Why I love and hate Pyramid Head
My playthrough of Silent Hill 2 is permanently etched into my brain for 2 main reasons. Firstly, I managed to smash several keys from my laptop off by dropping my PS2 controller onto it. I was looking at a walkthrough, so perhaps that’s karma. Secondly was the main villain of the piece, Pyramid Head.
His design was so striking that it was difficult to not be interested in what the character was about. In truth, he is a metaphor that we only truly understand at the end of the game. Some lament the ending of the game, and say that the two Pyramid Head’s spearing each other is a bit anticlimactic. But for me, and I know I was a film student so i’m not necessarily thinking as a human being would, but the symbolism was the main point of Silent Hill 2. It’s a series that’s at it’s best when it’s macabre imagery is intertwined with the metaphors in the piece itself. Silent Hill 2 in particular was incredibly good at this. Plus it had the dog ending, so what’s not to like.
For me, Pyramid Head was the tippy-top of the Silent Hill metaphorical ladder. The king of the symbolic hill. As a character, he represents James, the main character from Silent Hill 2’s, desire to be punished for how he felt about his wife before their death. Silent Hill is said to shape itself around the psychology of the person interloping, so James’ main drive and agency, to search for his wife, manifests his greatest adversary, Pyramid Head.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Pyramid’s actions are thoroughly deplorable. In the first encounter we have with him, we see him raping some of the female monsters. He’s a driven murderer who stalks James throughout the game until his own demise at the end of the game. But it’s in being deplorable that the symbolic elements are emphasised and made interesting within the context of the game.
In terms of his design, as I said before, it was so unusual that it was interesting. In my opinion, perhaps controversially, a lot of horror game villains are pretty poorly designed. This is largely because they’re created to be scary at all costs - including at the cost of emersion. If you look at Birkin in Resident Evil 2, his manifestations aren’t particularly fitting with world around him, and so to believe that something within the diegesis could evolve into that is, within the context of the game, hard to believe. Pyramid Head is comfortably the opposite. Within the psycho drama that is Silent Hill 2, he fits perfectly - each of his facets an added layer of symbolism, rather than an attempt to make him as horrifying as possible.
The Great Knife is probably one of the most iconic weapons in horror video games (perhaps that’s not saying a lot though). The knife is, as the name implies, a huge knife that Pyramid carries around for most of Silent Hill 2. What makes it so impressive though is that it forces Pyramid Head to drag it behind him. I believe in these kind of horror games, sound is about 75% of the horror, whilst the imagery is largely the terrifying pay-off for the hard work of the sound designers. The Great Knife certainly fits the bill, since it creates a loud screeching noise as it carves a furrow into the floor behind it’s iconic master.
Who’s your favourite horror game villain? Do you agree with my analysis of Pyramid Head? Let me know!
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