Silent Hill is currently streaming for free with ads on Crackle as of this writing.
Silent Hill has been one of my favorite horror movies since it came out in 2006. The tone, music, and disturbing visuals are captivating. Christophe Gans’s direction is great and he mostly avoids the music video style of editing that plagued a lot of the turn of the century horror movies, leaving the movie feeling fresher than a lot of other mid-aughts movies I’ve revisited.
I’ve always wanted to do an analysis on the film breaking down the themes and symbolism, and here it is just in time for the film’s 15th anniversary. The film features a convoluted storyline that emphasizes the source material’s religious aspects while focusing on themes of motherhood. I’m a fan of the games, but for this analysis I will be only looking at the movie and not “filling in backstory” with background knowledge of the games. But it is worth it to know that the director was a huge fan of the games, and really went above and beyond to feature tons of easter eggs including shot for shot recreations of camera angles from the games, gameplay elements, a soundtrack filled with music from the games, and iconic sets and monsters.
I simply cannot overstate how much I value how director Christophe Gans and writer Roger Avary treated the source material, and hope the Resident Evil reboot movie will be more like this in honoring the source material’s storyline and atmosphere. I will spend a section gushing about how much I love these elements of the movie if you are interested.
Some warnings about this analysis:
- Since this will be an in-depth analysis, please be warned spoilers for the film obviously abound.
- Silent Hill and my analysis of it do feature mentions of sexual assault against a child. I tried to avoid specifics of that particular incident (it is off screen but heavily suggested in the movie), but I do describe the way the trauma of the incident informs the behavior of the monsters in the movie.
- In addition to spoilers for Silent Hill, there will be some for the films Carrie, The Ring, Suspiria (2018), and The Autopsy of Jane Doe. If you haven’t seen those movies, skip the movie parallels section.
What Happens in Silent Hill? A Detailed Plot Summary
Rose and Christopher Da Silva’s adopted daughter Sharon has an increasingly dangerous sleepwalking habit. The movie begins with Rose chasing after a sleepwalking Sharon who stands at the edge of a waterfall. Sharon has a vision of a dark doppelganger of herself, and screams the words “Silent Hill” over and over when Rose and Christopher finally get to her and wake her up. She also refers to Silent Hill as “home.”
This beginning scene establishes how loving Rose is, and specifically how much she will put herself in danger for Sharon’s sake. We see her chase Sharon and nearly get hit by traffic in order to protect her daughter. Christopher is slow to catch up, and still seems to be in denial about how dangerous Sharon’s sleepwalking is, establishing that he will not go the the extremes Rose will to protect her.
Rose decides against Christopher’s desires she is going to take Sharon to Silent Hill. They have already tried doctors and medicine, and Rose is desperate to try anything at this point.
Silent Hill itself has been a ghost town for thirty years thanks to an accident that left coal fire burning under the ground in 1974, rendering it uninhabitable and potentially dangerous due to fumes. (Silent Hill has parallels to the real Centralia, Pennsylvania in this regard). Christopher is worried after reading about the fires, and begs Rose to turn back.
We see a brief moment of happiness between Rose and Sharon as they eat lunch near a billboard that quotes a Biblical verse stating “Do you not know that we will judge the angels? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” The verse is about two Christian men who bring each other to a secular court for what seems to be a minor issue between them, instead of resolving it themselves as brothers of Christ. The implication is that true believers should not bring minor issues to secular judges, because one day they will stand together with God as the judges of the world.
This insinuation about judgment is crucial to Rose’s journey as a character. The sign is indicating Rose will bring the final judgment to Silent Hill and the people who remain there.
Later at a gas station in a neighboring town to Silent Hill, a police officer named Cybil notices a moment of distress between Rose and Sharon over a drawing Sharon doesn’t remember making.
Cybil asks Sharon if she is okay when Rose goes into the station to pay, and Sharon refuses to talk to her since she is a stranger. Rose brushes off Cybil’s attempts to inquire into their trip as well.
Cybil tails them, and tries to pull them over when she realizes where they are going. Rose gives chase, breaking through a chain link fence barrier, and crashing when she swerves to avoid what appears to be a little girl in the middle of the road. She passes out, and when she wakes up Sharon is gone. The area is covered in fog and ash falls from the sky like snowflakes.
Rose enters Silent Hill, and chases what appears to be Sharon, but Sharon keeps alluding her. She hears a town siren, and the sky inexplicably turns pitch black and the buildings take on a rusted, grimy appearance.
She continues to chase Sharon through chain linked alleys, seeing a gurney and a crucified body before being attacked by demonic, burnt creatures who vaguely resemble and sound like crying children.
They rip at her clothes and chase her till they suddenly dissipate. Rose passes out from shock, and wakes up to foggy daylight in a bowling alley. A jukebox blares “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash. Beyond referencing the hell Rose is now trapped in, this song is also a reference to the way Alessa died which we will learn later was on a metal ring over a fire.
Rose tries to leave the town, but the roads out have been cut off – literally ending in cavernous abyssess that are impossible to bypass.
She encounters a filthy old woman named Dahlia who warns her of “the darkness” and a group of people who hurt the woman’s own child. Rose shows her a picture of Sharon, and Dahlia insists Sharon is her child and tries to steal Rose’s picture. Rose runs away.
Rose goes back to her car but it won’t start. She leaves Christopher a message but on his end he mostly hears static except for words like “Sharon” “Lost” “Sorry” “Silent Hill”. He is on his way to try and find them.
Rose notices Sharon drew a picture of a school, and without any other leads, decides to visit the town’s school to look for her. At this point it is revealed Cybil is also trapped in Silent Hill, and Cybil handcuffs Rose, believing Rose has kidnapped Sharon. Cybil attempts to escort Rose out of town only to realize the roads leading out of the town end in crevasses. They are attacked by a bizarre creature that spits an acidic substance, and Rose runs away to go to the school.
Meanwhile, Christopher is trailing Rose and ends up at a police brigade outside Silent Hill that noticed Rose’s abandoned vehicle. Officer Gucci reluctantly agrees to let Christopher accompany him to look for Rose and Sharon in Silent Hill.
In the school, Rose notices an odd symbol and there are religious quotes including “the foes of the righteous will be condemned” and portraits depicting values of “Home”, “Country”, “Loyalty”, and “God.” This is all to indicate the religious extremists in Silent Hill had power and influence over the whole town.
She finds a student’s desk with the word “witch” etched on it, and seemingly has a flashback to a young girl being tormented by her peers for being a witch. Once again, she sees a figure that looks like Sharon and chases it into a bathroom. She thinks the girl is crying behind a stall door, but when she opens it an incredibly mutilated corpse is there instead, with writing on the wall “daring her” to grab a key from the corpse’s mouth.
She does, and manages to lock the door to the bathroom with the master keys she grabbed earlier before a group of ominous figures in gas masks chase her into the bathroom. She tries to brace the door as they try to break it down, clasping her hands in prayer and saying “please please.” Finally, the figures retreat when a canary they have carried with them begins to fly around in its cage erratically. The darkness is once again coming, and Rose watches in disbelief as the worn down bathroom transforms into a horrifically disgusting, rusted otherworldly version of itself.
The timing is important for this – the darkness comes immediately after Rose prays for her safety from the men trying to break down the door, so it seems to be answering her prayer.
The mutilated corpse from the bathroom stall begins moving and slowly pulls itself towards Rose, salaciously licking its lips. She flees, encountering giant roaches attacking the figures in the gas masks. At one point, she sees a little girl rapidly drawing. This is the figure of Dark Alessa, who is helping create the nightmarish reality Rose is stuck in.
Meanwhile, Christopher and Officer Gucci are trying to find Rose and Sharon in the school. We see Rose run past Christopher, but he is walking through an abandoned school on a sunny day and she is in a dark, industrial hell version of the same school. It is evident she is in an alternative reality. Christopher and Thomas are in the real world, and Rose is trapped in an alternative dimension that rotates between a purgatory and nightmare.
She also encounters an unusually large human figure with a giant metal pyramid as a head and a giant sword.
She understandably flees that situation. She eventually encounters Cybil, who works with her to barricade themselves in a room. The pyramid head figure repeatedly stabs his sword through the door of the room, nearly killing them.
The nightmare world dissipates again, and Cybil says what we are all thinking anything we consume media from the Silent Hill franchise.
Cybil and Rose now work together to try and find Sharon. The key Rose obtained from the mutilated corpse’s mouth is a hotel key. The woman go to the hotel and encounter a religious woman named Anna throwing cans at Dahlia, the mysterious woman Rose encountered earlier. Dahlia scampers off, and Cybil and Rose take Anna with them to investigate a room in the hotel.
They learn, as Christopher does from Officer Gucci, that a religious cult nearly burned a 9-year-old girl named Alessa Gillespie to death in 1974, but were thwarted. Alessa was left severely burned and barely alive. Officer Gucci’s hands are scarred from burning himself saving Alessa. It is implied that Alessa Gillespie might be Sharon’s birth mother since she was adopted from an orphanage in the town next to Silent Hill.
Rose is finally face to face with the figure she has been chasing, and the figure looks exactly like Sharon.
But the darkness comes again, and Rose and Cybil flee with Anna to the town church where Anna tells them they will be safe from the darkness.
They encounter Dahlia on the steps of the church, who warns them not to trust the church because they are liars and have damned themselves. Anna decides this is a great opportunity to throw rocks at Dahlia while waiting for Cybil and Rose to follow her.
Dahlia appears to summon Pyramid Head behind Anna, and he rips off her clothes before proceeding to rip off her flesh ala Hellraiser in a particularly nasty death scene. He throws her flesh at the church doors and the blood sprays on Rose and Cybil just as the doors close.
Cybil and Rose are in the church, and are instantly accused of being witches due to being outsiders. The church leader Christabella tells the flock to stop verbally attacking the newcomers, and they appear to pray the nightmare world away.
Rose convinces Christabella to take her to “the demon” (the figure of Alessa she has been chasing), and Christabella reluctantly agrees. She takes her to a hospital, and tells Rose and Cybil it is unlikely they will return from the trip alive. Rose tells Cybil Sharon is adopted just in case that changes Cybil’s mind about helping, but Cybil is steadfast in her insistence on helping Rose save Sharon. She also says a crucial line, “Mother is God in the eye’s of a child.”
Meanwhile, Officer Gucci tells Christopher to go home, and assures him Cybil will do anything to find Sharon and bring her back safe.
Christabella notices the picture of Sharon Rose keeps, and realizes Sharon is the “next vessel” for the demon. A fight occurs between Christabella’s gas mask henchmen and Cybil, and Cybil sacrifices herself to give Rose a chance to find Alessa.
Rose encounters the badly burned Alessa before being approached by the figure she has been chasing this entire time – Dark Alessa.
Dark Alessa summarizes Alessa’s backstory. Alessa was bullied because Dahlia kept her paternity a secret. She is accused of being a witch as a result. It is heavily implied because Alessa is so isolated, she was sexually assaulted by a school janitor in the bathroom (the mutilated figure Rose saw in the school bathroom). Because Dahlia wouldn’t tell people who Alessa’s father was for some unknown reason, the religious cult suspected Alessa was evil. Dahlia’s sister Christabella convinced her to allow the cult to “purify” Alessa, and she agreed and couldn’t stop the burning once she realized her mistake. Alessa is burned alive on a metal ring bearing the cult’s symbol over a pit of hot coals (to be honest it looks like lava…can one just obtain lava? I digress).
Alessa is saved before she dies, and the fire destroyed much of the town including the religious cult themselves who actually burned to death in 1974 and have been living in denial/purgatory the whole time so Alessa could eventually seek revenge against them. This is evident from the fact that they have not aged, but Dahlia and Officer Gucci have.
This is also supported when Rose confronts the cultists and declares, “There was no apocalypse! You burned in the fire that you started. And nothing can save you ’cause you’re already damned!”
“There was no apocalypse! You burned in the fire that you started. And nothing can save you ’cause you’re already damned!”Rose to the cult
Alessa’s loneliness and pain eventually grew into hatred, and she discovers psychic powers when she lashes out at who appears to be an innocent bystander – one of her nurses – and the nurse is seen leaving Alessa’s room looking disturbed from merely making eye contact with Alessa. There are a lot of moments in the film that focus on a closeup of one eye to signify evil. We see a closeup of Christabella’s eye when she convinces Dahlia to let the cult “purify” Alessa. Another is this moment when Alessa makes eye contact with the nurse – we see Alessa’s one eye looking at the nurse. The final is when Sharon sees Dark Alessa with one eye when Rose is trying to shield her from the carnage.
The flowers in Alessa’s room also seem to mysteriously die due to her powers and hatred. Dark Alessa approaches Alessa, and offers to make a deal to help her seek vengeance against the cult and she agrees. Together they create the purgatory and nightmare realities we see Silent Hill constantly oscillating between, which effectively traps anyone who still remains in Silent Hill. Or doesn’t if they serve Alessa no purpose – this is why Christopher and Officer Gucci remain in the real world.
Christopher and Officer Gucci:
Dark Alessa states that Sharon is the innocent part, and child of, Alessa herself. They left her at the orphanage where Christopher and Rose adopted her, and Dark Alessa seemingly summoned Sharon back in order to bring Rose there. She wants Rose to help her enter the church, which blocks the darkness because of the denial the church goers are in about their fate.
Rose reluctantly agrees to help because she can’t get to Sharon otherwise, and absorbs Dark Alessa. We see the nurse in the background had her eyes destroyed by Alessa for looking at her, and she has been crying blood the whole time unbeknownst to Rose.
Christabella finds Sharon at Dahlia’s house. Dahlia has been hiding her from the cult, but also hoarding her since she represents the good part of her daughter Alessa’s soul.
Christabella plans to burn Cybil and Sharon at the stake, and succeeds with Cybil who spends her last breathes assuring Sharon she will be okay and eventually calling out for her own mother in her delirium.
Before they can burn Sharon, Rose enters the church and tells them the truth: they destroyed an innocent girl and they are all damned. Christabella seemingly stabs Rose to death, and doing so spills Rose’s blood which results in the darkness/nightmare reality finally entering the church. Rose’s wound heals and she is still alive thanks to Alessa’s powers.
Alessa appears in a hospital bed with numerous strands of barbed wire whipping around. And it ain’t pretty. The barbed wire attacks and kills the church goers. Christabella’s death is the most gruesome, with the wires pulling her hands and feet apart and the barbed wire shooting up through her vagina before ripping her in half. Dark Alessa dances in the resulting rain of blood. It is meant to show that helping Alessa with her vengeance is immoral in its own way. Dahlia comments on this; upon seeing the carnage she asks, “Alessa, what have you become?”
“Alessa, what have you become?”Dahlia to Alessa
Rose accidently stabs a cultist before getting to Sharon. This act is shown because it shows her complicitness in Alessa’s extreme vengeance. Now she is tainted by the darkness as well, and is more likely to double down in support of what she had to do in order to save Sharon.
She instructs Sharon to shut her eyes and not look, but Sharon does and makes eye contact with Dark Alessa before passing out. When they both wake up, they are in the fog world/purgatory again. They calmly walk out of the church. Also spared is Dahlia, who asks why she is still alive. Rose replies “because you were her mother. Mother is God in the eyes of a child” – repeating the same line Cybil said to her when she revealed she wasn’t Sharon’s biological child.
They return home after the car seemingly miraculously restarts (it appears Sharon wills it to work), and the road is back again. They arrive home, but they are revealed to still be in the fog world/purgatory, and Christopher is still alone in the real world. Sharon is acting odd too, seemingly joined with Dark Alessa. The implication being the darkness is no longer contained to Silent Hill, and can now be unleashed anywhere if Sharon/Alessa so chooses, but that she chose to stay protected in the fog world/purgatory with Rose.
Symbolism and Themes in Silent Hill
Because the religious cult plays such a large role in the film, it is worthwhile to read it as a religious allegory. Though the cult is not Christian, the film is replete with Biblical quotes.
We get our first one when Rose and Sharon eat lunch near this billboard:
The verse is criticizing two Christian men for going to secular court over a minor issue between them, and reminding them they will eventually be judging much more significant matters. Interestingly, angels and saints have different meanings depending on the denomination. In fact you might say…
In the film, the verse obviously pertains to Rose and Sharon since the sign is shown in conjunction with them before they even enter Silent Hill. So the key is that they will be the judges of the the angels and world of Silent Hill.
To go a little deeper/reach, angels are considered spirits that serve God. Angels can be fallen (hence the demons reference). So in the film, angels could be interpreted as the “spirits” aka monsters that serve Alessa. Angels to Alessa, demons to…everyone else amirite?
Which brings us to Alessa. Alessa is a Christ-like figure who is targeted by a religious cult for a purification ritual when they seem to become convinced she is a witch. They actually know this to be false – during the ritual Christabella “praises the innocent for their sacrifice”, indicating even they know Alessa is innocent. But the cult goes along with it because they believe burning an innocent will avert an apocalypse.
The film leaves the question of Alessa’s father a mystery, and part of what catches the cult’s attention is her mother Dahlia’s refusal to name a father. We could either presume she truly was immaculate or more realistically that Dahlia has some motivation for not revealing a father. Dahlia is very attractive, and it can be reasonably assumed there is a degree of slut-shaming happening that makes her reluctant to reveal the father.
The cult tries to complete their purification by fire ritual, but authorities stop them, leaving Alessa badly burned but still shockingly alive. But because Alessa is not Christ or a witch and instead a flawed human, she seeks vengeance against the cult and anyone who comes near her. This begins before Dark Alessa approaches her. A seemingly innocent nurse is curious about Alessa’s appearance, and looks in on her out of curiosity. Dark Alessa explains Alessa hurt this nurse before Dark Alessa approached her.
“Her hate got so strong, she even hurt someone who was only curious. That’s when I came.”Dark Alessa to Rose
At this point, the nurse just looks surprised at something and leaves the room looking scared. Later, we see the nurse’s eyes are milky white as if she has been blinded, and she is crying tears of blood.
This scene indicates Alessa already had darkness in her, as well as psychic powers, and willingly accepts Dark Alessa’s offer of vengeance because she has grown so hateful. The only exception to Alessa’s wrath is her mother Dahlia. Dahlia is also the only person who actually survived since she and Officer Gucci are the only two characters who have aged since the fire.
But because Dahlia wavered in her devotion by allowing the cult to harm Alessa, she needs a mother figure who will display unconditional love. Because “mother is God in the eyes of the child”, Rose is therefore the God Alessa has been waiting for.
“Mother is God in the eyes of a child”: The Ouroboros of Motherhood in Silent Hill
Christabella: “Are you a person of faith?”
Rose: “I love my daughter”Christabella & Rose
Alessa is the “mother” of Sharon because Sharon is the last of her goodness. And yes the timeline makes no sense since that means Sharon would have been born in 1995 which is well after the incident in 1974 when Dark Alessa approaches Alessa and makes a deal with her. What makes it seem most inconsistent is that the flashback of Dark Alessa dropping Sharon off at the orphanage is shown in the same “purposely edited to look like old film footage” method all the 70s flashbacks are shown in, so the movie itself implies Sharon is dropped off in the orphanage earlier in time even though that wouldn’t work. It obviously went to the same school of timeline logic as Texas Chainsaw 3D.
The only thing I can surmise is that they waited till a worthy mother (Rose) would adopt the remaining goodness of Alessa’s soul. Alternatively, you could argue it took that long till the final bit of Alessa’s goodness dissipated. Or that years had passed between the failed ritual and Alessa lashing out. Either way, this means Alessa is God in the eyes of Sharon.
Christabella refers to Dark Alessa as the demon, and later asserts that the “demon fathered this disgusting abomination” meaning Dark Alessa is Sharon’s father. This would fit the theory I’ll later discuss that Dark Alessa is the devil or a demon, and not merely the dark part of Alessa’s soul. Alternatively, because Alessa has powers one could argue she created a horcrux of sorts by creating Sharon.
In either case, this makes it so both Alessa and Rose are God in the eyes of Sharon.
Rose answers Christabella’s question of faith by saying she loves her daughter. Earlier, she prays and Dark Alessa answers her prayer. So it could also be that Dark Alessa/Sharon are Gods in the Rose’s eyes as well.
Silent Hill and Sexual Trauma
Alessa’s sexual abuse at the hands of a school janitor informs the appearance and behavior of a lot of the monsters in Silent Hill. This movie predominantly features women, and it is hard to not notice the layer of sexualized violence in many of the nightmare world scenes. It starts with the demons ripping Rose’s clothes off when she is first attacked in the alley. Later, Colin’s mutilated corpse sticking its tongue out and trying to attack Rose, followed by Pyramid Head and his giant, phallic sword. He traps Cybil and Rose in a room and repeatedly penetrates the door with the sword trying to stab them. Later, he rips Anna’s clothes off before ripping off her flesh and killing her.
The nurse are also sexualized which seems to signify Alessa’s frustration at her scarred body and trauma that prevents her from being able to be conventionally beautiful and feminine like the nurses.
Finally, Christabella’s death shows barbed wire going up her body through her vagina and ripping her in half.
Questions and Answers Regarding Loose Ends
Is Dark Alessa the Devil?
“I have many names. Right now, I’m the dark part of Alessa”Dark Alessa to Rose
Dark Alessa heavily implies she is the devil, but that might not actually be the case. Christabella refers to her as the demon. Director Christopher Gans suggests Dark Alessa is the dark part of Alessa’s human soul.
I think this depends on how you perceive the film. Either Alessa decides to embrace her hatred and use her psychic powers, or she decides to embrace her hatred and use her psychic powers, but has to make a deal with a devil/demonic force to create the nightmare world. Either way she is horrifically abused to the point she becomes as hateful as the people who abused her and attacks them. Most importantly, in either case she makes the conscience decision (albeit under great distress) to seek revenge and accept Dark Alessa into her heart.
The biggest indications Dark Alessa is the devil is saying she goes by many names, and the level of deception she employs to get Rose to help her. On the other hand, she seems to specifically need Sharon as a vessel in order to escape Silent Hill, which would indicate her specifically being the dark part of Alessa/Sharon’s soul.
Why Do Alessa’s Monsters Attack Rose if Alessa Needs Her?
Dark Alessa is testing Rose throughout the film to determine how unconditional her love for Sharon is (and thus how far she will go to help Alessa). She is essentially tricking Rose into agreeing to help with her vengeance under great duress.
Rose’s journey in the film mirrors the traumas Alessa went through.
The first time the darkness comes, Rose sees a medical gurney and a crucified cultist before being assaulted by the child-like ash monsters in an alley. This mirrors Alessa being mercilessly attacked by other children for being different, and alludes to her hospital treatments after the fire.
The second time the darkness comes, Colin the janitor who sexually assaulted Alessa comes after Rose while licking his lips in a suggestive manner. Pyramid Head appears, and repeatedly stabs at Rose with a giant sword that penetrates a door in his attempts to attack her. This mirrors Alessa’s sexual trauma.
The third time the darkness comes, she is given shelter by Christabella and the cult. Rose is being given a chance to trust them, which she rejects in order to keep looking for Sharon. This mirrors the cult offering salvation to Dahlia, and their betrayal that ends in Alessa’s horrific burning.
The fourth time the darkness comes seems to be in the hospital basement. The nurse monsters are overtly feminine and sexual, attacking Rose before she finally gets to Alessa. This represents the medical treatments Alessa endured, as well as the realization she would be trapped in a terribly scarred body, and thus never look like the nurses. She is scared of the medical staff as a child, but also resentful of the nurses for living a conventional life she never will because of the cult. Like Alessa, Rose is blinded to the damage Alessa has done, which is why she doesn’t notice the crying, blinded nurse who is seemingly an innocent bystander.
There are further tests as well – taking the key from Colin’s mouth and jumping over a chasm Ninja Warrior style to get to the figure of the crying girl. All of this builds Dark Alessa’s trust in Rose, and Rose’s empathy for Alessa. So when the time comes to make a deal with Dark Alessa, Rose is primed to do it just as Alessa was thirty years ago.
The final darkness has Rose accidently stabbing a cultist to death. It does seem accidental – she brandishes a knife and he charges her anyway – but the result is her final loss of innocence. This is reflected in the way her wardrobe gradually becomes redder and redder over the course of her journey. She tries to shield Sharon from the darkness, but they are both infected by it by the end.
Why Did the Cult Burn Alessa in a Hotel?
They didn’t – the hotel held a secret room and passage to get to the building next door where they did the ritual. This is evident from the pit Dark Alessa keeps showing Rose (and Sharon at the beginning of the film) being in the building next to the hotel. It represents her most extreme trauma at the hands of society.
Why go to all the trouble to show them using the hotel? My money is on Gans wanting to shoehorn in another reference to the games – in this case a hotel which is a setting that plays a prominent role in Silent Hill 2.
Why Can’t Dark Alessa Enter the Cult’s Church?
“Their blind conviction repels me from their church. I cannot enter while they deny their fate, but you can.”Dark Alessa to Rose
At first, it seems like the cult’s faith in their God protects them but that is misleading. It is their blind faith that they are still alive that blocks Dark Alessa from entering. Once Rose tells them they are already dead/in purgatory thanks to the fire they started 30 years ago, they are vulnerable to the darkness (which functions as Alessa’s truth).
I also think the fact they murder an innocent (Cybil) in the church symbolically welcomes the darkness in the building itself. Christabella stabbing Rose also figurtively and literally unleashes the darkness because Rose’s blood contains Dark Alessa.
Why Sharon and Why Now?
Sharon is now the same age as Alessa was when she was nearly killed by the cult. Dark Alessa summons her to Silent Hill to bring Rose there in order to enter the cult’s church. Since she is now the same age as Alessa, seeing and living Alessa’s trauma is especially impactful for Rose who sees Alessa as the extension of Sharon she is.
Dark Alessa also needs a new vessel to leave Silent Hill in, so she wants Sharon for this reason as well. Similar to Sadako/Samara, she wants to spread her evil (those two should really think about teaming up!).
Why is Cybil Trapped in Silent Hill with Rose?
“I wanna tell you about Officer Bennett. Few years back, some wacko, he abducted a kid. Threw him down a mine vent up there in Silent Hill. Cybil Bennett, she found that boy. She spent three days holdin’ onto him, keepin’ him alive until they were rescued.”Officer Gucci to Christopher
One of the major themes of the film is motherhood, and specifically the unconditional bond between mother and child. Dark Alessa needs someone who will fight for her unconditionally. Cybil is another potential mother figure in case Rose does not pass Dark Alessa’s tests or fails to agree to help her. This is why Officer Gucci tells Christopher about Cybil’s bravery, and unfailing work to protect children. Dark Alessa likely observed Cybil’s act of bravery in rescuing a child years ago, and knew Cybil was another potential mother figure to help her unleash her vengeance.
Cybil’s potential to be viable mother is obscured at first by her wardrobe and harsh demeanor. As she begins to accept the unreal nightmare she is trapped in, she wardrobe shows an increasing vulnerability.
I also read Cybil as a bit of a superego to Rose’s ego. She is stricter and more quick to judgment than Rose. She would likely try to reason Rose out of making a deal with Dark Alessa, so it seems crucial she is eliminated in order for Rose to embrace her id and help Dark Alessa once Dark Alessa determines Rose is the most viable mother figure for her plan.
Is Cybil Gay? Am I Catching a Vibe?
Girl I don’t know but if she is *makes call me gesture*. For real, I love that they leave Cybil so ambiguous. It is interesting that Gans basically wrote no male characters in the film, and was asked by the studio to include the Christopher/Officer Gucci sequences so there would be some men.
What is Dahlia’s Deal?
Dahlia is Alessa’s birth mother. Although she makes a terrible mistake by allowing Christabella to proceed with a purification ritual on Alessa, she is immediately remorseful when she realizes what she has done. She lives in purgatory, and Alessa and her monsters do not attack her.
Dahlia is one of the only ones besides Officer Gucci to have survived the fire in 1974, which is why she has aged but Christabella and the cultists have not.
It looks like she “summons” Pyramid Head to attack Anna, but really her gesture is to indicate “look behind you” after she warned Anna not to throw stones earlier.
She is truly a tragic figure, and seems destined to die in Silent Hill alone at the end of the film.
What is Christabella’s Deal?
Christabella is a deceiver. The cult believes burning witches averts the apocalypse, and that they averted it 30 years ago by burning Alessa. Of course, they didn’t kill Alessa and actually died themselves.
More damning is that Christabella and the cult know Alessa is actually innocent. Despite perpetuating the myth Alessa is a witch and referring to her as Dahlia’s sin, she tells the cult right before burning Alessa “bless the innocent for their sacrifice.”
Why lie about witches? Christabella does it to retain her power over the cult. By always being able to direct their anger at an outsider, she can keep them unified under her. Sounds like our soon to be ex-president…
There are aspects of this that are really reminiscent of Carrie, The Autopsy of Jane Doe, The Ring, and Suspiria 2018. To get into the parallels would be spoiling these films, so if you like Silent Hill I highly suggest checking these other films out.
Carrie: It features a young girl with psychic powers who is repressed and feared by her religious fanatic of a mother. The young girl eventually snaps under abuse and unleashes her anger on her abusers and anyone else who stands in her way. This is interesting because *takes breath* in the game Silent Hill 1 (sorry I know I said I wouldn’t do it!) there is one character for both Christabella and Dahlia – Dahlia is both Alessa’s mother and the head of a cult. So in the game her character is much more aligned with Carrie’s mother.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe: The idea of creating a vengeful witch by tormenting an innocent woman falsely accused of being a witch. Jane Doe also makes people near her suffer the same traumas she did as her form of vengeance.
The Ring: Once again a young girl with psychic powers is abused to the point she finally lashes out and becomes hateful and evil, forcing people who cross her path to relive some of her traumas and memories.
Suspiria: The 2018 Suspiria also features a focus on women, witches, and involves themes of rebirth. Like Silent Hill, the protagonist is eventually revealed to be a God-like figure who defeats a group trapped within their own status quo.
Gushing About Silent Hill
Sound Design & Soundtrack
The film has excellent sound design, especially when it rotates between loud, jarring, irritating sounds and moments of silence to amplify the tension. This technique is used extensively during Rose & Sharon’s journey to Silent Hill:
The soundtrack itself (with the exception of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”) is all taken from the first four games, and works beautifully in the film. Just hearing the same opening music in the film as the first game got me so incredibly excited as a video game fan. And ending with “You’re Not Here” playing over the credits is just icing on the cake. Each game soundtrack has its own style, and I love that the film manages to use music from each of the first four games. Akira Yamaoka created the scores for the original games, and it is nice to see the film honors his incredible work at bringing Silent Hill to life.
The Quick Moments of Humor
Namely when Christopher askes Officer Gucci if he can call for Rose on the bullhorn and Gucci calmly says, “Ninety percent of the time, Chris, when a wife takes a run, she takes the daughter to a place like this, I’d say she’s damn mad at her husband.”
Also, just from watching this so many times, I can tell you the funniest moment that is incredibly easy to miss is when Cybil helps Rose over the crevasse between the hotel and the factory, and they both just leave Anna to awkwardly jump over it herself in the background. You will never be able to unsee it once you notice it.
Game to Film Comparisons
As I mentioned earlier, I love that Gans goes above and beyond to recreate camera angles, sets, monsters, and even gameplay elements from the game.
He managed to take one of the most iconic, frightening opening sequences in video game history, and translate it into a horrifying film sequence. You can see a shot by shot comparison in the video below to see how faithful the first darkness scene is:
Playing as Harry Mason and basically realizing you have to start the game by getting trapped into a chain link maze and get stabbed to death is one of the scariest gaming moments I’ve ever had and I knew it was coming. With the film, we are watching Rose but we aren’t playing as Rose, yet Gans masterfully pulls the camera back to show the numerous monsters and scope of the chain link maze in order to recreate that feeling of helplessness.
Side by Side Comparisons
Some of my favorite side by side comparisons of the film and game. Although a lot of moments aren’t shot for shot recreations, they capture an element of the game:
Everything from the flashlight to the burst of static on the radio to indicate a nearby enemy to memorizing where you need to go on a convoluted map (I seriously probably had to mumble “Left…Left…Right…” outloud to myself too when playing) is added to the movie seamlessly. Being able to capture gameplay elements while still telling such an interesting story is brilliant.
Silent Hill 15 Years Later: A Political Allegory
“So I want you to go home now to your nice warm bed, and let me deal with this town, and what has happened over the last 30 years.”Officer Gucci to Christopher
This film came out during the George W. Bush years where it felt like Evangelicalism and nationalism had taken a stronghold, which is reflected in the behavior of the religious cult in Silent Hill.
Now, in 2021, we have again seen the rise of nationalism as far-right groups devote themselves to a false God (Trump) and actively work to harm innocent people.
Unfortunately, Trump seems to have stronghold in the Republican party, and specifically the RNC, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he runs again in 2024 unless the Senate manages to convict him. If not, we would likely see Ivanka or maybe even Don Jr. try to take the mantle. His own children are the only people I could see Trump throwing his full weight behind. And eventually, most frightening of all, someone could come along and exploit democracy the way Trump has and actually succeed. Democracy feels like it got taken off roading for a test drive these past 4 years. It is still kicking but it is going to need a major overhaul.
“Now the dream of this life must end and so too must the dreamers within it. For over 30 years they’ve lied to their own souls. For 30 years they’ve denied their own fate. But now is the end of days, and I am the reaper.”Dark Alessa to Rose
Like the cultists in Silent Hill, the Republican party has awoken something very dark they have little to no control over. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like Trump fanatics are going to snap out of it upon Biden’s inauguration. So like the few good people in Silent Hill, we must continue to fight.
On that ominous note, I hope you enjoyed this summary/analysis/shameless gushing about Silent Hill! When I grabbed my DVD to rewatch it in preparation for writing this, my wife expressed dismay I was already rewatching it again after writing about less than a year ago. If you want to read more about Silent Hill check out: