Naturally, his helmet is his most prominent feature. The idea of a humanlike monster with a deep red pyramid-shaped helmet sounds ridiculous on paper. However, the slick crimson stains upon it, a similarly spattered butcher's apron, heavy boots and a huge knife just work. That he seems to suffer in his getup only enhances his mysterious nature. Creature Designer Masahiro Ito said he wanted to design an enemy that was recognizably humanoid but inhuman. He focused on Pyramid Head's face, hiding it beneath a helmet, which made him more cryptic and disturbing. The "sharpness [of the triangle] suggests the possibility of pain. And the triangle shape also helps explain the monster's role in the game," he says. Just what that role is also makes Pyramid Head unique.
Pyramid Head turns out to be James' masochistic delusion after he discovers he smothered his wife, Mary, when she was dying of cancer. Pyramid Head reminds James of his guilt, his sexual frustration during Mary's illness and his desire to be punished for what he did. Ultimately, James accepts all of this, wanting to be rid of the delusion. "I needed you to punish me for my sins," he admits near the end. The enemy isn't even real, but his impact is.
It's this psychological horror that works so well. Pyramid Head's appearances are short, which keeps them jarring. During the briefest, the sound of his knife dragging precedes him, and we catch a brief glimpse of his arrival before James is suddenly tossed through a safety gate and off the roof of a building. The monster then comes to the edge and slowly peers over it, seeming to stare from within that impenetrable helmet.
It's difficult to understand Pyramid Head's actions until the revelation near the end, but even after his origin is known, his impact isn't dulled. In fact, you can appreciate it more. He's judgment personified, a sexually dark butcher. And at the same time, he's tormented. It's no coincidence that Silent Hill 2 begins with James looking into a mirror: It's the demons inside us that are the most terrifying.
Christina González practically cut her teeth on a joystick. She blogs over at http://cafechristina.vox.com when not running away from monsters in metal helmets.