REVIEW: Silent Hill (1999) – JumpCut Online

The bubbling crucible of horror video games has brewed some underwear-dampening gameplay over the last two decades. Heart-stoppers such as Outlast and Amnesia: The Dark Descent leave their mark on the psyche of gamers brave enough to endure their scares, but one game has been the muse to up the ante in current survival entertainment and JumpCut wanted to commemorate its twentieth birthday.

Konami’s 1999 survival horror for Playstation has remained timeless amongst retro gamers. Remaining visible in the media’s eye, various adaptations on multiple platforms have invited non-gamers into Silent Hill, including a visual novel, feature film and seven sequels to the original game (The most recent being Downpour in 2012). These adaptations have spread the myth of this pastime to all niches of civilization, ensuring we all receive a dream from Pyramid Head.

Harry Mason is the protagonist in the foggy American town as he searches for his missing daughter and consequently interferes with a cult’s ritual to birth the deity they worship. With a combination of third-person combat, exploration of real-time 3D environments and crucial puzzle-solving, the quivering player must learn the true origin of this town’s evil and beat the game that – depending on your choices – offers five different conclusions.

Director Keiichiro Toyama lacked in horror culture, but his interest in UFOs, the occult and David Lynch movies influenced and encouraged the game’s development. Though Silent Hill was compared to Resident Evil, it established a distinct approach to prompt fear by creating a disturbing atmosphere for the player, in contrast to Capcom’s action-oriented base. A combination of thick fog, darkness and vintage technical grain aided Silent Hill’s scare-o-meter, combined with composer Akira Yamaoka’s jarring industrial score, who had to explain to Team Silent that the noises they heard in his music were not glitches.

Toyama guided the design and narrative of Silent Hill away from a B movie format and towards psychological horror that had a lasting effect on gamers and provided a gateway to the silver screen. Its plot and nightmarish images caught the eye of Christophe Gans when he directed his 2006 cinematic adaptation, replacing Harry Mason with female lead Rose Da Silva (Radha Mitchell) because Gans saw feminine qualities in Mason. Mitchell’s emotionally-driven Rose offered a new dynamic for the franchise and Gans gifted us with a graphic look at the bubble-head nurse, for which, we thanked him for.

Silent Hill is a horror aficionados paradise and an Ori and the Blind Forest player’s biggest NOPE. This nineties classic was transformative for gaming on the gore scene, updated for modern platforms thanks to Konami’s release of the Silent Hill 2 & 3 HD Collection. Whether you play alone, in a group of namby-pambies, or with your mama, this sublimely atmospheric godfather of horror games has to be experienced at 2 AM in complete darkness and don’t forget your pocket radio.

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