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Silent Hill Examines the Difference Between Faith and Denial

India has been an avid fan of all things spooky and scary ever since she can remember.

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Christabella: “Are you a person of faith?”

- Rose: “I love my daughter.”

- Christabella: “That's not what I asked.”

— Silent Hill, 2006

Like Resident Evil, Silent Hill is a rare breed: a horror movie based on a video game which also happens to be worth watching. The film follows Rose (Radha Mitchell), a young mother determined to cure her daughter Sharon (Jodelle Farland), who has begun to suffer from dangerous bouts of sleepwalking. Desperate to find a clue to Sharon's mysterious condition, Rose takes her to her birthplace, a small town known as Silent Hill. But when they arrive, Rose quickly discovers that the situation isn’t as simple as it seems. And when she and Sharon are separated, they must find each other before it’s too late…

One of my favorite aspects of Silent Hill is the setting, which is based on a real town in Pennsylvania. In 1962, officials in Centralia, PA ordered that the local landfill be burned. However, the fire spread to an abandoned coal mine: igniting an underground blaze which burns to this day. While most residents evacuated, a handful remain.

Still, creepy as Centralia might be Silent Hill takes the term “ghost town” to a whole ‘nother level. In this shadowy space infested with monsters, the human residents are no less gruesome (though their ugliness is less apparent). Consumed by terror and paranoia, they eliminate anyone who challenges their vision of themselves as saviors of the world, good Christians whose sacrifice staved off the apocalypse. However, although the townspeople claim to be protected by their beliefs, in reality their conviction prevents them from seeing the truth. As the residents of Silent Hill learn all too late, there is a difference between faith and obstinacy. Whether or not you believe in a higher power, viewing yourself as infallible and refusing to admit your mistakes brings nothing but pain, to yourself as well as those around you.

Take Alessa, for example. Once an innocent child, the cruelty inflicted on her by her supposed saviors transformed her into a monster consumed by the desire for revenge. Despite Christabella’s claims, the experience did nothing to “purify” Alessa—indeed, it had the opposite effect. Ironically, it was the townspeople’s condemnation of the child which turned her into the very thing they feared. Had they looked past their biases to see who Alessa really was—a lonely little girl desperate to be loved—the town’s suffering (and hers) could have been avoided. As it is, even while they burn in a hell of their own making the people of Silent Hill refuse to acknowledge their guilt. For admitting they were wrong means facing the fact that they are the cause of their own pain: a revelation they are unable to accept. Sometimes the truth is too much to bear—but those who refuse to acknowledge reality are unable to change it.

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© 2022 India LaPalme

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