Resident Evil, scary? Pfft. Sure, Capcom’s venerable zombie franchise may have cemented survival horror’s mainstream success in the 90s, but Silent Hill is unequivocally a far more frightening beast. Since its inception in 1999, Team Silent’s grisly, psychological scare fest has been responsible for many sleepless nights for gamers across the globe, the PSU staff included. Silent Hill’s atmosphere is a palpable thing, and simply playing the game is an unnerving experience in itself; the perennial sense of dread that grips you throughout sometimes more effective than the actual shocker itself. But when it does happen, you can be sure you’ll be soiling your sofa and sleeping with the light on for weeks to come.
With the franchise recently seeing the release of an all-new instalment in Silent Hill: Downpour – not to mention high-definition revamps of 2 & 3 – PSU thought it was the optimum time to count down our top 5 scariest Silent Hill moments ever. Read on, but don’t say we didn’t warn you…
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5 – LOCKER BODY (Silent Hill)
While a classic ‘shock’ tactic, the infamous body-in-the-locker sequence in the original Silent Hill is surprisingly effective. Why? The game lures you into a false sense of security, playing on your expectations and then twisting them like a gnarly, malevolent root. Remember the locker room in the ‘regular’ version of the elementary school? And the rattling locker that contained a harmless cat? Well, this time, upon revisiting the location in the school’s ‘Otherworld’ incarnation, the locker is one again conspicuously rattling away, only this time there’s a catch – there’s nothing in it. Expect for the copious amounts of blood, that is. Creepy enough right? Wrong. There’s one more surprise waiting for you as you head for the exit…
4 – GIANT HEAD (Silent Hill 4: The Room)
Silent Hill 4: The Room makes our list with this in-your-face fright fest that you literally can’t miss. This one takes place in the hospital, specifically in one of the many rooms off the corridor haunted by ghostly wheelchairs. You enter, and the camera doesn’t show off much; just an angle of protagonist Henry standing at the entrance, though you discern strange sounds emanating from just beyond your viewpoint. Bucking up the courage, you move forward, the camera shifts and WHAM. Right in front of you is an impossibly large human head, its eyes following your every movement. Even more disturbing however, is the likeness of this abomination is modelled after your next-door neighbour, Eileen. It doesn’t say anything or move – it just stares at you. Ostensibly, this freak show is yet another twisted manifestation of Walter Sullivan’s growing influence on reality, but there’s actually more to it than being outright creepy. Remember how many times you spied on Eileen via the peephole in Henry’s room? Well, this is Silent Hill’s warped way of getting back at you; almost as if to say it knows you’re a closet pervert and now it’s going to see how YOU like it. Disturbing, no?
3 – THE MIRROR (Silent Hill 3)
Silent Hill 3 is sadly glazed over in favour of its admittedly brilliant precursor, but in actuality is home to some of the most genius, stomach-knotting scares of the entire series. We ultimately plumped for the slow burning, edge-of-your-seat Mirror Room sequence, which takes place in Brookhaven Hospital. The room is pretty innocuous by Silent Hill stands; sure, it’s got the freaky pulsating walls, but aside from a sink and mirror, there’s nothing of interest. That is, until heroine Heather has a gander at the reflection. Sure, it’s an exact duplicate of the room you are in, but look closely, and you can see what appears to be blood slowly clawing its way off the walls and floors to the nearby sink. Most alarming of all, however, is that the substance starts materialising from the ‘reflection’ world into your reality. And Heather’s reflection isn’t looking too clever either, and stops mimicking your actions and remains motionless, covered in claret. The room darkens, and the red, malevolent presence appears to be assimilating itself with the walls and floors. Better leg it quick, or face an unknown fate. Needless to say, we’ve never looked at a mirror the same again…
2 – TOLUCA PRISON (Silent Hill 2)
Silent Hill’s made me jump out of my skin more times than I care to divulge, but one-second shockers aren’t the only thing the series is good at. One of the most memorable moments for me is undoubtedly James’ descent into Toluca Prison down a series of seemingly bottomless pits. Along the way, you stumble across a morgue ripe with the stench of rotting corpses. Investigating the numerous cadavers leads to some hair-raising moments, such as James convincing himself he just saw one of the bodies move. You blindly leap into more holes, stumbling across yet more corpses and copious amounts of bloodstains on the floor. Eventually, you reach the bottom, and descend an elevator. The whole sequence is devoid of any enemies or jumpy moments, but that’s beside the point. It’s cumulative, gut-wrenching stuff, simply due to fear of the unknown. You don’t know where you’ll end up, or how far each hole is; you just jump in and hope for the best. The corpses only accentuate the knot of dread in your gut, perpetuating the feeling that James is travelling somewhere you really, really don’t want to go. Gripping stuff.
1 – ENTER PYRAMID HEAD (Silent Hill 2)
Pyramid Head is as synonymous with the town of Silent Hill as the spooky fog that cakes its deserted streets. Sure, he’s only popped up in a couple of games (and Homecoming’s appearance was questionable from a narrative perspective) but when it comes to video game scares, he’s never far from the top. Unsurprising then, that the lumbering, knife-wielding baddie takes the crown as our scariest Silent Hill moment ever with his iconic first appearance. Here, James stumbles across the pointy-hatted monstrosity apparently engaged in a ghastly sex act with one of the town’s inhabitants, forcing you to retreat into a nearby closet. It’s completely unexpected, and you share Sunderland’s utter horror as you witness the ‘rape’ scene from your cramped sanctuary. What the hell is this thing? Am I trapped? Fortunately, James just happens to find a clip of 9mm ammo in the closet, and finds the answer to his frantic musings in the form of a salvo of small arms fire, which seems to do…something. Whether your attack just pissed Pyramid Head off or actually wounded the creature remains ambiguous, but it quickly scarpers nonetheless. It’s over – for now.