Last time, we went over the characters of the game and what makes them tick. This time, I want to take a look at two of the most important elements of the game: the fog world, the otherworld, and the monsters that reside there.
As per usual:
(Seriously, though, there is some discussion of sexual assault in particular that some folks may find triggering.)
I suppose a good place to start is with the series’s most iconic feature: the otherworld. Every now and then, the town of Silent Hill shifts between two versions: the “fog world” and the otherworld.
First we have the fog world, which is the version of the town that Harry spends most of the beginning of the game in. It looks like a normal town, only foggy, largely abandoned, and with gaping chasms or other obstructions blocking off portions of the road. There are monsters in the fog world, but they’re less ubiquitous.
Then we have the otherworld, which is a fucked up reflection of the town.
The fog is replaced by darkness, and some streets, floors, and walls are replaced by blood-soaked metal grating. The otherworld also has a much higher monster population, as well as some more dangerous variants of monsters we’ve already seen.
The otherworld is also sometimes referred to the “nightmare world,” and the word is an apt one, as according to an official guidebook put out by the developers:
These changes occur because there is a cycle in the world of Alessa’s nightmares which envelops the town. In the same way that a person normally repeats REM sleep and non-REM sleep in regular cycles while he or she is sleeping, when the nightmare world approaches a deeper darkness (sleep), a phenomenon occurs in which light is almost completely taken away and the world shifts into an even deeper nightmare as the cycle shifts again. (Note: the guidebook was not published outside of Japan, so the above is from a fan translation. As such, I am not able to verify its veracity.)
The shifts seem to come from the god Alessa’s body is harboring in particular, since it is implied to feed on fear and anger, and is using the otherworld to elicit these emotions. However, Alessa is also shown to have some measure of control over the otherworld, at least after the beginning of the game, based on her ability to place the Seal of Metatron around town and the fact that shit starts to really go off the rails after Dahlia captures her.
Then, there are the monsters. The monsters in Silent Hill also signify something about Alessa, typically her fears.
Let’s start with the first monster that we see in the game: the gray children.
These are the monsters that “kill” Harry at the beginning of the game, and are most prominent in the school level. True to their name, they look like gray, naked, hairless, mutant children with butcher knives. These critters represent the bullying and abuse that Alessa had suffered at the hands of her classmates, who branded her as a witch.
Larval stalkers are encountered in the school, and look like smaller, ghost-like versions of the gray children. They don’t attack Harry, and Harry is unable to damage them. They’re also weirdly adorable, in that they make squeaky noises and sometimes one will just fall over and then get back up again. They seem to represent Alessa’s feelings of helplessness, stemming from her abuse both at school and at home.
Stalkers appear in the game’s two final levels, the amusement park and Nowhere. They’re basically grown-up larval stalkers; however they are far more aggressive and will attack Harry on sight. They are also more dangerous than the gray children, mostly because they’re semi-transparent and hard for the player to see. If the larval stalkers represent Alessa’s helplessness, then the stalkers represent her anger.
Next are the mumblers. One interesting thing I’d like to point out here is that they appear much earlier in the European and Japanese releases of the game. This is because they replaced the gray children in those versions, since the censors there thought the gray children looked a bit too much like actual children. They are small, squat, reddish creatures with gaping holes instead of faces and knives for hands. Outside of the regions mentioned above, they first appear in the sewers. According to the wiki, they are another manifestation of Alessa’s love for fairy tales, being “a dark image of the small menacing animals and demons from fairy tales” that she used to read. Considering their resemblance to the gray children, however, they may also be an extension of their symbolism.
Then there are groaners. These creatures resemble large, hairless, emaciated dogs. They attack Harry by leaping for his throat, landing, and then circling about for another go. The symbolism behind this one is fairly obvious, in that they represent Alessa’s dislike and fear of dogs.
Next up are air screamers. Like the groaners, this one is typically located outdoors in the fog world. It mostly resembles a large, featherless, fleshy bird, but it also has features like a pteranodon or a pteradactyl. As for symbolism, Alessa very much liked to read, and was apparently a fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel The Lost World, in which explorers find a place where dinosaurs and other extinct creatures have survived.
The groaner and air screamer are also have otherworld variants, the wormhead and night flutter They look very much like their counterparts, but their bodies are darker and their heads have been replaced with what looks like a writhing mass of worms. They also are a bit more aggressive than their fog world counterparts. In terms of sybolism, they represent pretty much the same thing while also adding Alessa’s fear and dislike for worms. The Silent Hill Wiki (which is linked above) also puts forth an interesting theory: that they represent the disintegration of Harry’s world view, since worms break things down.
Then there are the creepers, giant cockroach-like insects first encountered in the school, and then later in the hospital and sewers. They’re more of a nuisance than an actual threat, causing minimal damage and easily defeated. They represent Alessa’s dislike for insects, with the exception of butterflies.
Next up are the puppet nurses and doctors. They are the most-human looking monsters in the game, looking like hunched over people with some kind of parasite growing out of their backs. Both of them appear in the hospital, but the puppet nurses also put in an appearance in Nowhere. They represent the distaste and fear that Alessa had for the staff of the hospital, believing them, under the orders of Kauffmann, to be “puppets” of the cult.
Interestingly, while some variation of the nurse appears in almost every Silent Hill game, the doctors don’t really (except in one of the mobile games not released in the US). I’m not sure why; I guess the nurses were just more marketable or something.
Then there are the rompers. These large, ape-like creatures are pretty god damned fast, and have a habit of pinning Harry down and mauling him. They’re also a bit tougher than most of the other enemies, taking a bit more effort to put down. They seem to represent Alessa’s fear of adults, and how she seems them (her mother, in particular) as a dominating force.
Next up are what the Silent Hill Wiki refers to hanged scratchers, but what I prefer to call mutant turtles. These are encountered in the sewers, and have a tendency to ambush Harry from the ceiling as the monster-detecting radio doesn’t work underground. They make a clicking noise, however, which does help to alert the player to their presence. They are somewhat reptilian, and may represent Alessa’s fondness for fairy tales due to their somewhat draconic appearance.
Now, on to the bosses. First up is the split head.
This is the first boss of the game, and resembles a very long lizard, or (to me at least) a penis with legs. It attacks by headbutting Harry, but also has a one-hit kill attack where it opens its mouth to swallow Harry whole.
Of course, the only way to kill it is to wait for the above to happen, then shoot into its mouth, so timing is pretty crucial to winning this fight. The split head also goes back to Alessa’s love for fairy tales, in that it also somewhat resembles a dragon. In fact, there is a book in the otherworld school containing a fairy tale that tells the player explicitly how to defeat it:
The next two bosses are actually linked with each other: the twinfeeler, which is encountered in the otherworld shopping center, and the floatstinger, which is encountered after Harry visits the otherworld hospital to talk to Lisa.
The twinfeeler is basically a giant caterpillar, whereas the floatstinger is giant moth, only with a stinger. The twinfeeler attacks by burrowing underground before erupting under Harry’s feet, and also by spitting acid; the floatstinger also spits acid and (as its name suggests) stings. These two go back to Alessa’s relationship with insects, with the latter resembling the collection of moths and butterflies in Alessa’s room. Moths and butterflies also represent transformation, as they start out as caterpillars. In this instance, these bosses may represent the transformation of the town, as well as Alessa’s metamorphosis after being reunited with Cheryl.
Up next is monster (or puppet) Cybil, which is Cybil infected by one of the parasites controlling the doctors and nurses. She doesn’t really hold any symbolism and mostly seems to be an obstacle for Harry to overcome, though her fate is tied to the end of the game. We also can’t say for sure how she gets infected, since all we see is something vague knocking her down in the sewer. The more common theory is that Dahlia, being the villain, is responsible; however this seems unlikely to me since Harry is still useful to her at this point. I think it’s more likely that Alessa infected Cybil as a last-ditch effort to stop Harry from leading Dahlia to her.
The Incubator’s symbolism is fairly straightforward, if one just looks at the definition of the word incubator. In this case, the Incubator symbolizes how the cult saw Alessa: as a means to birth their god. It’s interesting to note, as well, that she looks very much like an adult, almost angelic version of Alessa herself, representing her more innocent view of god.
The Incubus, but contrast, is far more demonic looking. In fact, it very much resembles the demon Baphomet. If the Incubator is Alessa’s idea of god, then the Incubus would be Dahlia’s: a god of wrath rather than benevolence. It is also referred to as Samael but some sources, tying it back to what Dahlia tells Harry about the mark he’s been seeing throughout the town.
The name Incubus also holds symbolism regarding Alessa. An incubus is the male counterpart to a succubus, both being demons that rape people in their sleep. The ritual performed on Alessa, as well as her subsequent impregnation, is definitely a violation, if not out-and-out rape.
So, there we have the monsters. In the next post, I will be talking about the game’s influences, as well as other versions or adaptations of the game.