Book Review – The Umbrella Conspiracy by S.D. Perry

★★★★ 4 Stars

Series: Resident Evil
Genre: Horror / Mystery
Publication Date: October 1st, 1998
Publisher: Pocket Books

Resident Evil is the sole survivor, pun intended, of the clash of survival horror series that began in the late 90s. It’s pretty much the only one of its genre still thriving, like a green-veined heart thumping in a jar of chemicals.
You have to appreciate its longevity, and also the fact that a novel based on a video game with near-diabolical writing is actually pretty solid. I like Resident Evil as much as anyone, but the first game did have the worst dialogue ever, no contest. To the point where it’s more or less a mansion-sized meme. Really.

Thankfully, Perry realized this and toned it down. The characters and plot are decent. The writing is straightforward but intriguing and captures the anxiety of being hunted down that the games execute so well. That panicked mystery of never knowing what you would find behind any door is what made the games scary, even before their imagery had become realistic and terrifying in later entries. I love to picture this feeling in a horror novel, and the way the puzzles in the game are incorporated into the narrative are interesting. Continue reading “Book Review – The Umbrella Conspiracy by S.D. Perry”

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Silent Hill 20th Anniversary – An Overview

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Harry Mason has been looking for his daughter at the mercy of someone else’s demons for twenty solid years today. This was foretold by gyromancy!
Being my favourite disturbing influence, I had to do a mini-special for Silent Hill‘s landmark birthday on the good parts, the bad parts, the books that it brought me to and influence on my own work. Which is more than Konami will do for their own series today, I promise you that.

I know it’s a series that ended rather unceremoniously some time ago, but its impact makes it the only one I will draw something specifically for for its anniversary.
What’s scarier, Silent Hill or the fact that 1999 was twenty years ago? Yeah, pretty much nobody born in the 90’s is in school anymore. That’s… bamboozling for some reason, and I didn’t really get to experience the 90’s save for the tail-end.

Anyway. I don’t want to go into a boring essay – there have been dissections upon discussions upon dissertations on the series and its symbolism for years. The series is old enough to buy cigarettes on its own now, so there ought to be by this point! So don’t worry, this won’t be that. Just an almost-short dedication to a really phenomenal series with a handful of recommendations.

The Books
Silent Hill is based heavily around literature, both English and Japanese, as well as a couple of darker films like Jacob’s Ladder. There are numerous references to Shakespeare, Stephen King, and contemporary writers like Richard Matheson and Andrew Vachss. One creepy creature that stands out from the series is based off of Caliban from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”, a man who is half-human and half-beast.

SH brought me to the discovery of my current favourite author a couple of years ago when I got into the series. The entire insane plotline of the fourth SH, which revolves around a serial killer obsessed with his mother and a hermit who finds himself in the killer’s mind, is based on the novel Coin Locker Babies by Ryu Murakami.

The similarities aren’t… incredibly apparent, other than both are based around two men who are close through isolation but end up taking opposing paths, though both paths lead to bad places.
In the novel, they are brothers who have an obsessive hatred for their mothers who abandoned them to die at birth – one becomes a criminal and murderer while the other loses his mind after feeling alone all of his life, even after he becomes a famous musician. In the game, they are a man abused as a child by a religious cult who becomes a fanatic and murderer, and a recluse who may be beginning to lose his mind being trapped in isolation for so long with this murderer.
I recommend the living crap out of the novel, and the game too if it’s your thing. Continue reading “Silent Hill 20th Anniversary – An Overview”

Top 10 Songs from Silent Hill

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I don’t normally do music posts and don’t plan to start writing them regularly, but this is a rare occasion. On the threshold of the 20th birthday of my favourite series, which is tomorrow, I was surprisingly befuddled on what to analyse and dissect and ramble on about.

Silent Hill, for the uninitiated, is a psychological horror video game series that behaves strangely like artsy cinematic novels, and centers around a tourist town with a bad history. The town harbors a demonic entity that calls broken and vulnerable people to it and creates a delusional world out of the fears it senses in them. It was THE psychological horror series and still holds that place today, despite being indefinitely killed off by its own publishers. There are novels, comics and two films based off of it. I don’t recommend most of those, save for the 2006 film, which is how I discovered the series in the first place, and some of the later comics such as Past Life.

I decided that I should start with a short piece on a part of the Silent Hill series I could recommend to anybody and would be fun to talk about, regardless of the interest they might have in the series itself – the music. If you absolutely hate, hate, hate horror, it would still be unlikely that you’d dislike these soundtracks entirely.

Akira Yamaoka’s compositions for Silent Hill are legendary. They are pretty much the god of soundtracks, and other soundtracks have to earn their blessings before they’re even allowed to exist.
I exaggerate… but not by that much. These are innovative, multi-genre albums that make creative use of more traditional alt-rock, electronica and metal, ambient noise, discordant industrial sounds and even classical music to breed a new genre that’s unique to Silent Hill.
Despite there being some truly disturbing songs, like the infamous “Prayer” from the third game, which sounds like an actual replication of Hell, more often the soundtracks are introspective and mellow rather than scary. “Prayer” itself is quite beautiful in its own demonic way, and I’d love to know how something like it was even made.

I’ve boiled my personal favourites down to ten. Shaving them to this tiny number was no small feat, as including cut material and remixes, the first four entries in the series alone amass 300+ tracks of music with a plethora of different moods within those. Silent Hill‘s vocal themes with Mary Elizabeth McGlynn are pretty popular, but this list is solely for Yamaoka’s instrumentals. They’re really a monster of their own.

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This list is in no particular order, and I’ve given the YouTube link to ones I especially like so you can give them a listen. You can find most of the soundtracks, save the fan-made OSTs of cut and salvaged material, on other music sites as well. There are much, much more than just these. If you’re already familiar with SH, feel free to leave your own faves in a comment!

10 – “Theme of Laura” and “Theme of Laura (Reprise)” from Silent Hill 2
“Theme of Laura” is the series’ theme song by this point. I guarantee if you’re into soundtrack music or have browsed for ‘relaxing’ instrumentals, you have run into the reprise at some point. I guarantee it. Continue reading “Top 10 Songs from Silent Hill”

The Transience of Survival Horror

Be prepared. This is more of a meandering enigma I wish to solve than a real observation, but why is the survival horror genre so rare in video games? I wouldn’t call it an unpopular genre, not with all the zombies gnashing thick bundles of brain everywhere. You can find a plenitude of survival horror books and films in both zombie and non-zombie flavours. So why not games? Nobody seems to make them often anymore, and the older ones developers made have become impossible to get, or were a rarity in the first place.

Continue reading “The Transience of Survival Horror”

Book Review – Silent Hill Comics (Part II) by Tom Waltz

★★★★★ 4.5 Stars

Genre: Horror / Paranormal
Demographic: Older Teen / Adult
Publication Date: October 20th, 2015
Publisher: IDW Publishing

I am a pretty hardcore Silent Hill fanatic. So much that it tires others, in fact.
To me, the series is an interactive artwork combined with the nuance of a novel’s characterization. Sure, it’s got quirks and bad entries on its belt but I don’t care. I genuinely don’t understand how you could enjoy horror or surrealism and not love something about Silent Hill.

As I said in my review of Omnibus I, the early comics are a terrible place to begin the series but I’m also hesitant to recommend them to fans because they barely share a canon and make some rather… interesting alterations…
Omnibus II is a squillion times better than I, on the other hand, so I’m comfortable recommending these to anyone. These are fantastic and do the series justice. A little odd storywise, but the dialogue is good and the art is godlike in places. (Or devil-like? Whichever you prefer…) The physical books of the omnibuses do not match, which is irritating but minor.

A quick rundown and my thoughts on each:

Continue reading “Book Review – Silent Hill Comics (Part II) by Tom Waltz”

Book Review – Silent Hill Comics (Part I) by Scott Ciencin

★★★ 3.5 Stars

Genre: Horror / Paranormal
Demographic: Older Teen / Adult
Publication Date: October 14th, 2008
Publisher: IDW Publishing

Silent Hill is one of my eternal favourite video game series. The original quartet in my opinion is something of a “heaven experience” – beautiful but tense. It is the closest I feel we’ve come to an interactive nightmare that anyone could have right in their living room. The fact that everyone interprets the quartet so differently and yet tends to love it dearly the same can attest to that. It’s strangely personal for a lot of people, something a video game doesn’t typically manage. Why is this, do you think?

Silent Hill is entertaining first and foremost, but it was also an (underappreciated) innovator in serious, mature themes for the medium and dealt heavily with religious abuse, depression, childhood trauma and suicide with a thin coat of surreal horror. Plus the format gives a sense of venturing into someone else’s inner, secret dreams and decoding them. It catches people off-guard, in the best way.

If you’re familiar with Silent Hill already, then you’re aware there can be a lot of… iffiness with its spin-offs. At best, you get something rare and amazing like Shattered Memories, and at worst you get an endless stream of pachinko machines coming out your ears.

The comics are a mixed bag but far from unholy. The second omnibus is loads better, but the first omnibus does have consistently good art and a few interesting stories.
If you are not familiar with it and thinking the comics would be a place to begin Silent Hill‘s story, that may not be a good idea. Unless you just love horror comics for what they are and want to try them out for that reason, the original quartet or the first film would be worlds better. Shattered Memories or Origins wouldn’t be bad either.

You can in fact go into the first omnibus not knowing anything about the series at all and it won’t make much difference. I promise. Omnibus II has somewhat to do with the series’ canon, but these comics included in I eschew it.

My general consensus with Omnibus I is that it’s frustrating but readable. They totally ignored everything established by the series. Despite having full rights to do whatever they wanted!
However… the art is impressionistic and often pretty, and if you ignore that it’s supposed to be Silent Hill they are much better as stand-alone comics. The short stories in the middle are really fun. The physical book is also of very high quality materials.

Now that I’ve rambled on forever, here’s a quick rundown of each:

Continue reading “Book Review – Silent Hill Comics (Part I) by Scott Ciencin”