Silent Hill 2: “For me, it’s always like this” (Part 2)

(This is a continuation of my last post. Make sure you read Part 1 first.)

Spoilers ahead!

The other people James meets are a 19-year-old runaway named Angela, a chubby man named Eddie, and a little girl named Laura. Remember how I said Silent Hill is a reflection of one’s psyche? Case in point:

James is shocked that the eight-year-old Laura could survive in the monster-infested town. When he asks her, she is perplexed. “What monsters?” She doesn’t see any monsters because she is innocent.

The others? Not so much.

Through newspaper clippings and Angela’s dialogue, it is revealed that she was being sexually abused by her father, so she killed him and ran away.

Angela: So what do you want, then? Oh, I see… you’re trying to be nice to me, right? I know what you’re up to. It’s always the same. You’re only after one thing. / James: No, that’s not true at all. / Angela: You don’t have to lie. Go ahead and say it. Or you could just force me. Beat me up like he always did…”

The last time you see Angela, she is ascending a stairway that is engulfed in flames. You never know what happens to her, but it is apparent that she is still haunted by her past.

“You see it too? For me, it’s always like this.”

Eddie is a victim of bullying. Tired of being made fun of for his weight, he kills his bully’s dog and shoots him in the leg. Like Angela, he is running from his past.

Eddie: Do you know what it does to you, James? When you’re hated, picked on, spit on just ’cause of the way you look? After you’ve been laughed at your whole friggin’ life? That’s why I ran away after I killed the dog. Ran away like a scared little girl. […] Then he came after me. I shot him, too. Right in the leg! He cried more than the dog! He’s gonna have a hard time playing football on what’s left of that knee.”

At one point, James enters a room full of fresh human corpses, and then confronts a gun-wielding Eddie, who contends that he had just killed some “monsters.” In Silent Hill, what James sees as people Eddie perceives as “monsters” because of his history of being bullied. Whether he sees actual monsters or is simply editorializing is up to the player’s interpretation.

The climax of the game, however, occurs when James finally reaches the hotel room where he and Mary had stayed. There, he plays a videotape, and… well, I’ll let you watch.

What begins as their vacation video turns into footage of something that wasn’t recorded: James euthanizes Mary, smothering her with a pillow to end her suffering. While it was in accordance with her wishes, he still feels guilty, perhaps because part of him wanted to be free of having to tend to her constantly (James: It was a long three years… I was… tired), hence the state of his personal Silent Hill.

At one point in the game James goes through the Silent Hill Historical Society building, where you can see a painting of the town’s executioners back in its witch-hunting days. The executioners look just like our friend Pyramid Head.

Others have noted that of all the enemies in the game with a discernable gender, all are female except for him. This is because Pyramid Head – the executioner – represents James, or at least the way he views himself. That’s why he kills Maria over and over again, because it represents the event that James is tortured by. Late in the game, James can even wield Pyramid Head’s trademark giant sword, driving the point home.

Most games would have stopped there, but Silent Hill 2 goes even further into James’ tortured psyche. In addition to guilt for what he did, James also feels guilt for his sexual frustration that came as a result of having a sickly wife for a number of years. Maria is the manifestation of this, a sexualized version of Mary.

Continuing the theme, those female enemies I mentioned include mannequins and cleavage-bearing nurses:

Maybe if I squint...

Using sexual themes for the purpose of horror is certainly not new; vampire stories have been doing it since the 19th Century. But sadly, in video games sexuality is rarely handled as a mature topic.

"Who, me?"

In fact, the word “mature” has almost come to be a euphemism for mindless sex and violence.

Silent Hill 2 is remarkable for tackling actual mature themes in a thoughtful way while still remaining uncompromising and provocative. A decade later it still has a rabid following for just that reason. Click here or here to read what others have to say, and see that I’m definitely not alone in praising this game’s story.

Look, I enjoy straight-up action as much as the next guy, but games like Silent Hill 2 prove that the video game medium is capable of so much more.

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