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Last Updated: Saturday, 2 October, 2004, 06:56 GMT 07:56 UK
Descent into horror of Silent Hill
If you want a game that quickens the pulse rate and leaves you scared to turn out the lights at night, try Silent Hill says Daniel Etherington of BBC Collective in his weekly games column.

Screenshot from Silent Hill 4: The Room
Americana, ancient Mid-East lore and Japanese creepiness
The Silent Hill horror video games have always been ripe with weirdness.

There is a sense of being involved in something remarkable, even when the play is frustrating due to the awkward combat or camera.

This is not only due to the atmospherics of the games, but also the detail of the underpinning mythology.

The rewards of the Silent Hill games do not necessarily come from the play itself.

They come from the sense of discovering more about the horrific scenarios, and the perverse pleasure of being in the hellish alternate realities.

Distinctive hybrid

In broad strokes, the games are built around the mystery of a cult based in the picturesque American lakeside town of Silent Hill, and its efforts to bring about the birth of its demon god, Samael - a Talmudic figure essentially synonymous with the Devil.

Screenshot from Silent Hill 4: The Room
The game does further contribute to the mythology, as Henry's quest brings him into contact with the legacy of the cult

This may in part explain the cryptic nature of the games.

After all, a yarn explicitly about a Satanist cult would not exactly go down a storm among conservative US censors.

Of course, its distinctive hybrid of Americana, ancient Middle Eastern lore and twisted Japanese creepiness also connects with more popular culture.

Jacob's Ladder remains the strongest cinematic frame of reference, but there are also nods to Rosemary's Baby and flavour from the likes of Twin Peaks and Stephen King.

In Silent Hill 4: The Room, protagonist Henry Townsend is supernaturally trapped in his apartment. He enters a series of grim locations through a hole.

It proves a rather convoluted device, however, as Henry returns to his flat to save and manage items, and later deal with domestic hauntings.

The game does further contribute to the mythology, as Henry's quest brings him into contact with the legacy of the cult.

On the whole, the franchise has done an impressive job of remaining freaky and intriguingly enigmatic, which is surely enough to keep further instalments tantalising for fans.

That said, maybe the upcoming movie from Frenchman Christophe Gans, director of Brotherhood Of The Wolf, will compromise the whole experience.

If only Hideo Nakata, Takashi Shimizu or Ji-woon Jim was making it.

Silent Hill 4: The Room is available now on PS2, Xbox and PC


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