Thursday, September 3, 2009

Silent Hill: Then and Now

written by Steven Duarte

The year was 1998 and Japanese video game developer Konami wanted to create a horror theme video game in the vein of the Resident Evil franchise. They wanted a game that was slow paced, very atmospheric and most importantly very much of a mind fuck to the player. Well since then there have been seven games, a major motion picture and numerous appearances in books, comics, and music that have all come from the world of Silent Hill. This type of video game had not been seen before. The horror that is induced from playing a Silent Hill game is on a psychological level, rather than relying on cheap “Boo,” scares. I still remember playing the first Silent Hill on the original Playstation for the first time. I came to one point in the game where I was being chased by what looked like skinned children waiving knives at me. As I began to run from them they then disappeared into thin air. It was then that I realized that I was playing a truly twisted game, and I loved it. The developers have said numerous times that they were heavily influenced by the film “Jacobs Ladder.” After a play through of any of the games you will notice the similarities. Playing these games really leaves you with feelings of hopelessness and loneliness which no game before it had done. The games all deal with the main character visiting the once occupied town of Silent Hill. The story usually involves the main character searching for a loved one or being called to the town by some ghostly means. It is there in the town of Silent Hill that the character faces their demons.
Another standout area of the games has always been the music provided by series veteran Akira Yamaoka. The music of Silent Hill is industrial sounding which would make Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails proud. From pounding hammer sounds to eerie piano scores, the Silent Hill songs are easily recognizable when played aloud. In Japan it is common that orchestras play entire Silent Hill soundtracks for live audiences. I listened to the Silent Hill soundtracks that I own to prepare me to write this piece as I really feel that the music sets the mood. Combing psychological horror with the awesome musical score completes this horror package. The original music from the games was even deemed worthy enough to use for the major motion picture adaptation of Silent Hill which is uncommon with video game to movie adaptations.

The movie adaptation introduced non video game players to the world of Silent Hill. The film was directed by French director Christopher Gans. The film was criticized by movie critics but was applauded by most fans of the game. The imagery of the film was very close to the bleak, dirty, blood encrusted worlds that Konami created with the video games. The film was successful enough that there have been numerous talks of a sequel. The motion picture also aided in creating a pop culture icon of the monster simply known as Pyramid Head. A search on Google will display countless paintings, drawings and custom made costumes all in homage to Pyramid Head.
New additions to the Silent Hill video game franchise include a reboot of the original Silent Hill game. This new title “Silent Hill: Shattered Memories,” will take advantage of the Nintendo Wii’s motion sensor controls. While not a direct remake, it will be a fresh reboot with different locations and a revamped story line that will still share some similarities to the original. The Wii’s Motion Sensor Remote will act as your flashlight and will also aid you in solving puzzles within the game. With this extra level of interaction one can only image what this will add to the franchise.

Silent Hill (1999)
Silent Hill 2 (2001)
Silent Hill 3 (2003)
Silent Hill 4: The Room (2004)
Silent Hill: Origins (2007)
Silent Hill: Homecoming (2008)
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (2009)

--Steven Duarte