As rumors of a new Silent Hill game prove as enduring as the image of Pyramid Head, it's delicious torture for fans to imagine what the horror series could look like in 2021. Just as horror films have learned to twist more modern conveniences – cell phones, social media, constant access to the worst news from all parts of the world at all times – into devastating reflections of reality, Silent Hill could use them to create its most disturbing installment yet. The first Silent Hill game was released back in 1999, but its themes of loss and strange cult practices could be the fodder for any prestige horror film released in the last three years.
One direction the series could go – as demonstrated by all the found footage films that fill streaming services – is an exploration of what happens when a small town gets a spooky reputation. Someone has an experience or hears about Silent Hill, and it becomes an urban legend perpetuated by sites like Reddit. YouTubers who investigate true crime, or cults, or the occult, arrive to explore and up their subscriber numbers with some shaky footage of the Lakeside Amusement Park or the Balkan Church. Interference on their recording devices could mimic the radio static that warned of nearby monsters, and the blurring of truth and nightmare would fit neatly with the conflict between what's real and created in online videos. It would also be a nice nod to the Silent Hill myth. Inspired by the 2006 movie, fans traveled to visit the inspiration for the detail about the underground fires – Centralia, Pennsylvania – and would upload video of the scenes, with Akira Yamaoka’s distinctive melodies playing over them.
In my restless dreams, I see that town...
Konami and The Medium developer Bloober Team recently announced a "strategic partnership," leading Silent Hill fans to hope that could mean the horror inclined studio will be helping to revive the series. There were also rumors that Sony was working on a new Silent Hill game with Konami, so one way or another we could be headed back to the town sooner rather than later.
The recent success of the movie Midsommar, and documentaries about NXIVM and QAnon prove that cults are still a source of fascination for the world at large. With its religious group The Order, The Silent Hill series has plenty to explore on that front. There's the Wish House Orphanage, or Hope House, where children were taught the beliefs of the cult. Perhaps The Order, driven by a need to continue its legacy but faced with a declining small town, uses the internet to lure new adherents to its ranks. Could that hot new wellness influencer talking about her spiritual practice be all about worshipping Valtiel?
Then there are the themes of self-delusion and grief that are a Silent Hill trademark. People fooling others and themselves, struggling to accept the truth of their situations, trying to run away from their biggest problems… it's a motif that is hot right now in all kinds of popular culture. WandaVision, Hereditary, The Babadook, the themes of traumatic emotions turned into monsters, twisted realities, and the only way to escape is to accept what really happened and deal with the pain that brings.
In 2021, with a world still reeling from the effect of a global pandemic, still figuring out how to deal with all that loss and figure out what the new normal is, it feels like the perfect time for Silent Hill to make a comeback. We've all had a dislocation from our normal words, experienced isolation in one way or another, lived through a time of alternative truths and confusing news. Some turned to religion, others to anger, some found themselves swamped by loss with little light at the end of the tunnel. We all got a taste of Silent Hill's nightmare world, the one that suddenly changes all those familiar locations to something unsettling and threatening, that hides danger in every dark corner.
It's a tall order to create a horror game that isn't exploitative or cheap in this new world, but Silent Hill's history gives it a better chance the most. For whoever should take the reins of the series in the future, the key will be capturing the psychological truths that Team Silent so keenly trapped in simple mechanics and pink rabbits 20 years ago, and not just thinking that resurrecting Pyramid Head, handing a character a gun, and getting them to shoot some chesty horror nurses is enough. I hope it happens, and I hope the next Silent Hill game is worthy of the name, and not just because we could all use the catharsis that its fleshy monsters can bring in 2021.
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