Silent Hill and Good Horror

Those aren't pinatas... those aren't pinatas at all.

Wait a moment... those don't look like pinatas...

So for the first time in probably two years I’m playing a Silent Hill game. A sale on Steam however put Silent Hill: Homecoming on my plate. Within the first few seconds, the game assaulted me with the old, familiar aspects but I felt as though something was missing.

I bring this all up for a few reasons. First, the second Silent Hill movie is being produced as I speak. The first Silent Hill movie was, when you consider that it was a horror film based on a horror video game, fairly decent. The acting was poor and the plot needed some work, but they did an alright job of maintaining the setting.

There are many things I’ve always loved about the game series, especially Silent Hill 2. This game is what good horror is about. To explain, the plot was entirely character driven, and the setting was merely a reaction to the characters, even if they didn’t know or understand at the time.

People don’t really come to the ghost town of Silent Hill willingly, you see. They go there because they are guilty, they have sinned. In the second game, James Sunderland is brought to the town by a letter from his dead wife. In the midst of his investigation, he encounters troubled individuals who apparently have checkered pasts themselves.

The monsters, like good horror, have a reason behind them. They have themes.

To explain, my horror films course back in college discussed some classical monsters with regard to themes. Count Orlok (one of the earliest vampires on the movie screen) was one we contrasted against Frankenstein’s monster. The two villains are different in that Orlok is the nobility, upper class or bourgeoisie to the monster’s proletariat, or lower, working class. The vampires feed on those that are weaker, as they are regal and all powerful. Meanwhile the monster is slower, more dull and dressed plainly, causing destruction more out of ignorance. The vampire intentionally takes the lives of others while, while the monster doesn’t seem to understand the death it causes, such as in the scene with the little girl tossing flowers.

But whether out of naive innocence or intentional viciousness, both are a form of villain.

Reason is not absent with the monsters of Silent Hill 2. The nurses and mannequins are said to be symbols of James’ repressed sexuality, which the story eventually unfolds. One could view the faceless and almost shapeless ‘human roach’ characters as the strangers in the streets, the figures in the void we scarcely remember while we pass them by.

...

Good eeeeeeeeeeevening.

And then there’s Pyramid Head.

Pyramid Head is one of those monsters that stays with people. He is iconic and unforgettable despite how little people see of him. He made enough of an impact to have his own Wikipedia article. In the original movie he had a couple of scenes, the most memorable of all being when he ripped the entire skin off of a woman.

Although I will link to the video of this, I think it’s pretty clear that this scene is awfully graphic. Horrible acting aside, it makes me nauseous to watch it.

Many things make Pyramid Head unforgettable. There is the impact you feel upon looking at him as he is quite trademark. There’s the sounds he makes, as he drags his great knife over metal grates, a terrible sound that is also iconic. What little clothing he does wear is something between a judge and a cultist’s robe. People debate to this day whether or not he was raping a pair of mannequins in his first appearance.

But like my analysis of Tzeentch’s symbol, Pyramid Head refuses to be completely and easily defined. Some say he’s a judge of the old world, attracted to the guilty and sinful and existing independently of any greater powers. But others feel he is a symbol of James Sunderland’s anger and desire to both punish and be punished, and with the conclusion of Silent Hill 2, has no further place within the series’ story.

The combination of unmistakable imagery coupled with an unclear and undefinable-though-hinted at origin has kept Pyramid Head in people’s nightmares years after the game’s release. But Pyramid Head is simply a quintessential aspect of everything that embodies Silent Hill as a fantastic horror story. He is a manifestation, alongside the town and, of human sin. An equal and opposite reaction. His appearance, like the town of Silent Hill, can only come with recognition of guilt.

Going to Silent Hill is a trip into a person’s mind. The horror is merely the self discovery.

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