Silent Hill 2 Retrospective, Part 3: The Monsters

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(Content Warning: once again, this game deals heavily with themes of abuse, suicide, illness, and death. Reader discretion is advised.)

Welcome back! I said in the last post on this topic that I was going to talk about the monsters of Silent Hill 2. Well, my friends, that day is today!

So, let’s get started.

While the monsters are all different and represent different things, they do have a few things in common. For one thing, with the exception of the final boss, they are all lacking facial features, or their faces are obscured in some fashion. In one case, the monster doesn’t actually have a head at all. This, as well as the jump the series took from PlayStation to PlayStation 2, makes the monsters far more unnerving.

Too many of the monsters in Silent Hill had eyes. I prefer my Silent Hill monsters to be eyeless.

With that out of the way, let’s start with probably the least significant monster in the game: the creeper.

creeper

The creeper is probably the only monster in the game not specifically related to one of the characters. In fact, this one seems to mostly just be a holdover from the previous game. That game had giant cockroaches, so this one does too. According to the Book Of Lost Memories (a Japan-only guide to the first three games), these critters seem to be mostly just a manifestation of the town itself. Which is weird, because I don’t think it appears in any of the games after this one.

As someone who really, really doesn’t like bugs, they sure do creep me the hell out, though.

Now to move on to our next lovely, the lying figure.

lying figure

The lying figure, which is the first creature we encounter in the game, resembles a hairless, faceless person wearing a straightjacket made of its own skin. They shamble slowly towards James, occasionally vomiting acid on him. At other times, they skitter across the ground, making horrible screeching noises.

The symbolism of the lying figures seems to be twofold: the first is that they represent Mary in the late stages of her illness, and how horrible and ugly it made her feel. This is somewhat backed up by her telling James she “look[s] like a monster” in the conversation from the final hallway. The other item it symbolizes seems to be the anguish and helplessness James felt in the face of losing his wife. He couldn’t do anything to help her, and this monster literally has its hands tied behind its back.

That done, let’s move onto the mannequin, a monster that would look very much at home in a Marilyn Manson music video.

mannequin

The mannequin resembles two sets of women’s legs sewn together at the waist, with the top pair missing the feet. They generally stay absolutely still until James approaches, at which point they come at him and smack him with the top legs. This monster starts off a pattern that you may notice: several monsters in this game have either feminine or explicitly sexual attributes. This is because James has a lot of sexual frustration going on. Turns out that when your wife is terminally ill, she usually doesn’t feel much like getting it on. And James doesn’t really seem like the sort to cheat, so all that kinda built up over the past three years.

The fact that these are the monsters that we see Pyramid Head abusing in the apartment complex is certainly an extension of this.

Let’s move on to the nurses.

nurse

Also referred to as “bubble head nurses” due to the growths obscuring their faces, these creatures are basically the nurses from the first game turned up to 11. Unlike their first game counterparts, which wielded scalpels, these ones carry pipes to bludgeon James. They are also dressed far more provocatively, with low-cut blouses and very short skirts.

These monsters seem to combine the symbolism of the lying figures with that of the mannequins: James’s anxieties over Mary’s illness, plus his own sexual hangups, all in one nightmare inducing package.

Now it’s time for a monster we don’t really see in the game, but definitely hear: the Mandarin.

mandarin

I’m not really sure why it’s called that. According to the Silent Hill Wiki, it’s because apparently the dress-like thing it wears resembles something like a cheongsam, but I don’t see it, and would take anything the wiki says with a grain of salt.

This monster is one that appears in three areas: a small stretch of road in the town proper, the Labyrinth, and the otherworld hotel. They are vaguely humanoid figures with large, clublike arms with lip-like orifices instead of arms. They hang by those arms from grates, and if James stands above one, it will whip him with tentacles.

The symbolism of this monster, according to the aforementioned Book Of Lost Memories, is “feelings of overwhelming, incomprehensible anguish.” I would also posit that they may represent James’s subconscious feelings of loathing towards Mary, who became verbally and emotionally abusive towards the end.

So that’s the regular enemies out of the way. Let’s move on to the bosses. First up is the first boss we encounter: the man, the myth, the legend, Pyramid Head.

pyramid head

Pyramid Head is probably the most well-known monster from the series, who ended up becoming something of a mascot. He’s also appeared in the Silent Hill movies (despite neither being adaptations of this game), as well as in Silent Hill: Homecoming. This kind of bugs me a bit, because I think it kind of dilutes his meaning.

Pyramid Head is a large male figure, wearing a stained apron and a very uncomfortable looking triangular helmet. The lumpy, fleshy bits that can be seen at the base of the helmet imply that it may actually be fused to him. It appears to be very cumbersome, with him having to position his head with his hand when looking for James in the apartment building. When we first see him, he’s also carrying a very heavy knife, though later in the game he switches it out for a spear.

The symbolism here is interesting: there is some of the sexual imagery when we see him in the apartment building, but we don’t see that anymore after that. Rather, what Pyramid Head represents is James’s feelings of guilt over killing Mary, and his accompanying need to punish himself. This is seen in how Pyramid Head kills Maria on three separate occasions: this is to try and jog James’s memory of the event, but is also representative of the event itself.

Another interesting aspect is that we eventually see two Pyramid Heads towards the end of the game, which serve as the penultimate boss. This is because, by the time he reaches this point, he has another murder on his conscience: Eddie, who he had recently slain in the Labyrinth.

The next boss that is encountered are the delightfully named Flesh Lips.

flesh lips

Like a lot of monsters in the game, the Flesh Lips are humanoid figures, though malformed in grotesque and unnatural ways. These monsters are encountered in the hospital, after Laura locks James in the office. They hang from the ceiling, contained within cage-like frames, with another mouth-like orifice suspended between a pair of feet. They attack by slowly advancing and trying to strangle James with the aforementioned feet.

The Book Of Lost Memories calls them “lustful lips,” and are meant to symbolize James and Mary together, in bed. Once again, this goes back to James’s psychosexual issues.

Then there’s the Abstract Daddy, which also represents sexual issues, but not James’s.

abstract daddy

This monster resembles two figures, one small and one large, covered by a sheet on a bed. Given the name, imagery, and that James encounters it in Angela’s section of the Labyrinth, it’s clear that this monster is more closely related to her issues than his.

The monster represents the sexual abuse that Angela suffered at the hands of her father. This is evident in the way that the larger figure seen in its shape appears to be restraining the smaller figure, evoking rape imagery.

It’s also interesting that this is the only boss monster that we fight later on as a regular enemy, albeit in a weakened state, in the hotel. This would appear to be an effect of Angela’s otherworld bleeding somewhat into James’s, since the hotel is the last place that he encounters her.

And last but not least, there’s monster Mary.

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This is the game’s final boss, and is the form that either Mary or Maria takes at the end of the game. She is a feminine figure, wearing a long gray dress with discolored skin, hanging upside down in a cage. Her arms are spread in almost a crucifixion pose, and she bears Mary’s face. In fact, this monster is the only one in the game that even has a visible face. She attacks James by sending out clouds of moths at him, and by attempting to strangle him with a long, tentacle-like appendage.

This version of Mary represents James’s own ambivalent feelings for his wife towards the end of her life. Like I mentioned above, Mary became abusive towards him and often lashed out at him. Despite this, though, he still loved her, even though he concedes that some part of him had started to hate her. This love for Mary is the root of the guilt he feels over her death.

So those are the monsters of Silent Hill 2. Next time, I’m going to be taking a look at some of the works that influenced the game.

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