Drag me to 'Hill
For ages, it seemed like Silent Hill was past it. It still had a hardcore following, but things hadnt been quite the same since its heyday, even though the games were still pretty ok. Hey, Konami--stick that quote on the box!
However, thanks to the frankly brilliant P.T and the two headed horror beast of Guillermo Del Toro and Hideo Kojima, Silent Hills about to make a roaring comeback. Like a Bat out of Hell, if the bat felt guilty about killing his wife or something. In celebration, lets take a look back at some, er, magical moments from the previous entries. Nothing from the films obviously. Or Homecoming, because bloody hell, it was plops.
Oh, just a warning, there will be spoilers aplenty.
1. A blind alley - Silent Hill
What better way to celebrate the horror of Silent Hill than by starting from the very beginning. Harry Mason runs through a foggy town, looking for his recalcitrant daughter, only to be led down an alley. Of course, wandering down an alley in a mysterious place with no one around in any horror media is a SPLENDID idea. What follows is a series of very Hitchcock-esque, dutched camera angles, a siren wailing, a descent into pitch black darkness, a lot of rust, blood, hanging corpses and tiny skinless decapitated bear things clawing you to death. Lovely. It made Resident Evil look like Gex, and proved that video game horror could easily be as unsettling as anything seen in films.
2. Your first nurse - Silent Hill
Horror games have become a lot nastier in the 15 years since Silent Hill was released, but as the old saying goes, you never forget your first: and this moment in the original Silent Hill is a keeper as far as nightmarish imagery is concerned. Especially if you were in your formative years when playing it. Poor old nurse Lisa, (who is only ever encountered in Silent Hills Hellworld, which should set alarm bells ringing) begins to realise somethings not quite right, before she starts leaking blood from her eyes and mouth. The truly horrifying thing? Shes still asking Harry for help, but all Harry can do is make a beeline for the door. What a git.
3. The woodland walk - Silent Hill 2
This entry isnt horrifying in the traditional sense, but it shows just how confident Team Silent truly was in the fruit of its doubtless mangled loins. Protagonist James Sunderland starts off towards the titular town, his journey taking him through a wooded area with a long, winding road and it seems to go on forever, with only a quick detour at a cemetery to break up the descent. Nothing happens, but youre constantly expecting it to thanks to unsettling noises and your own febrile imagination. After a good long while, he finally makes it to town. Its an inauspicious start, but it absolutely fills you with dread.
4. Pyramid Head's silent menace - Silent Hill 2
Pyramid Head is easily Silent Hills most iconic enemy. The best thing about him though? Theres no big entrance, no grand cut scene announcing his arrival. James is frittering about the Woodside Apartments building minding his own business and trying to open doors when suddenly a scream! Oh crumbs. He runs up to where the scream was, only to be confronted by this thing looking at him from beyond a set of bars. Its not moving. Its just silently watching James, while his radio is emitting static like crazy. Of course, its not there again when he looks back. But you know its prowling around. Somewhere.
5. You are the monster - Silent Hill 2
Now comes the horrifying realisation that Silent Hill 2s real monster is you! It was you all along! James, though not evil in the pantomime sense, did a very bad thing, and without giving too much away, that revelation helps unravel certain other elements of the game. This game isnt just abstract for the sake of it: everything has meaning. For example (berets at the ready), the first enemy James encounters is that armless vomiting thing. Its not hard to deal with, and cant really fight back (due to no arms), except to puke things up at you, but given the revelation near the end of the game? Vomiting and sickness? Cant fight back? Sound like someone? Eh, eh?
6. The terrible reflection - Silent Hill 3
Silent Hill 3 is a return to the cult shenanigans of the first game, as opposed to the more conceptual stuff seen in 2. So its a bit more daft, and not really as interesting, but no matter. It still has plenty of nasty tricks up its sleeve. Heather Mason ends up in a room with a large mirror and--this being Silent Hill--things happen. Blood starts pouring out of the sink on the mirror side and spilling out into the real world. Meanwhile, Heathers reflection just sort of stops, and starts looking a bit ill. Its already been established by the way, that Heather has a fear of mirrors, so Silent Hill is probably the most sadistic sentient place in games. Apart from the Mushroom Kingdom.
7. No safe place - Silent Hill 4: The Room
Silent Hill 4: The Room is genuinely probably the scariest of the series, and its all thanks to the hauntings in the titular room. These range from fairly innocuous, like a pair of shoes moving (maybe protagonist Henrys mum moved them because hes a messy swine), to the downright hideous, like a load of screaming faces appearing in the wall. Plus, you lose all important health the closer you get to these hauntings. The Room starts out as some kind of safe haven, but thats gradually turned around the further you get into the game, so no place is safe. Easily the worst one is when staring out the peephole in the door, you see a ghastly bloodied version of yourself staring back. Aaaargh.
8. The horrifying head - Silent Hill 4: The Room
Theres always been a bit of David Lynch to the Silent Hill series, especially when hes at his most discombobulating and terrifying (like Eraserhead or Inland Empire). Everything will seem normal, if a bit strange, and then suddenly theres a deformed woman singing a song inside a radiator. This bit in Silent Hill 4 is reminiscent of that. Henrys minding his own business, wandering around an unassuming hospital in a nightmare hellscape, when he walks into a room featuring the massive head of deuteragonist, Eileen Galvin. Of course, the eyes follow you round the room too, because its Silent Hill, and Silent Hill is bloody horrible. Youd never see that ornament in Bargain Hunt.
9. Raw shocks - Silent Hill: Shattered Memories
Shattered Memories is easily one of the best in the series, and let no plonker tell you otherwise. It takes a completely different approach from the other games, going all in for atmosphere and tension, rather than the grotesque. Anyway, there are no enemies, and the game largely involves Harry Mason wandering around a snowy Silent Hill looking for his daughter (its a reimagining of the first game). Occasionally, though, its iteration of the Hellworld will break through, and youre be forced to run away from Raw Shocks. These bits are exercises in blind panic, as youve no clue where to go, with these things on your tail.
10. Child death - Silent Hill: Downpour
Finally we come to Downpour, which is savagely undervalued too, perhaps because the dreadful Homecoming really hurt the franchise. Anyway, Downpour--in many ways--could be the darkest of the Silent Hill games, dealing with molestation and child murder. In one scene, Murphy Pendleton is forced to watch while the bogeyman picks up a hapless child, slowly and agonisingly snapping the little tykes neck. Considering most games shy away from showing kids getting killed, youre always expecting something to interrupt the process. But no! It goes ahead and does it, and the tot slumps to the ground, neck flopping about. Crikey.
Its not clear yet what Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro quite have lined up for the upcoming Silent Hills, but between their sterling work on P.T and the strength of past games, as seen by whats on display here, its clearly in pretty good hands. Obviously, Silent Hill is a series with a litany of terrifying moments and features so some have been regrettably left out, but thats what comment sections are for! I can only dig so much out of my poor knackered brain, so perhaps you can jog my memory by suggesting other bits, before Lisa snaps my neck while Im trying to get that bloody foetus to cry a second time.