Remembering Silent Hill – Celebrating 15 Years of Horror
Today is Silent Hill‘s 15th anniversary. On this very day, the first game in the series released in North America, exciting and terrifying PlayStation owners and creating a following of fans that still exists to this day. Silent Hill is one of the originals. It’s legacy has spawned many games that yearn to capture its unique brand of psychological/supernatural horror, but fail to do so.
Below, the staff of Rely On Horror has listed their favorite moments from the Silent Hill series (spoilers below). Please, let us know yours in the comments.
CJ Melendez: Silent Hill 3 puts us into the shoes of the girl that we worked so hard to save in the very first Silent Hill. After a long ride home– through a Mall, train station, underground area, and dept building– Heather finally escapes her nightmares. It’s been a long night for the poor girl, and all she wants is answers and the comfort of her father. It isn’t until Heather opens the front door of her apartment that her nightmare spirals even further downwards.
Her father, Harry Mason, is dead. This is a defining and heart breaking moment for fans of the series. We spent many hours playing as Harry, trying to find Cheryl. Being reunited with him was, no doubt, on many minds as fans booted up Silent Hill 3 for the first time, only to reach the apartments and discover that their reunion with Harry was denied – killed at the hands of Claudia Wolf. Heather’s sadness resonates with players of the first game in the series. We were once Harry, and we cared about him.
The scene perfectly wraps up in the most heart wrenching way, should players examine his dead body. Heather says the following line, “Dad… why did you have to die? You told me you were the strongest man in the world… Liar.”
Let the sadness flow through you.
Zack Furniss: Silent Hill 4 has always been a bit of a black sheep for the series, but I can’t help but keep going back to it, fully entrenching myself in that bizarre, uncomfortable exploration of the concept of home. Not even ten minutes have passed by when you realize that your apartment is locked from the inside. The idea that someone could go inside your home, and change your personal palace to a personal prison makes me all sorts of shivery. As the game goes on, the apartment suffers from increasingly insane (hallucinations?) hauntings. The first time you see something trying to crawl out of one of your walls is going to be something that sticks with you for a good while. We all know that schools, factories, and prisons can be terrifying places, but the steady degradation of your own sanctuary feels so much more personal, and infinitely more violating.
Rourke Keegan: Silent Hill: Downpour. It was my third or fourth time through, this time I was showing it to my girlfriend, who would rather watch me play. About halfway through the game, I was in the Orphanage stage. Walking around, I was taking every opportunity to look around at the pretty environment and was playing in 3D to enhance the experience. I was walking slowly through a sort of courtyard area, and the spooky music by Daniel Licht was playing softly in the background. I walked up to a particular tree with a tire swing, and stopped to look around once more before entering the building – the tire was now one of Murphy’s prison mates, hanging by his neck. On its own, creepy enough, but in 3D – Oh boy. We both jumped and she even gasped loud enough to be considered a scream. I love the psychological stuff, and the deep emotional roller coaster rides, but that single moment almost gave me a heart attack.
Brent Cook: My favorite moment in the entire Silent Hill series is the “Leave” ending in Silent Hill 2. After spending the entire game building something of an admiration for the character of James, and his dedication to finding his wife, the truth is revealed. While I expected to find out that James had killed his wife, I never expected it to be out of hate, and I never expected to be so understanding of it. Unlike Harry Mason before him, James was brought to Silent Hill not to find his wife, but to face his guilt for killing her. Following that revelation, we are brought back to where the game started: the letter. We see, now, that James had blocked out the rest of the letter, convincing himself to ignore the parts of the letter that would have let us on to why James really did what he did. The delivery of each line of the letter is not only heartbreaking, but perfectly reflects your trip through Silent Hill, and the growth of James’ character. Never before had I seen a game with such a complex, emotional pay-off, and it’s the one thing that always pulls me back to play the game again.
Casper Bronmans: When I received my PlayStation 1 as a gift from a relative, he also included all of his games. Some of these games didn’t come with a cover, so little, six-year-old me couldn’t look at the pictures before putting a game in the console. One of these games was the first Silent Hill, so when I started playing it, all I knew was that there was a lot of mist and a little girl.
I proceeded to follow the little girl, and this eventually led me to an alleyway. When I then reached the end of that path and saw some dude impaled on the fence, I kind of lost it.
Tarrah Rivard: Silent Hill 2 – The Burning Staircase. While The Burning Staircase isn’t the most frightening moment of the series or even of Silent Hill 2 itself, it’s still a very moving scene and one that has stuck with me even after all these years. To me, this scene seems like it would encapsulate almost perfectly what it would be like to be an abuse victim. We all know that what happened to Angela wasn’t her fault. Yet despite all reason, she fully believes the abuse that she suffered was deserved; instilled in her from such a young age, hammered into her tiny skull so many times that it became her truth. You want to help her, you want to tell her that everything will be alright, but it won’t be – and she knows that.
This is also the first time that the player sees another person’s version of Silent Hill. You could theorize that James’ version of Silent Hill is shrouded in fog and darkness because he is working through the repressed memory of what happened to his wife. Angela’s Silent Hill is full of fire because she is constantly tortured by the memory of her past, her truth. If anything, the scene reminds us that even when our own lives are full of despair, there are others fighting their own battles too. And for them, it’s always like this.
Taylor Dean: If I had to pick one Silent Hill game that nails all of these and more, it would be Silent Hill 2. The long forest walk, dark apartment buildings, then onto the park and terrifying hospital, revolving underground, and finally the climactic and emotional hotel– there isn’t a single thing Silent Hill 2 does wrong (except for maybe the combat).
But, one defining moment in the game that I’ll always remember and cherish is the dual Pyramid Head encounter. The beautiful camera work, absolutely eerie and piercing musical score by Akira Yamaoka, and the weight of the situation that James and Maria are in still astounds me. When James falls to his knees and realizes everything at that moment, and then begins to close in on the resolution, goosebumps crawl over my entire body. It’s the one scene I’ve always wondered how it could be re-created in another Silent Hill game with a different protagonist (or antagonist?).
Kyle Campbell: Silent Hill 2 was a watershed moment for myself when it came to storytelling in the gaming medium. It was one of the first games to elicit an emotional response from me, and not one of joy, but utter sadness. It’s a game so brilliantly written, that it makes you feel sympathetic for a cold hearted murder. The scene that truly made the game for me was the journey down the long, barren hallway where you overhear a conversation between James and Mary. There’s nothing all that significant about the dialogue between them, at least in terms of the plot, but it tells you everything you need to know about their relationship leading up to Mary’s passing. Masterful storytelling, all without taking away player agency. That scene accomplishes more in a few short moments than most games do with their entire narrative, especially when it comes to forming an emotional connection between the characters in the game and the player.
Tobiichi Karlsson: Back in 2010 I was part of a stageplay based on Silent Hill 2 called Välkommen till Silent Hill (Welcome to Silent Hill). I both helped write the adaptation, and ended up playing the lead role of James Sunderland, despite not at all befitting that role, in theory. We worked on a lot of props and played around with light to set the atmosphere right on stage. As we worked on it, we managed to constantly improve on what we were doing. Red Pyramid was terrifying, the infamous rape scene from the apartment was striking and intact, and we even managed to rewrite the last act in a way that actually let the audience understand what had happened in James’ past, despite not having everything from the game in there.
What was the toughest bit in making the play was figuring out the ending. There are many endings in Silent Hill 2 and they’re all pretty damn good in their own ways. We ended up using the most common ending, “Leave,” and I think that to this date, that scene was my favourite of the bunch. It had no dialogue from me or anyone on stage, no big event or anything. It was just me, as James, sitting on a bench at the graveyard as Mary’s full letter was read aloud on a recording. Laura approached James, and they looked at each other until James finally got up, tossed Mary’s letter (to the audience) and walked off stage with Laura as the play ended. It was wonderful to write, and act, and even more so when we saw the test audience reacting to it all.
Unfortunately, the play never actually had its premier. A day before the intended day, we received a cease and desist letter and had to take it all down. It was a shame, too, as the cast had worked really hard on preparing everything. We had spent days working on choreography for nurses and lying figures, along with so much else that just went to waste in the end. The play was almost resurrected with the subtitle Restless Dreams, but never went far. An idea to adapt Silent Hill: Shattered Memories was considered before me and the people involved parted ways. While production never began on Shattered Memories, I did like the ideas we had to solve with the psychiatrist sessions on stage. It was pretty cool.
This wasn’t the first time I had been involved in trying to adapt something into a different format, and just like the times before (and after) it really gave me a lot more respect for people who work on adaptations. It’s really hard, and you can’t just take the same thing that’s in a game and just put it on stage/screen, because then it turns out awful in a different way than it might have otherwise. While it’s not a direct memory of any game, that’s my most vivid and important memory relating to Silent Hill. My only runner-up would be finding my brother sitting inside a dark closet watching the first Silent Hill movie on his laptop, scaring the shit out of me when I went to go get a shirt.
Whitney Chavis: My favorite moment from the Silent Hill series is definitely Lisa Garland’s death scene in the original game. The melancholy music and Sato’s CG animation is hauntingly beautiful; I still get chills watching it and even a little choked up hearing her pleas for Harry to somehow save her from her fate.
When I first played the game, I had hoped there was some sort of alternate path I could take to save the kind nurse, but now I think if there was a way, like there was to save Cybil in Lakeside Amusement park, her death would have had less of an impact all these years later.