Silent Hill 2 #2 | Characters and Monsters

Check out part one here: Plot outline

The whole game then, is a big guilt trip for James Sunderland (It's basically a video game version of David Lynch's Lost Highway). He repressed the memories he had of murdering his wife but was called to the town so that he could face the truth of what he did. Every single aspect of the game, from the environmental design to the puzzles, monsters and characters have been specifically created by Team Silent to reflect certain aspects of James' mind.


"An in depth study of human emotions, passionate attention to detail and the perfect casting; therein lies the secret to the characters in Silent Hill 2"
- Making of


James Sunderland silent hill 2 analysis
Everyone who plays SH2 will have a different opinion on whether James is a good or bad guy, obviously looking at the surface of the synopsis - he isn't. He murdered his wife in cold blood. Whatever opinion you have, neither is wrong as the game leaves it up to you to decide that - and such an ambiguous and dividing lead character makes for a much more unique experience when you're used to playing the straight laced hero in so many other games.

It evident that he's got two sides to his personality - this is the first concepts that game introduces to us when we see him looking at himself in the toilet mirror. He's on a 'self reflective' journey after being in a state of amnesia and at the end of it will discover just how dark his actions were. Yet at this point he and the audience are led to believe that his beloved wife died of a disease in which he could do nothing to stop. It's only as we progress that we find out that he's an unreliable narrator, and this other side to his personality is revealed. Generally talking to other characters with politeness, he's a likeable protagonist who's confusion and grief about the situation that he's found himself in makes us relate and feel sorry for him. It's this side that is competing his his selfish qualities which ultimately led him to be unable to care for his wife any longer. 

Mary's illness not only took its toll on her appearance but also on the way that she spoke to others, in the letter reading scene at the end she tells James that's she's noticed how difficult he finds it to visit her in the hospital. She was prone to violent mood swings and took it out most on James, who found it difficult to visit her regularly as a result. This explains why Laura has an initial dislike of him; Laura and Mary presumably formed a close bond as they were staying at the same hotel and was led to believe James didn't love his wife because he rarely came to see her. On the one hand he didn't want to watch someone he loved suffer (unselfish), but he was disgusted by her appearance and wanted her out of his life (selfish). His darker motivations for what he did are explained below in the Maria section.

In a letter given to him by Laura at the hotel, Mary says that James is a nice man despite being a little 'surly' on the surface, she says that he made her happy and that she wouldn't have traded their time together for the world. The fact that he even feels the need to feel punished shows that he is a better person than Eddie is (not that it's difficult) - but perhaps Eddie is there to offer this contrast between a conflicted, incredibly flawed yet ultimately (in my opinion) good character compared to a truly evil and remorseless one.


Maria silent hill 2 analysis
A dead ringer for James wife, Maria is a manifestation of the town and probably represents what James wished Mary was like when she was in the worst stages of her disease. The themes of sex and death are explicitly stated in the making of video as the main focal points of Silent Hill 2's focus and it's widely considered among fans that James' motivations for killing Mary stemmed out of sexual frustration. Her provocative clothing and flirty personality comes together to create a woman that is an illusion (she never encounters any other characters) that's seemingly straight out of James wishes. The whole doppelgänger concept between Mary and Maria was one of the first things that popped into my head when I first watched Hitchcock's Vertigo. Madeline and Judy from the 1958 film both obtain the qualities of their video game counterparts. Like Maria, Madeline is the blonde who is the more sexy and desirable of the two in the eyes of the protagonist, whilst Judy resembles more plain and subdued Mary.

Her role in the plot is to help remind James of what he did - and her repeated death is a way of punishing James into accepting his actions. At one point in the hospital Maria berates James for leaving her, saying that "you're supposed to take care of me" - something that is likely to have been said by Mary when lashing out at James in the hospital. Furthermore, upon James discovering Maria's dead body in the Labyrinth she's had huge damage inflicted upon one side of her face, much like what Mary must have looked like when she was in the worst stages of her disfiguring disease. Before this, James leaves her alone in a hospital room after she complains of feeling ill, this may represent the displacement of responsibility that occurred after he stopped visiting Mary in the hospital. This is why the labyrinth conversation is considered so important by fans and the creators alike because she alternates between the two different women in the same monologue. 

Voiced and motion captured by the same actress, Mary and Maria also have the same facial polygon structure. She, impossibly has knowledge about the past between James and Mary and switches between the two different personalities of these women; vulnerable vs confident. Like Mary she cares for Laura a great deal but tends to act in increasingly off-putting ways which confuses James. In some ways Maria is the main antagonist of the story, if James falls victim to his delusions about her, then you're likely to get the 'Maria' ending. In which case he leaves town with her, unable to move on from Mary or accept that Maria is a product of his own dark subconscious desires. After all, this ending is achieved by focussing more on Maria than Mary during your travels in the town, whilst James is happier initially when leaving with Maria, her coughing suggests that James hasn't learnt his lesson and will go through the same circle of guilt. 

Angela, Eddie and Laura

  • Angela tends to offer some dark, hard hitting truths about James character. Unlike him she seems to know that she's in Silent Hill to receive punishment; and that she's been hiding from the truth of her character ("You're the same as me James, it's easier to run, besides it's what we deserve anyway"). Her suicidal tendencies are reflective of James' mind set should you receive the 'In Water' ending, since she believes that it's the only way she can escape from her guilt after murdering her own father because of the abuse she suffered at his hands. The last time you see her, she's surrounded by fire in the alternate hotel and it's definitely clear that she has taken her own life - "Thank you for saving me, but I wish you hadn't". 
  • Eddie, to put it simply is a psychopath. But whilst the most reprehensible of the lot he's there to show that he's committed murders just like James has. He points out that whilst James maintains they are not alike, the town still called the two of them. Like Angela he has killed out of revenge (he's a bullying victim) but conversely feels absolutely no remorse for his actions. Eddie also believed that killing people solves his problems, much like James believed with Mary. 
  • Laura is a little girl that has gone to the town to find her friend Mary. If you're wondering why she's managed to survive walking around a town full of horrible monsters - it's because she's innocent of any crimes and therefore doesn't have any demons to face. Just like James she received a letter off Mary, in which she declared her love for the little girl by revealing she was hoping to adopt her. Whilst Angela is associated with the 'In Water' ending and Maria with the 'Maria' ending (duh), Laura is connected with the 'Leave' ending

"The enemies are sort of an illusion ... I tried to give them a hint of humanity"
- Producer, Akihito Imamura

As already mentioned in the plot outline, Silent Hill 2 monsters are not typical enemies. At first you're struck by the human qualities that they inhibit, mainly in the form of their realistic-like skin, but this clashes with the abhorrent sounds they emit as well as their distorted walking patterns. In claustrophobic areas especially, the horror is ramped up by the flashlight since it helps to emphasise their qualities and size in the shadows that are cast. What they all have in common is the fact that they are simply deformed and repulsive to look at, which may be a nod to how James saw Mary during her illness.

The lying figure silent hill 2 monster analysisThe very first enemy is known as the Lying Figure, it's main method of attack is an acid-like substance that sprays from its chest and disorientates James should he be in proximity. Mashahiro Ito said he got the idea for this creature when his friend was walking towards him from a distance with hands in his pockets and face covered by a coat hood. The design most resembles a straight jacket which the being is trying and failing to get out of. The way it is struggling & writhing around is clearly symbolic of the physical implications that came with Mary's illness. As mentioned before, she believed herself to be a monster who was unworthy of even the flowers James would bring to her. The unprovoked moments in which she would lash out at the ones she loved may what inspired the sudden movement of poison that spews and damages James - unlike many video game enemy attacks it doesn't have an obvious 'wind up' that gives you time to dodge. CGI director/character designer Takayoshi Sato has said that 'the teams consensus on the monsters look was 'that of soured flesh', and nowhere is this more true than with the Lying Figure - it's a literal representation of Mary's 'cocoon of pain and loneliness' as she describes.

Mannequin silent Hill 2 AnalysisWhen you first meet The Mannequin enemy you experience one of the few jump scares in the game as it springs up from the ground after picking up the flashlight. It's literally two sets of legs sewn together to a feminine torso, obviously the most sexual of the monsters. When Angela says that men are "only after one thing", this is the monster that's most likely symbolic of James urges and frustrations whilst Mary was 'unavailable' to him. Further evidence of this is the fact that in a notorious cutscene within the game, Pyramid Head is seen abusing two of these before dragging their bodies across the room. They're unique because they don't come to life until you get close to them - thus its almost as if James is provoking otherwise peaceful creatures, which means they could also represent the innocence and vulnerability/weakness of Mary.

Bobble headed nurse silent hill 2 analysisThe Bubble Headed Nurses are common place in other SH games in the series and first appear in the hospital, for me they're the most challenging to defeat due to their habit to attack in packs along with the melee weapons they carry. As the name suggests, they have a deformed facial structure & like the Mannequins are notable for their femininity; with low cut blouses and short skirts. Combine this with the fact that their introduced shortly after encountering Maria, it's widely acknowledged that they're symbol of Jame's sexual desires and anxieties. On the other hand it also seems fair to suggest that they're a hate or anger figure for James to kill. In an optional conversation that's available to listen to after viewing the videotape, James is lashing out at a doctor after being told that Mary's condition is untreatable. He could therefore have an inherent hate towards the medical personnel he meets because of their inability to save his wife, nurses included.

These are the three main enemies that are present in the game, although others make appearances at brief intervals including the Abstract Daddy which represents the abuse that Angela suffered at the hands of her Dad. The Mandarin, which is a rarely encountered monster that hangs below grated floors in the otherworld - seemingly representing repressed emotions or helplessness. Finally, Flesh Lips - the beings that fall and hang from the ceiling are said to symbolise the confinement that Mary was subject to when in her hospital bed according to the Silent Hill wiki.

pyramid head silent hill 2 analysisPyramid Head is one of the most iconic villains in all of video games, perhaps the most iconic within the horror genre, but unfortunately this means it's a highly misunderstood one. It's generally considered to be a manifestation of James' own creation, an executioner that stalks him as he felt that he needed to be punished for what he did to Mary. You see this referenced in photo's found around the Historical Society, that mention an executioner from years ago, used to punish sinners for their acts. Pyramid head is impossible to kill - you don't complete the first boss fight by defeating him but instead by waiting a set amount of minutes until he walks off. Only after confronting his own sins has PH finally served its purpose and finished off in the basement of the hotel.

Many sequels and adaptations don't grasp this, for example - it's inclusion within the Silent Hill Movie (2006, dir. Gans), which was based upon the first game makes no sense and is either the result of fan service or the writers being unaware of this concept. In addition to being a judge of sorts, PH also reflects the other, destructive side to James' personality mentioned earlier. The similarities between the two are echoed in several different ways:
  • James is hostile to the monsters in the game, despite the fact that you can instead simply run by them. Likewise, Pyramid Head seen several times abusing Lying Figures and Mannequins. 
  • During the labyrinth cutscene - perhaps the most important one of the whole game; James and Maria are separated between prison bars. When you first see PH he's staring at you from behind metal bars. 
  • You can equip and pick up Pyramid Head's buster sword. 
  • Your actions (running into the elevator, leaving her on her own) get Maria killed. PH kills her several times too, albeit intentionally. 
  • After killing Eddie, you have to fight two PH's in the hotel basement, this represents James' murder of both Mary and Eddie. 
  • When descending into the Labyrinth, a foghorn sounds which similar to the one that played in the fight scene with PH at the apartments, as if it's signalling James' arrival. 
  • "Red Pyramid Thing, I dunno what you're talking about" Eddie says. No-one else can see PH besides James. 
  • PHs purpose in the game, (other than to scare the living daylights out of you) is to actually lead you through environments that would be impossible to access otherwise, in order to get James to the truth:
1. It gets rid of the flood at the stairs in the Apartments
2. Its actions result in James hiding in a cupboard, helping him to find an essential key
3. Knocks James from the hospital roof so he can access an area previously locked off
4. Provides James with the necessary keys to progress after the fight with the two Pyramid Heads

Thank you for reading, the analysis of the environments of the town and how this lends itself to the storyline is to follow.