Written by Jonathan Wojcik
A Silent Hill Monstrouspective:
The Dreaded Part Five.
The fifth Silent Hill was off to a shaky start from the beginning. For the first time ever, the series would be shipped outside Japan to be developed by an entirely new team, the U.S.-based Climax Studios, who felt the one thing missing from the series was even more combat, already emphasized perhaps a tad more than was necessary in Silent Hill 3 and The Room. The first monster ever leaked didn't show much promise, either; a zombie-like being that would have been much more at home in Resident Evil, but not exactly anything new or outstanding for Umbrella Corporation, either.
It was shortly after this disappointing glimpse that things took a mixed new turn, as the North American developers apparently ran into too many problems with their "confused, high-level vision" and shipped production to their United Kingdom branch.
The story goes that at this point, the game had become a "dark comedy" similar in tone to the TV series Scrubs, and I have to say, I might have actually really liked to see how that played out. It might have at least been a little more memorable than what the U.K. developers ultimately went with, which was certainly closer to the Silent Hill we'd all grown to love...but perhaps far too much so.
Where The Room experimented with something fairly new and different, Origins tried so hard to be like the first and second games that it ultimately lost its own identity, feeling more like an unremarkable retread of old territory and somewhat predictable plot twists.
So, let's take a look at this one's monsters, and exactly why they failed to make a big splash...
The justification for the presence of these monsters is that, as a trucker, Travis is sexually frustrated. Kind of like how James saw sexy monster nurses because he was sexually frustrated, and Alessa saw sexy monster nurses because she was sad she wasn't going to grow up to be hot, or something, and Heather saw sexy monster nurses because she was also Alessa.
You know, there comes a point where maybe you just have to admit you keep putting sexy monster nurses in your game series because you're lazy.
Lying Figure "Straight Jacket"
The worst thing about these pale imitations is that they're found in virtually every single part of the game. The monster this team decided we should see all the time is a monster they essentially copy-pasted from a better game. Yikes.
And why does Travis see these monsters? He didn't smother his wife, like James did, but who cares. Things in straight jackets represent, like, "crazy" people, right? And those are spooky?
So the "Butcher" is at least technically the game's first "original" monster. That's one step in the right direction.
It is still, however, a rather bland Pyramid Head proxy, with none of P-man's alien grace. Unlike that worm-tongued knife-dragger, Butcher really doesn't feel like anything more than a bad man in a scary suit, and goes around predictably slaughtering his fellow monsters. Whatever could that possibly symbolize, I wonder?
It's basically what you think. Rather than save this for the end of the article like it's at all interesting or special, Travis is quite possibly a cold-blooded serial killer, depending on which ending you get. No, Travis, you are the butcher! And then Travis was a zombie.
Wow. Huh! This is actually new!
It's new, and it's not half bad, either! Carrion is a large, four-legged animal carcass of ambiguous taxonomy - good, good - which unpleasantly drags its own blind head around on the ground - yeah? - and manifests from a vague impression of the mangled roadkill Travis passes by on long, lonely hauls.
YES. THAT'S IT. YOU DID IT! A unique, disturbing monster that ties in directly with our protagonist's subconscious! Was that really so difficult? Did the art team who came up with this cutie really need to steal from Team Silent at least three times to reach this point? Jeez.
The idea of a big, giant animal carcass pushing itself around, resembling no particular animal, is distinctly wretched and exactly the kind of thing I expect from this series. Finally.
Unfortunately, Caliban's in-game model doesn't quite live up to its even more horrid conceptual art, its shaggy buffalo-like hide somehow turning its creep facter straight up to thirteen. Yeesh. How absolutely horrendous is the thought of this blind, hairy giant crab-walking down the street on its bloodied stumps. Even the copy-paste job on its skinned knees doesn't serve much to detract from the chills I'm getting.
You know, those kind of give an accidental impression of eyes, too.
Ariel's hang from the ceilings and try to strangle Travis as he walks by, which was already done creepier by the Flesh Lips of Silent Hill 2. When brought to the ground, they try to jab at us with their arm-legs, which was also already scarier when it was done by a Silent Hill 2 monster, the Mannequin.
Ariel, if you hadn't guessed, represents how Travis had a bad childhood. Whatever.
To be honest, I actually kind of want to like "two back," despite the fact that it's absolutely ridiculous, completely over the top and impossible to take seriously. Whereas you could actually miss the theme of sexual frustration throughout Silent Hill 2's monsters, this thing practically crams it down your throat like a big, fat, ripe banana. This is literally a doggie-style monster, named "two back." If I hadn't known they completely tossed it out, I'd have thought this was a refugee from that rumored "dark comedy" draft.
But, like I said, part of me still wants to take this monster seriously. Am I not always swearing up and down that "silly" things can still be or even be exceptionally frightening? Perhaps the problem with two-back is simply that it feels laughably excessive for silent hill, but might have been cool in some other setting where it blends in a little better.
It's...a serviceable design. It's not straying too terribly far from what we've seen in other Silent Hills, but there's still just something a little "off" about it. Maybe its components look too much like mutilated human bodies, rather than an otherworldly monster closely approximating mutilated human bodies. Perhaps it also looks a little too "feral," a little too "gnashing demon" for a Silent Hill monster. Beings like the Glutton, Fleshlips and Closer were already disturbing as hell without any snarling, chompy ghoul-teeth.
I think maybe they could have also come up with a less giggle-inducing name for this thing.
I suppose I can get the intention, here, to throw something really different at us and perhaps intentionally more "down to earth" than entities like our crappy parents up there, but it basically looks halfway to a devil Halloween costume you could buy at Wal-Mart a few weeks ago, and I can't believe something finally got me to make a comparison to Halloween in a negative context. How dare you, Origins.
Unfortunately, what we've seen here is a portent of things to come. Thus far, subsequent Silent Hills have been had just as difficult a time finding the right style and mood, particularly when it comes to their monsters, alternating between content that tries far too hard to be edgy and content that simply doesn't live up to the standards that defined the whole appeal of the property.
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