting.

Photo: Team17

To the surprise of just about everyone, production company Story Kitchen has announced a film adaptation of Black Salt Games 2023 indie horror title, Dredge. While Dredge was a critical hit and relative commercial success, it’s not the kind of game you’d expect to receive a film adaptation so soon after its release. Then again, it sometimes feels like every video game out there is currently being turned into a movie or TV show.

We know very little about the Dredge adaptation at the moment, but it’s being described as “The Sixth Sense on the water” and “a grounded atmospheric cosmic horror blend of HP Lovecraft and Ernest Hemingway.” That certainly sounds promising, and Story Kitchen’s past and future projects show that they certainly have an eye for the best video games across a variety of genres.

Without getting into heavy spoilers, Dredge sees you play as a fisher whose seemingly quiet job is interrupted by the increasingly frequent occurrence of supernatural events out on the ocean. Not only are you forced to explore those hostile waters, but you soon realize that you may be the only person who can stop whatever is happening.

On the surface (pun somewhat proudly intended), Dredge doesn’t seem like an obvious candidate to join the ranks of the great works of nautical horror. There is a well-told story in the game, but it’s a somewhat ambiguous tale that largely unfolds via gameplay and atmosphere rather than pre-set narrative sequences. For that matter, so much of what makes Dredge special is based on actually playing the game. I too hope that Hollywood will one day make more movies about the joys of inventory management, but that just isn’t the direction the movie industry is going in.

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Specifics aside, Dredge really does have the potential to be the next great nautical horror movie. While hardly an official term for that sub-genre (at least to my knowledge), nautical horror naturally refers to those horror movies set on, in, or near bodies of water. From the revolutionary Jaws to more modern films like Adrift, nautical horror movies have historically utilized our two biggest fears of water: isolation and the predators. We naturally fear the idea of being stuck out on the water, and we’ve come to fear the creatures that are capable of calling those waters their home and operating in them more effectively than we ever could.

In its own ways, Dredge features the two core tenets of the nautical horror genre. It utilizes the panic of being trapped out on the ocean with only your wits and largely primitive pieces of technology to protect you. That panic is amplified by the presence of Lovecraftian horrors that validate every fear you’ve ever had of what lies beneath that shimmering surface. Through it all, you are still forced to consider the needs of your blue-collar job that may have once seemed like the source of a quiet life but now feels like the tomb that will seal your fate.

For generations, filmmakers have gleefully played with our fear of suddenly having to survive out on the water or confronting one of the aquatic terrors that land has mercifully rejected. In Dredge, we find powerful examples of both those fears as well as some slightly more unique qualities that might teach us a few new things to be scared of.

Whether Dredge lives up to any of that potential (or if the finished project will ever see the light of day) remains a mystery. In the mere existence of this project, though, we find some hope that the future of great video game adaptations will not be limited to the biggest and most cinematic franchises but will grow to include more games that could be reimagined into something truly fascinating.