Monday, July 18, 2011

The Top 10 Silent Hill Monsters

I'm a huge fan of Silent Hill series, one of the best series of all times. I've always wanted to dedicate a list to the franchise, but what would be the appropriate topics? A great topic would be a top 10 list on Silent Hill monsters, as they are a vital element of the series, and they are very cool as well.

The monsters in the Silent Hill series are very disturbing, they are innovative, they look unfamiliar and they are symbolic. They weren't designed in vain, they represent the mental state of the protagonist, his/her personal demons. They are integral to the subtext of the game in general. Therefore, they are deeper and more interesting than most monsters in survival games. Although all of them deserve to be on a list; this is the top 10 greatest of them.

In the 4th game, Walter Sullivan is a serial killer and you are trapped in his mind (or nightmare, or subconscious, pick the term you like). There, the world is haunted by the ghosts of his victims, and they are that, ghosts. Have seen ghosts a lot in the games. But there's something special about the ghost of the first victim, something so disturbing in his design which makes your stomach sick every time you meet him. You meet him more frequently than all the other ghosts, and in unique ways. He crawls out the walls, it's useless to pin him and his ugly face give you the creeps.

Symbolism: He's Walter's first victim, and he's actually a priest, and he was mentioned in Walter's diary as being abusive when Walter was in the orphanage. He's a father-figure, a religious figure (all Silent Hill games have an atheistic undertone, none as strongly as 3 and 4), and he can be dubbed racist. In short, he's the symbol of the conservative religious society which made Walter possible by its cruelness.
I don't know about you, but one of the most disturbing moments in my life was when I met this creatures. I was like- what are these? Oh GODDAMMIT CHILDREN? Zombie children? And I have to kill them too? Ewww! I think I can imagine the discussion the developers had before coming up with this one.
"OK, let's put some zombies in the school."
"Nah, everybody's seen zombies, they're not as disturbing as they should be."
"Think about it. School. Zombies. What kind of zombies would you find at school?"
"Teacher zombies?"
"Principal zombies?"
"Oh my f***ing god, kid zombies?"
"You're sick Toshiro, you're sick! But that's why we employed you."

Symbolism: These children represent the unpleasant memories of Alessa in school, and they are the disfigured bodies of her classmates.
They appear in the Homecoming. Their faces are blank save for a huge, vertical mouth the middle of their heads, filled with horrific teeth. They are bald humanoid monsters. Their legs are bound by layers of dead skin, so they drag them uselessly behind them, and they're forced to crawl. Three blades act as their claws. They use these claws to crawl and attack. They have to always drag themselves forward but despite all their disabilities they attack with alarming speed. They swipe at Alex with their claws, and, when at a medium distance from him, jump forward to knock him down. Even if you cut off their head they're able to land one or two attacks before dying.

Symbolism: I want you to notice something about them which is a distinctive feature of all Silent Hill monsters. They appear to be suffering a lot, and instead of being a creature which is only threatening, they look like disfigured humans which are scary for a double reason: they are pathetic and threatening. Therefore they represent the mind of the hero; as they are both victim and victimizer.

Like many Silent Hill monsters, Lurkers are a fusion between violence and sexual imagery, the repressed desires of the hero. Their claws are like torture devices, and they look like a mermaid. Their mouth is a clear symbol of a woman vagina, it's actually a vagina dentata. Overall, Lurkers are the symbols of Alex's lack of satisfaction, guilt and sorrow.
These buddies are the first monsters we meet in Silent Hill 2. These monsters are humanoid creatures trapped in a straightjacket, a straightjacket made of their own skin and flesh. They have a huge wound on their chest which gives out a poisonous gas. They're usually slow, but sometimes they take huge leaps and knock you down. They also hide and attack from behind. Plus, they make a really disturbing noise. Have you ever heard the noise of metal scrapping on metal in a way that makes you froze to your teeth? That sound.

Symbolism: Remember that previous part about monsters suffering? That's a great fact about Silent Hill monsters, they're not scary in the way that they are very threatening figures, they're not disturbing based on their aggressive features, they're disturbing when you think of the ordeal they go through. And yet, they're coming to chop you head off. This is a mixture of sympathy and fear, and that's what makes them so scary. Think about it: restrained by own flesh and skin, with a huge wound. What that conveys but that this creature is suffering greatly?

You can interpret Lying Figures in two way: mental and sexual. Mentally, the straightjacket and screaming remind us of a mental patient in an asylum, and it can symbolize the mental anguish of James Sunderland. Sexually, they can also resemble his sexual frustration, as the gas coming of his chest wound are reminiscent of male ejaculation.
Numb Bodies are disfigured creatures with a deformed skin which is bluish and pale. They have only two legs, and no hands. Moving is hard for them as their legs aren't completely formed. They have a small head, and there's a huge hole on the center of their face and nothing else. They come in two sizes, larger and smaller. Larger ones are definitely more grown than the smaller ones. They make sounds similar to human infant, especially when they die (they make a sound very similar to babies crying). They aren't very dangerous on their own, but they usually attack you in crowds.

Symbolism: First off, these creatures look very similar to Harlequin babies. Harlequin-type ichthyosis is a very sad skin disease found in infants, which results in the thickening and cracks on the skin, abnormal contractions of the eyes, ears, and penis, and a disturbing permanent facial expression. If you are easily disturbed, please don't look this up in Google images.

This similarity and the sounds that they make lead us to the point that these monsters symbolize an aborted or disfigured fetus, linking it to the overall symbolic theme of Silent Hill 3 (rape, pregnancy, and abortion). This takes the disturbing feature about the Grey Children to the next level, making it, to me, the most disturbing monster ever created. It also makes it a very artistic one.
In short, this monster is two people having sex on a bed. This might not seem scary at all, (unless one of them is your daddy), but that monster is damn scary. The legs of the bed are the legs and the hands of the two people having sex, and the sheets on the bed are their skins. It attacks you by standing in mid-air and hitting itself to you. It's very slow moving, and since it can also endure a lot of attacks from you and dies really hard, the best strategy seems to be escaping from them. Basically, this monster is two people being trapped in an eternal state of sex. As I've said, this can't be really bad unless one of them is your daddy.

Symbolism: It turns out that one of them is your daddy. As you could already guess, this monster is a horrifying piece of memory being forever branded into someone's unconscious. It's a rape, a rape committed by a father on his own daughter. They symbolize the sexual abuse of Angela Orosco, and are a symbol of her suffering. The sounds they make also reminds you of sexual abuse. Plus, if you look at them face to face, they resemble a vaginal orifice, also symbolizing sexual abuse.

Since I couldn't find their pic, I put a picture of Angela.
One of the only two bosses on this list, this monster is so artistically done that it can be a surrealist painting. It's the reincarnation of a murdered child, and it appears as a mass of female bodies fused together in a chain. It appears that if each head goes where should be the waits of one of the upper female. It has no legs and uses dozens of arms and hands. It crawls the ground using its hands for striking. It lacks eyes and its mouth. It has all the sexual features of a woman, including the breasts and a vagina (covered by hands).

I'm not talking about the symbolism behind this one. It will spoil the story of the game and it's obvious to those who play the game. But one point.

The merely shocking, artistic and disturbing design of this monster guarantees its place on this list. Does it remind you of a famous movie? Human Centipede? Remember; this game released two years before the movie.
What does a nurse remind you of? Love? Care? Porn? Obama's health care plan? Or horror, disfigurement, and sexual frustration? If you chose the last option, congratulations, you are a Silent Hill fan. These monsters are the most recurring monsters in the franchise, appearing in all games but one (in Silent Hill 4: The Room, the monster was a patient, not a nurse). Since this deals with many games, I merge the description and symbolism in this entry and will move from game to game.

In every Silent Hill game, the monsters mirror the anxieties and the fears of the main protagonists or the other characters. The protagonists deal with different mental problems; (child abuse in the first one, guilt in the second, rape and abortion in the third, criminal tendencies in the fourth, sexual anxiety in the Origins, and family problems in Homecoming), and therefore the symbolism of each game varies from the previous one. But all the characters have one thing in common. They all struggle with insanity, illness and death, and therefore hospital is a recurring location in all the games. Nurses appear in (almost) all of these hospitals, and they are important in many aspects. The nurses are supposed to care for us and cure us, but here they threaten us. They also have an erotic aspect. This dark erotic creature discomforts us by destroying our sense of safety of ourselves and our surroundings.

The Puppet Nurses of the first game aren't erotic, they are scary old women who only frighten you. This is because they spring from the mind of a female child, and this abused child has no sexual tension (making the original Silent Hill the only game in the series which symbols aren't heavily erotic). They reflect her memories of hospitalization and of the nurses who worked there, including Lisa Garland.

Bubble Head Nurses of the second game on the other hand are hyper sexualized, setting their permanent design for the series. They are the very coin of terror which defines the psychology of Silent Hill series, violence, death and illness on one side, sexual frustration on the other. They symbolize the both ordeals of James, his obsessions with illness and sexuality. Their sexuality and human features are increased in the third game. In the third game only the faces of the nurses are disfigured and the rest appear normal, and they wield weapons, making them very tough enemies. They symbolize the nurses at the abortion clinic where Heather went to (possibly, as the main plot of Silent Hill 3 is maddeningly hard to decipher). Simply called Faceless Nurse, these creatures return in the Origins represent Travis Grady's sexual anxiety and his discomfort around women. They're the victims of a monster called the Butcher and they also remind you of violence against women. In Homecoming they also represent his suppressed sexual feelings and illness.
This monster is the same as the game it came in, Silent Hill 3. It's mysterious, impossible to completely interpret, scary, artistic and yet the clues are so much that you can see many different possible interpretations.

It's a humanoid with a blank face and a twitching head. It wears a robe and it appears to be a priest, with the seal of Metatron (the religious symbol and your save point) tattooed on its both shoulders. It has a passive role in the game. It never attacks or even threaten you. Whenever a shift in the Otherworld occurs, Valtiel appears before Heather. In many instances it is seen turning a valve. What do these things mean? There are many answers, all making sense. He must be a subordinate of a powerful supernatural entity, most probably the God of the religion of Silent Hill. Some people worship it as the one closest to God, and he's known to control the transition between this world and the Otherworld and also control the cycle of the rebirth of God.

Symbolism: There's a difference between Silent Hill 3 Silent Hill 2, making it (to my opinion) the superior one. While Silent Hill 2 is simply a psychological story, Silent Hill 3 is that plus social and religious commentary. Therefore its symbols are at the same time religious, political, social and psychological.

Valtiel is, to my humble opinion, a symbol of religion. It's worshiped, it looks like a priest, it has and in a metaphysics of the game, but it doesn't engage you directly. This game is, whether its developers wanted that or not, the most atheistic game ever existed, and Valtiel is a summary of this theme of the game.
You knew what would be the number one on this list. As most of the times, the most obvious answer is also the correct one.

Pyramid Head is a humanoid monster. His body is that of a well-built man. He wears a helmet, which hides his face completely, and wields enormous melee weapons such as a Great Knife or a spear. He never speaks, but sometimes makes incomprehensible noises. He is very strong. Across the series he is usually portrayed as, at his most basic, a violent monster. He tracks the protagonist and he's impossible to kill.

Symbolism: But that's not what makes him so great. He's in fact an executioner, a punisher. If the other monsters represent something specific about the protagonist he's the symbol of guilt and pain. He's the guilty subconsciousness. He's all the monsters in one monster, the darker part of their souls. They are what these games are about, the animal in the human, the brute, the monster. Not only in the protagonists themselves but in the whole human race. It's natural that they have become the mascot of the series, because they represent the pessimistic worldview behind the Silent Hill series. They tell us that we all have a Pyramid Head inside, a brutish monster created out of our own sins, a monster which rapes and kills and yet punishes us for our sins. There's no just god- no redeeming factor. The religion is the religion of death and destruction- and there's no difference between god and devil, human and monster.

For we expect the punisher of our crimes to be just ruler of the universe, but it's merely a bloodthirsty monster. Pyramid Heads are the mirror put before us, magnifying all that is evil and criminal about us. And this is what the Silent Hill series do as well. These monsters have become the face of this series because they define it the best.
One can write such things about almost all monsters in the series. But you can also sit and interpret all the locations and characters and events in the games. You can write a massive book about the complex, deep messages behind every game, as every scene and monster has multiple meanings.

All these are proof that these games will remain in history as one of the most artistic products of humanity, as one of the greatest game series of all times.

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