Making Sense of Silent Hill
This week marked the release of Silent Hill: Downpour, the eighth installment in Konami’s long-running survival horror series. The Silent Hill games don’t really have a sequential story. Instead, they’re united by a central location (the town of Silent Hill) and a number of recurring themes and plot devices that weave the universe together. To make sense of Silent Hill, look for these five elements:
In the first Silent Hill, protagonist Harry Mason enters the town to search for his adopted daughter, Cheryl. In Silent Hill 2, James Sunderland is looking for his dead wife, Mary, who he thinks might still be alive. The trend continues in Silent Hill 3 (heroine Heather is adopted by Harry Mason at the end of the first game). In the sixth installment, Silent Hill: Homecoming, returning soldier Alex Shepard is searching for his missing brother Joshua. Without these bonds of familial love urging them forward, anyone in their right mind would stay as far away from Silent Hill as possible.
Silent Hill’s supernatural environs blur the lines of identity and even the lines that separate life and death. They also create two alternative realities: The “Fog World,” a misty, decaying environment that players will spend most of their time in, and the “Otherworld,” the disturbing fantasyland pictured above. The design of the Otherworld often springs from the subconscious mind of a particular game‘s protagonist, twisting and stretching the events of his or her life to create a horrible mental prison.
The order are a sinister religious cult that worships the Otherworld deities that give Silent Hill its supernatural qualities. Sometime before the events of the first Silent Hill, they attempt to bring one of these deities to life in the real world, a ritual that has far-reaching consequences.
Throughout the series, players will struggle against the evil machinations of The Order, which will stop at nothing to accomplish its nefarious goals.
Alessa Gillespie is a young girl with supernatural powers, born in Silent Hill. Her mother Dahlia, a member of The Order, tries to use Alessa to bring one of the Otherworld gods into the Real World. The ritual (which involves setting Alessa on fire) goes wrong, however, and the girl’s soul is bisected. One half ends up as Cheryl, a baby girl adopted by Harry Mason, the first game’s protagonist. The other half suffers years of constant agony, badly burned and tormented by the deity, who remains trapped inside her. Rescued by Harry Mason at the end of the first game, Alessa’s soul is then transferred to another baby, Heather, which Mason promptly adopts. Heather then becomes the protagonist of Silent Hill 3.
The Order’s mistreatment of children doesn’t end with Alessa. They also control a number of sinister public institutions, which they administer in their distinctive, inhumane style. Wish House Orphanage is particularly important to the events of Silent Hill 4: The Room — the game’s antagonist, Walter Sullivan, was raised there. St. Mary’s Monastery and Orphanage plays an important role in the events of Silent Hill: Downpour.
Last but not least, Alchemilla Hospital appears in a number of Silent Hill games. Alessa is secretly kept there during Silent Hill 1; Heather sees a room that resembles Alessa’s sickroom in Silent Hill 3. Travis Grady (hero of Silent Hill: Origins) and Alex Shepard (hero of Silent Hill: Homecoming) both have to fight their way through Otherworld versions of the hospital.