Video Games

Katie Plays Stuff: Silent Hill, Part 4

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Well, now we’re on part 4, which I’m thinking should about wrap this up. This time, I want to talk about the game’s influences, as well as other versions and adaptations, as well as some other media I think are kind of like the game. Probably not so much in this post, but

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Also, for a couple of items, I can’t really talk about their influence without spoiling the shit out of them, so there’s that too. Particularly the section about Jacob’s Ladder.

I suppose a good place to start is with the game that ended up codifying the survival horror genre, and one that Silent Hill was basically Konami’s response to: Resident Evil.

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Resident Evil (released as Biohazard in Japan) was a horror game developed and published by Capcom for the PlayStation in 1996. It follows a group of paramilitary officers in a mansion full of zombies and other critters. While they’re not very similar in terms of theme or plot, they do share a number of the same mechanics (most notably tank controls), as well as some similar enemies (most notably monster dogs).

The game’s story, however, actually takes most of its inspiration from books.  In fact, if you look closely at the street names, you’ll notice that all of them bear the name of a famous author, and the game is riddled with small references to their works.

In terms of the general plot and atmosphere, Silent Hill probably owes the most to the works of one Stephen King. A number of of King’s stories take place in his home state of Maine (where the town of Silent Hill is strongly implied to be located), and a number feature writers as protagonists. While no streets in the game bear King’s name, one street does bear the name of a pseudonym of his: Richard Bachman.

In terms of individual works, the two by King that have the most influence are probably the novel Carrie and the novella The MistCarrie is the story of a young woman who is tormented by her classmates and religious extremist mother, who discovers that she has telekinetic powers, while The Mist is about a group of people trapped in a grocery store by a mysterious, monster-filled fog Another novel that influenced the game (and that he published under the above-mentioned pseudonym) is The Regulators, a novel in which a young boy with reality-warping powers traps his neighbors in a TV western-styled nightmare. There was another novel that used a lot of the same characters as The Regulators (but is a re-imagining rather than a sequel) called Desperation. In this one, the characters find themselves in an all-but abandoned Nevada town, where they’re tormented by a possessed sheriff.

It’s also interesting to note that you can actually see replicas of an ad King made for his college’s student newspaper hanging on the walls of the cafe where the game starts. Not really an influence, bur just something I found amusing.

There there’s Dean Koontz, specifically his novel PhantomsPhantoms is about a small town in which people disappear in mysterious circumstances, for which monsters appear to be responsible. Notably, the room in the school where Harry obtains the shotgun weapon has the title of a book written on a wall in blood; in Phantoms the protagonists receive a similar message written on a mirror.

And now we’re onto Ray Bradbury, in particular his novel Something Wicked This Way Comes. In this book, a pair of teenage boys come into conflict with a very odd travelling carnival and its owner, Mr. Dark. Like Silent HillSomething Wicked This Way Comes also involves a confrontation on a carousel.

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Moving on from books to films, one of the biggest influences on the game is probably Adrian Lyne’s 1990 film Jacob’s Ladder. Jacob’s Ladder is about a Vietnam veteran who starts seeing some odd and terrifying things, which may or may not be hallucinations. In the end, it’s revealed that he actually never left Vietnam, and the whole movie was a dream he was having before dying from wounds he sustained in battle. The film mostly inspired the series’s aesthetics (most prominently in the third game), but is most clearly referenced in Silent Hill‘s bad ending.

What’s odd about Jacob’s Ladder, to me at least, is that it’s often categorized as a drama rather than a horror movie, despite its plethora of disturbing imagery. I’m thinking that the ending as well as the references to the Vietnam war may have something to do with that, but I’m still going to consider it a horror movie.

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The entire Silent Hill series also carries influence from director David Lynch as well, with one of thos influences being his 1990-1991 TV series, Twin Peaks. The short-lived series is kicked off by the murder of a teenage girl. An FBI agent name Dale Cooper (Kyle McLachlan) is sent to the town to investigate the murder, and a lot of weird shit starts to happen. A lot of what’s going on isn’t really made clear, because David Lynch really isn’t big on explanation, but it is a very interesting show.  Mostly what they have in common is the “small town where weird things keep happening” angle, but it also influenced Akira Yamaoka’s score for the game. The opening theme, ending themes, and a brief piece that plays during a “blooper reel” unlocked by getting either good ending sound very much like the music from Twin Peaks.

So, that’s about all I have for the game’s influences, which leads me into other versions or remakes of the game.

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Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is more of a re-imagining of the game, rather than a remake.  The basic premise of the game is the same: Harry Mason wakes up after a car crash to find his daughter missing, and must venture into the town of Silent Hill to try and find her. While it does have a lot of the same characters, they mostly have different roles. Also, the game ditches most of the survival horror elements while playing up the psychological ones, with the game experience itself changing based on how the player answers certain questions, or what kind of items they choose to examine. Now, I have to admit, that I never actually finished the game myself; not because it was particularly bad, but more because some aspects (read: chase sequences) eventually started to become more frustrating to me than actually scary. I may eventually pick it up again and give it another shot, as it does actually have a very interesting story. Notably, this is also the last game in the series to feature music composed by Akira Yamaoka, as he left Konami shortly after the game was released.

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There was also a game published in 2001 for the GameBoy Advance called Play Novel: Silent Hill. It largely follows the plot of the original, but in the format of a visual novel rather than a more traditional survival horror game. It also adds a second scenario where we get to see what Cybil was doing. However, as it was never officially released outside Japan, it is very, very hard to find, especially in English. The best bet for people who want to play it would probably be this translated fan port of the game for PC; however, due to it being a port of a GBA game, the image resolution is rather low and the audio is a bit tinny.

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Then, of course, there is the 2006 film adaptation, directed by Christophe Gans and starring Radha Mitchell, Sean Bean, Laurie Holden, and Jodelle Ferland. It was…not well received by a lot of folks. Personally, I quite liked it, despite its flaws. It follows the same basic plot of the game, but a lot is changed  from the source material: instead of Harry Mason, our protagonist is Rose Da Silva, they changed Cheryl’s name to Sharon (for some reason). Also, this version of Dahlia (Deborah Kara Unger) is far more sympathetic than her game counterpart, with most of her evilness being transferred to a new character named Christabella (Alice Krige). The space between Alessa’s burning and Cheryl/Sharon being called back to Silent Hill is also much longer-about 40 years as opposed to seven. Other than that, the basic plot remains the same, and I actually really like Laurie Holden’s portrayal of Cybil.

If you’re looking for a copy of the game itself, you can actually download it from the Playstation Network if you have a PSP or a PlayStation 3 for roughly $6. Otherwise, it’s actually been out of print for quite some time, so a physical copy is a bit harder to come by. The best place to find a physical copy would probably be either Amazon, or GameStop’s website.

So, I think that’s about it for Silent Hill. If you haven’t played the game at this point, and I’ve piqued your interest, I do highly recommend it. It’s atmosphere and storytelling are top-notch, and while it’s a fairly short game, it has a lot in it to unpack.

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