The Silent Hill series has long been a fan favourite for its disturbing monster design, but did you know that there’s some psychology behind each horrifying nightmare-incarnate you encounter? The monsters in Silent Hill all have reasons for looking the way they do. Typically manifestations of characters’ fears, faults, or memories, the beasts are carefully designed so that when you kill them in-game, the protagonist is metaphorically facing up to their insecurities.
I’ve repressed my overwhelming desire to cower in a corner at the recollection of them to bring you the most intriguing backstories behind these petrifying beasts from the Silent Hill archive. You never know, reading this might make you feel sorry for the monsters next time you see them - before the fear kicks in and you blindly shoot everything you’ve got their way.
Fair warning alert: this article is full of spoilers for the Silent Hill games, and I’ll be discussing gore, some pretty twisted sides to the human psyche, and more gore. You have been warned!
Scarlet from Silent Hill: Homecoming is one of the few monsters I pity. As the twisted reincarnation of a young girl named Scarlet Fitch who was murdered by her father, Scarlet is a giant doll with porcelain skin, long limbs, and a mouth full of teeth. In life Scarlet was fond of dolls, tons of which can be found in her room and in the path leading up to the monster’s lair, hence the creature’s general doll-like appearance. Her father also describes her as having hands which were ‘as pure as porcelain’ - a sick comparison to make considering he sacrificed her via dismemberment.
That’s why her elongated limbs are severed at each joint (meaning that at one point she moves like a spider, *shudder*), revealing the flesh beneath her porcelain armour. And it’s also why she rises from a pool of her father’s blood at the beginning of the boss fight. Oddly enough, before the boss fight Scarlet cradles her father in her arms in an almost tender way - before biting his head off, which is very much deserved.
From Silent Hill: Origins, Two-back is one of the many monsters with dark sexual undertones. Its name is a reference to a famous quote from Shakespeare’s Othello, where Iago talks about “making the beast with two backs”, a veiled reference to sex. The monster probably symbolises protagonist Travis’ failure to have meaningful relationships - and his possible sexual deprivation - as he spends long, lonely hours on the road as a trucker. The twisted monster’s sexual connotations are seemingly confirmed by the bad ending, as notes found around the world and photos of dead women (all of whom are found in motels) hint that Travis might have been a serial killer, targeting women in the seedy Riverside motel. Lovely.
Alice in Wonderland might not sound like a likely place to find a monster, but Silent Hill has no trouble finding the dark side of the charming childhood tale. Asphyxia, like Scarlett, is from Silent Hill: Homecoming. In life she was Nora Holloway, a child who had a love for the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland and was sacrificed by being suffocated by her mother. So in the twisted world of Silent Hill she becomes a caterpillar-like monster with multiple flailing arms and a tail made out of torsos. She doesn’t have any feet, instead walking on one of her many pairs of hands, as a nod towards choking as her means of death. At the end of the boss fight you pull apart the hands covering her mouth, forcing Asphyxia to breathe - and it’s that breath which finally kills her, in an inverted suffocation.
An absolute classic, up there with Pyramid Head and the nurses, the Lying Figure is the first monster encountered in Silent Hill 2. In the street, James meets this staggering, armless beast with feminine legs encased in fleshy platform heels. The Lying Figure is interpreted by many as being a manifestation of James’ wife Mary, whose terminal illness, physical deterioration, and abusive mood swings messed him up in the head. Original designs of the monster show that its restrained arms are clutched around its groin, as a reference to James’ sexual deprivation. In the novelisation of Silent Hill 2, the monster is mentioned as being spawned from James’ feelings of confinement from having to stay at home to look after his wife, and the mist which the monster spews probably reflects the spiteful words James endured from Mary during her illness. If there was ever something which might give you a few reservations about marriage, the Lying Figure would be it.
Definitely one of the most memorable monsters on this list, and another one from Silent Hill: Homecoming, Siam is a sick parody of marriage. Siam is derived from siamese, a term often used to denote conjoined twins, which isn’t surprising considering the beast is made up of two beings. The larger, masculine one moves around hunched over like a gorilla on its large, stocky arms, and has a smaller, feminine body tied to its back which flails around and emits faint noises. There are serious BDSM vibes thanks to the signs of bondage all over its body, the female’s tied hands and torturously high heels, as the monster’s aggressive violence.
There are multiple theories around what the monster could symbolise, but the one I think is most convincing is that it represents the protagonist from the second Silent Hill game, James, and his wife Mary. The BDSM appearance of Siam hints towards James’ repressed sexual desires whilst he was looking after Mary (see the Lying Figure above for more borderline-traumatic details about their relationship), and the female half of Siam is tied on its back, making it literally a heavy burden, mimicking James’ feeling that Mary was a weight on his shoulders. Killing Siam gets you the ‘Shades of James’ achievement on Xbox 360, making it even more likely that the monster is a reminder of the first Silent Hill.