I’m about to tell you a tale so twisted, so horrifying, that it isn’t for the squeamish or the weak of heart. Now switch off the lights, lock the door, and get real close to your computer screen. Yeah, just like that. Now imagine it’s Halloween and you’re in the mood for something a little scary. Maybe you’ve watched and re-watched your selection of horror flicks enough times that you’re a little tired of them, but you’re not quite willing to leave the house to satiate your hunger for horror. There’s another option available though: video games.
If you think that finding yourself mysteriously stranded in a fog and steam filled ghost town, inexplicitly inhabited my Marilyn Manson stage props is your idea of a good time, I have the perfect game for you! The long running series places you in the most terrifying, heart racing, and utterly nightmare educing town of Silent hill, (or in some cases, around the town.) spanning from 1999 to 2012, There have been some hits and misses, but when they hit, they made sure it was going to stick with you for a very, very long time. Talk is heating up about the latest Silent Hill title in development; Silent Hill: Downpour. Articles, screenshots, and music clips are leaking.
"Leaking"…"Downpour". See what I did there? Terrible! Anyway, lets take a look back to where it all began, and explores the origins, impact and groundbreaking influence of Konami’s turn of the millennium masterpiece.
In Danse Macabre, an excellent discussion of horror in literature, television and film, Stephen King raises the concept of ‘The Bad Place’; a dreaded building or location inhabited by pure, unadulterated evil, where people fear to tread. The author points out that this archetype is found far and wide within folklore and works of entertainment and has provided the foundation for a great many stories of terror and unease. Literature and cinema have given us Dracula’s Castle, Hill House, and King’s own Overlook Hotel. By the turn of the millennium, video games also had their own established line of ‘Bad Places’, predominately, taking the form of sinister, shadowy abodes such as Mr Barrows’ Clock Tower, and the Umbrella Mansion. None of these, however, have become as synonymous with outright terror or as enduring in legacy and infamy, as the town of Silent Hill.
In 1996, when Resident Evil was making waves and it became apparent that Western audiences had acquired a new-found taste for atmospheric, Japanese-developed horror games, the new owners of Tokyo based company Konami, decided to launch their own substantial American hit, and swiftly assembled a development team for this purpose.
Headed by project director and designer Keiichiro Toyama, this group of unconventional individuals, dubbed Team Silent, took an unusually leftfield and creative approach, spending a great deal of time experimenting with various concepts and ideas. Knowing that their aim was to capture a chilling experience that would play well in the West, they poured over the works of popular American writers, searching for inspiration in terms of setting and story. Konami’s visionary team conceived a small, New England settlement that had become a deeply twisted and horrifying place, corrupted by a prevailing supernatural force, alternating between two separate dimensions, one of which was only marginally less nightmarish than the other.
This creation was a vision of suburban familiarity plunged into a deep and illogical hell. Streets shrouded in thick fog hid prowling, winged beasts, a cryptic message in a blood-soaked dog kennel directing you to ‘go to school’. To follow this instruction invited a whole new realm of chaos; the school’s environment visibly transformed into a rotting, mocking husk as it shifted to the dark Otherworld, which brought creeping, deformed Halflings lurching out of the shadows.