Could the new Silent Hill be taking place in Britain? A set of recently DMCA-ed screenshots certainly suggests it does, and it could be just what the series needs. After all, there’s only so much more you can do with Silent Hill’s foggy town, short of a full-on reboot. But to really succeed, Silent Hill should be more than superficially British.
For a start, it’ll need to acknowledge that there’s life outside London. All too often, games treat London as the be-all and end-all of Britain. Yes, I love Watch Dogs: Legion and I still get a kick out of Zombi, but unlike some of Silent Hill’s roads, the M1 Motorway doesn’t end in a huge cavernous void. And while Britain is 40 times smaller than the US, there are still big cultural shifts as you drive up the country. Game of Thrones may have ended poorly, but it nailed the sheer resentment that a lot of Northerners feel about being ruled from the South.
Setting a British Silent Hill in the North, Wales or Scotland, or even Cornwall or the Midlands could lend it a suitably “alien” air to audiences outside the UK. The fact the word “minger” features in the leaked screenshots suggests the protagonist herself is British, but that doesn’t rule out a fish-out-of-water element to her tale; maybe she’s moved to a different town or even county.
Or — and I’d love for Konami to have already given the go-ahead for this — make her a person of color and/or an immigrant. The USA may not have had things easy with Trump, but Brexit, which saw the UK vote to leave Europe, has led to an increase in hate crimes. I can’t imagine having to deal with that on a regular basis, but it’d plunge our protagonist into misery even before she saw a single monster.
Cultural horrors and racism aside, physical geography could make the protagonist feel even more isolated. Yes, there were monsters roaming Silent Hill 2’s streets, but there was something oddly comforting about the town’s buildings. Even if you couldn’t access the majority of them, they were there. Instead, it was walking down the game’s opening forest path that really gave me the chills.
So set this new Silent Hill in a place where you can wander off the beaten track, where the nearest house might be a mile or three away. Contrary to in the United States, you’re unlikely to get truly lost, but that added distance could amplify whatever fear you’re feeling.
For example, 1974’s The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue, despite the title, took place in the Lake District and is one of the most memorable zombie films I’ve watched. Fleeing from a countryside cottage, the protagonists have to fumble around in the dark just to find help. Even though I was a passive observer, I was still absolutely terrified for them.
On top of that, the hero is dispatched by the local police, a casualty of small-town bigotry, an appropriately grim ending. It may be less true than it once was, but some small towns can be quite insular; Hot Fuzz and The League of Gentlemen didn’t get it entirely wrong.
If, indeed, this new British Silent Hill sees the light of day, it’d be remiss to not at least touch on paganism. Modern paganism, modern Wicca in particular, might not be as old as people think it is, and a lot of it stems from the writings of Gerald Gardner. But no matter how much has been lost to time, Celtic paganism was practiced long before Christianity arrived on British shores.
It’s also figured into several horror movies, such as The Wicker Man, though introducing another antagonist cult might be too much. On the other hand, making a pagan practitioner look suspect, then revealing them to be an ally, could be a more appropriate acknowledgement of the faith.
Silent Hill tends to focus on the now; protagonists are typically being punished for something they’ve done, not a crime that’s been committed by their great grandfather. But the series does use history as a foundation, and the more you dig into the town of Silent Hill’s past, the murkier it gets.
According to one source, the town itself was once the home to executioners and their families, which in a roundabout way leads to the existence of Pyramid Head. These chunks of history help unsettle you, never being sure whether they’re there just for flavor or whether they’re going to tie into some in-game puzzle or encounter.
And Britain? Britain has more history than you can shake a great knife at, a good chunk of which is deeply unpleasant. There’s the British Empire that inflicted its will on the rest of the world, resulting in, amongst other atrocities, the death of millions of Indians. Britain also claimed dominion over the whole of Ireland, which certainly didn’t go well. The Romans, when they occupied Britain, built a wall to keep the then-independent Scots out. There have been multiple plagues, uprisings, wars, skirmishes, and many, many more upheavals.
On a more upbeat note, there’s the enigmatic Stonehenge, and while there are multiple theories about how it was built and why, no one is 100% sure how it was built. On top of that, there are hundreds of stone circles that could be repurposed as a gateway to or as an escape from Silent Hill’s otherworld.
In short, while Silent Hill doesn’t have to sport some sub-plot about King Arthur, there’s a wealth of material to mine, from Neolithic stone circles to slavery ports, through to modern British culture. Yes, part of me wants to see Pyramid Head wearing a flat cap and calling our protagonist a muppet; Silent Hill is in such serious need of an overhaul that it deserves more than a token dab of London-centric Britishness. And no, replacing health ampoules with deep-fried Mars bars doesn’t count.