Henry Townshend: Five days ago…That’s when I first had the nightmare. I haven’t been able to get out of my room since then. The phone doesn’t work, the TV doesn’t work…I can’t even get anybody to hear me when I yell… My whole world has suddenly turned insane… My door’s chained up, the windows are sealed shut… And on top of that, someone chained the door from the inside.How am I going to get out of here…?
In Part One we discussed When Horror Comes Home: The Tether of Ju-On, and the paranormal that attaches itself to a place when something horrific and violent has occurred. In part two, I’d like to pose a follow-up question, what happens when horror is home itself? The creators of the Silent Hill series have been very adept at parceling out horror and its various forms. Years prior to the creation of Silent Hills we had Silent Hill 4, with its smaller intimate setting inside of Apartment 302. Henry Townshend is the story’s protagonist who wakes up from a terrifying dream and realizes that he’s locked inside of his apartment.
Someone or something does not want him to leave, that someone being Walter Sullivan, whom we’ll discuss in Part Three. The home space in Silent Hill 4 is very mundane, simple, and organic. You can fully navigate the space within the apartment, even going from room to room looking for a way out. Your panic begins to mount as no one can hear you scream. The windows do not budge and when you gaze into the world outside, no one can even see you peering out. You pound on your door, to no effect, and gaze out of your peephole as life moves on without you. Even more chilling, you can hear the conversations of your neighbors outside wondering how, where, and if you are. You search ceaselessly for hours and there are no exit points whatsoever. Home has become your prison.
Fast-forwarding to 2014, Silent Hills has a similar premise where you’re trapped inside in the home space. Inside that home space, you’ve been trapped in a perpetual loop. You are only granted access to a bathroom and a hallway that leads down a staircase and back up again, ad infinitum. The home itself is very ordinary, nothing that would distinguish it from any other until you actually look at details scattered around the premises. There are end tables with empty beer cans and trash on the floor, empty medicine packages, and discarded pills. The rest of the house is surprisingly immaculate; I believe that very clever storytelling was utilized here to subtly inform the player that all is not as it seems in this home. A house and its accouterments can tell us a lot about a place.
As mentioned previously, Henry Townshend’s apartment is very simple, with nothing that distinguishes it as feeling very lived in. There’s hardly any food in the refrigerator. The bathroom is clean and sterile. When you imagine a home, there are very minute furnishings that distinguish spaces from feeling lived in versus feeling loved in. Henry’s lonely apartment space provides powerful imagery for comparison and contrast to the Silent Hills house. The house is lived in for sure, but absent from being loved in, and is void of things that make us feel safe. You see pictures of the Mother and Father, but where are the pictures of the children?
You hear the remnants of their lives, but they are physically not in the house space. We experience them in death, but where is the evidence of them in life? I experienced a series of terrifying thoughts that they were not loved in life or that their presence was kept from filling the lived-in space by the husband. As the events of Silent Hill 4 unfold, the apartment itself becomes unsafe. A hole in the bathroom wall appears thanks to the aforementioned Walter Sullivan — and once the apartment has been breached — the space becomes taken over by malevolence. And as you constantly return to the apartment throughout the game, it becomes a space that drains your health and your sanity.
Silent Hills and Silent Hill 4 highlight home spaces where the player becomes privy to the aftermath of a crime scene, wherein more and more evidence of the grisly events that occurred are unveiled as both games unfold. There are spirits that are unable to rest in both spaces and hauntings that become more violent as the game progresses. Home is usually a place that we build or buy. Sometimes we come to a space that we’re merely passing through or wish to live in forever. Oftentimes, we’re not even aware of the land’s history that we live on. We regularly never consider what makes one home singularly unique. Is it the people that take up residence there or the various objects that fill it? The house within Silent Hills and Apartment 302 within Silent Hill 4 shows us that the very idea of home can be a place of love and a space of horror in equal measure.
When Horror Comes Home:The Tether of Ju-On (Part One)
Exploring domestic violence and ghosts.
When Horror Leaves Home: Say Hello to Walter Sullivan (Part Three)
Exploring victim and victimizer.
When Horror Comes Home: Welcome Eveline Baker (Part Four)
Exploring the intersections of home, trauma, and family.