The Original Silent Hill Didn’t Need Jumpscares to be Scary

Sean Silent Hill Spoopy

As a Halloween tradition, many gamers like to go back and play some of their favorite horror-themed games. Arguably, one of the most popular series in the survival horror genre has is Silent Hill, and the first game is a perfect example of how a game can be terrifying without relying in jumpscares.

1999’s Silent Hill is a PlayStation game about Harry Mason, who loses his daughter Cheryl after an accident as the two are on vacation. As he wanders around the city, snow falls, creating a calm, quiet atmosphere void of life. However, Harry isn’t alone. Monsters appear from the shadows and corner Harry as he searches for his missing daughter in the town of Silent Hill.

As the player wanders through their first location, the elementary school, they run into sparse, but threatening enemies reminiscent of demonic children. Every room is creepy, and it feels like any room could have one of these threats, but eventually the player can become bored of the shtick. However, Silent Hill is aware of this fatigue, and uses it to its advantage. Halfway through exploring the school, the player is lead into a mysterious tower. When they climb back down, everything has changed. The semi-eerie school has been replaced with a scholastic version of hell with rusty, bloody grates and everything. It’s this flip of atmosphere that throws the player out of their comfort zone and into a cautious, less optimistic playground.

This mind bendery is where Silent Hill works best. In the demonic version of the school, entering a certain bathroom on one floor will send the player onto a completely different floor when they walk out. This is a completely harmless trick, but it’s disorientating. In the hospital, just before entering the realm-which-very-well-could-be-Hell, you find an elevator with three buttons. You’re required to explore each floor and see how useless a hospital wing can be before returning to the elevator one last time to see that there is a new button. A bloody “fourth floor” button. As you may have guessed, this takes you to the last place you’d like to end up.

These subtle, and sometimes not-so-subtle environmental changes contribute to a masterclass horror atmosphere. It’s when you’re thrown out of your comfort zone and confronted with questions about your sanity that a true survival horror experience can shine.

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