Running Scared

Even though October is still a few months away, please indulge me with a little talk about horror movies.  Within this genre of film, there are a hell of a lot of franchises that got their start with impressive and genuinely scary antagonists.  Friday the 13th, Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street; these are just a few of the movies that freaked out an entire generation and created a slew of new boogeymen to check the closet for.  While the flagship entries for many of these series have become rather dated, the horror contained within is a timeless entity.  Well, mostly.

JasonNESIt seems whenever a movie is even a moderate success, the first reaction is to rapidly make a sequel and profit from consumer frenzy.  Sometimes these follow-ups can bring new perspectives on the monsters and the terror they create, but there is a sort of water-down effect that occurs over time.  The more screen time a creature gets, the more opportunities the audience has to face that monster and rationalize their fear.  Couple this with declining quality of sequels, and you are left with a once terrifying series that has become schlocky or just downright awful to watch.  The monsters are not scary anymore, they are the subject of parody.

The same sort of thing can be said about video games, particularly within the survival horror genre.  When Silent Hill first hit the scene, there were warnings of sleepless nights and new horrors all over the place.  Players had faced plenty of monsters in the past (just look at Castlevania), but things were different now.  The protagonists of these games were low on resources in an unfamiliar place, pitted against hordes of terrifying opponents, or worse yet, against themselves.  In Silent Hill 2, Konami decided to put a face to this psychological terror through Pyramid Head.

SH2PyramidHeadThe first Silent Hill was on no short supply of shambling abominations, but none of these monsters were very distinct within the story of the game.  Much of the game’s real terror was based on the dark history of the town itself.  The sequel turned the focus away from how Silent Hill came to be, and twisted the lens to the effect the town has on those who come across it.  When James arrives in Silent Hill, he is haunted by the guilt and darkness of his past.  These psychological demons manifest in the form of Pyramid Head, a sort of faceless executioner who torments the main character over the course of the game.  Pyramid Head made for a perfect monster in Silent Hill 2, and his image became iconic with the series.

A little too iconic it seems, as Mr. Head has been jammed into other Silent Hill games, as well as both of the movies.  Here we have a perfect example of trying to force an ideal monster into different situations that don’t exactly suit it.  In the second game, Pyramid Head directly correlates with the main character and his situation.  For every other appearance, Pyramid Head just serves as a generic bogeyman who is pandering to fans of Silent Hill 2.  He has become a mascot for Konami’s survival horror genre, and it was only a matter of time until he completely jumped the shark.

chibipyramidheadIn 2008, the latest International Track and Field game was released the Nintendo DS.  The newest sequel offered a robust set of events, which could be played in a single-player campaign or over the Nintendo Wi-Fi system.  This title was well received; praised for its gameplay and character design, which was handled by Udon Comics.  There was a set of original characters, right alongside some Konami favorites like Solid Snake, Frogger, and (you guessed it) Pyramid Head.  All of the characters were drawn in a super-deformed style, so with enough victories in the game, players could take control of this adorable little monster for every event.  Chibi-Pyramid Head could pole vault, run the hurdles track, or just take a fancy dive into the pool.

ChibiPHWhile this diminutive version of Pyramid head may incite less “AH!” and more “awww,” players are still reminded of the creature once feared so long ago.  Multiple cameos may have watered down this fear, but that first appearance of Pyramid Head still raises the hair on the back of my neck.  To this day, I cannot play Silent Hill 2 on my own, and certainly not while the sun is down.  I suppose the true measure of these monsters is not how often they appear in media, but the impact of their first appearance, and the lingering terror they leave behind.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

4 thoughts on “Running Scared

  1. The survival horror genre has long been a favorite of mine and I think it’s sad that new games in it have been lacking over the last few years. I remember getting together with a small group of friends to make our way through the newest Resident Evil or Fatal Frame but Silent Hill has always had a creepy spot of love in my heart. I’ll never forget playing through The Room, or getting stuck in the mirror room in Silent Hill 3 and I’ll certainly never forget screaming “What the hell is that!” at Pyramid Head’s first appearance. To be perfectly honest, to this day he still freaks me out too!

  2. […] of October this way comes.  While I may have started the festivities a bit earlier, my favorite time of year officially begins today.  That magical month where ghouls and ghosts […]

  3. […] It was back in November of 2004 that Udon Entertainment debuted their Darkstalkers comic series.  At this time, Udon was releasing their work through Devil’s Due Publishing, which included a Street Fighter comic series that launched in 2003 (which we will definitely discuss in a later post).  The Darkstalkers comic ran for six issues, until it abruptly stopped in April of 2005.  In October of the same year, the chief of operations Eric Ko, announced that Udon had become a full-fledged publisher and its lengthy hiatus was due to producing material for the video game Capcom Fighting Evolution.  Since that time, Udon has grown into a massive comic book and video game powerhouse, producing several comic series, art books, and work for video games such as Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix and New International Track and Field. […]

  4. […] It was back in November of 2004 that Udon Entertainment debuted their Darkstalkers comic series.  At this time, Udon was releasing their work through Devil’s Due Publishing, which included a Street Fighter comic series that launched in 2003.  The Darkstalkers comic ran for six issues, until it abruptly stopped in April of 2005.  In October of the same year, the chief of operations Eric Ko, announced that Udon had become a full-fledged publisher and its lengthy hiatus was due to producing material for the video game Capcom Fighting Evolution.  Since that time, Udon has grown into a massive comic book and video game powerhouse, producing several comic series, art books, and work for video games such as Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix and New International Track and Field. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: