Picture the scene – you awaken on a miserable autumn morning. It’s quiet, like the entire world has remained trapped in slumber as you rise to greet the day. Dazed and confused, upon glancing outside it seems everything is trapped in a state of perpetual fog. All before you is far from inviting, but you walk forward into the unknown regardless.
The streets are almost silent, except muted pedestrians waltzing past you, a paranoid look in their eyes as they dither about their business. Small smatterings of children board buses while shopkeepers open up their stores for the day ahead. Something feels wrong, like at any moment an unknown terror will pounce forth from the fog and plant a knife in your gut. Nobody can be trusted, with powers outside our control whittling this place down to nothing but a shadow of what it used to be. This isn’t Silent Hill though, it’s Great Britain.
A recent viral leak seemed to hint that a future title in the Silent Hill franchise will take place in Britain, made rather obvious by cringe-inducing Monty Python references and words like ‘minger’ being thrown around like the insult didn’t stop being relevant in 2007. These are the telltale signs of a game being developed by a studio who doesn’t reside in the country where its game takes place, and thus it pulls from popular culture in order to paint a picture that feels accurate and modern. Normally it ends up like ZombiU with far too many references to the royal family and accents so cockney they’d make Phil Mitchell blush.
Despite all the clichés that are bound to surface in situations like this, I’d be lying if I said Great Britain wasn’t an utterly perfect setting for Silent Hill. The country has always excelled when it comes to horror. Its controversial political history, miserable weather, and a societal culture that is simultaneously reserved and boisterous means it’s far too easy to pull something sinister from between the cracks. There is so much to draw from, whether it’s the masterful zombie apocalypse of 28 Days Later or the haunting mystery of indie classics like Possum or Dead Man’s Shoes. British horror can come in so many different forms. We can depict classic monsters tearing hundreds apart, or delve deeper into the psychological aspect of what it means to exist in a society that is so often set against you. The trauma, neglect, and polarising nature of existence that defines so much of modern Britain feels almost purpose built for Silent Hill to morph into something entirely unique.
Countryside towns neglected by the big cities that rule over them, or seaside resorts long devoid of tourists and business as people continually struggle to make ends meet, or even a large section of the capital sectioned off by an unknowable force. Silent Hill always excelled when the horror wasn’t immediately obvious, pulling us into a false sense of security as the world around us begins to flake away, unveiling more and more otherworldly horrors until we have no choice but to confront them. Where they come from is a mystery, all we know is that fighting to survive and aimlessly wandering towards some form of solution is the only way forward. Silent Hill 1, 2, 3, and 4 mastered this.
Protagonists often had a narrative justification for journeying to the titular town or pursuing a path that will only result in their downfall, but a real world location would need to have its culture explored in order to sell the reality of Silent Hill in a convincing way. Of all countries in the world, unless you’re willing to set a game in the Chernobyl exclusion zone, Britain is arguably one of the bleakest Konami would ever hope to tackle. However, it seems the aforementioned leak isn’t related to a mainline game, but instead a series of episodic short stories allegedly in the works at Annapurna Interactive.
Silent Hill is also perfect for smaller stories, perhaps snapshots of horror from all around the world that build their characters and narrative around existing places and legends with a distinct psychological spin. It would explain the random assortment of assets that emerged, and also why it seems British in a clumsy yet weirdly charming way. Bloober Team is apparently working on a Silent Hill 2 remake, while an entirely new experience is being helmed by another unknown studio. These are all rumours, but if they turn out to be true it seems Silent Hill is set to make a massive comeback, and a combination of original stories that draw on very real examples of fear sounds like the perfect mixture.
To be honest, you don’t need to change much about Britain to make it the ideal setting for Silent Hill, since the Conservative government has done more than enough to turn it into a living hellscape. A gifted writer would turn this political discordance into a horror in itself, or have it reflected in the monsters and themes characters must deal with while coming to terms with why their country has transformed into a twisted, inescapable, and macabre playground for the damned. There is so much potential here, and I’d hate to see it wasted.
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