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Character Spotlight: Pyramid Head

In 2001, Konami introduced Silent Hill: 2 (Restless Dreams) and forever changed the world of survival horror. With its non-stop ride of creepy atmosphere and unbearable tension, even the most hardened fans of the horror genre found themselves face-to-face with nightmares beyond imagine. Dan Birlew, author of the official strategy guide wrote, "I believe the entire game development community has a new standard to which to rise1..."

The fans agreed. When a movie adaptation of Silent Hill was finally approved by its protective Konami creators, an outcry from the fans soon followed; begging its screenwriter, Roger Avary, to adapt Restless Dreams; more so than any other game in the series.2 Creators of horror movies and games alike continue to look to this masterpiece for inspiration even now; nearly a decade after its release. (Dead Space [2008] producer, Glen Schofield named it as one of their major design influences3) Since its debut, Silent Hill: 2 has remained on, if not at the top of most lists of scariest video games4, scariest video game moments5, and of course, scariest video game villains6.

In this case, a villain that was created to strike fear into the heart of the protagonist and gamers alike became so much more; an icon. He's been called The Red Pyramid, Red Pyramid Thing, The Butcher, Bogeyman, The Executioner, The Red Devil...but no matter what you call him, this helmeted, blood-stained creature known fondly as Pyramid Head remains horror king supreme - and a fan favorite.

Pyramid HeadDesigned by Team Silent's Masahiro Ito, "Red Pyramid Thing" was created with more than a mere monster or video game boss in mind. As the form of an executioner from Silent Hill's dark past7, Pyramid Head represents punishment. It is implied that whoever encounters him does so because of a deep-seeded guilt and desire for atonement.

What sets Pyramid Head apart from other survival horror villains is the fact that he's not just obsessed with the protagonist; in fact, he would gladly kill supporting characters or other monsters without prejudice; and often does. No amount of Silent Hill horror prepared gamers for what is considered, to this day, to be one of the scariest moments in video game history5. Hiding in a closet, James sees Pyramid Head for the first time - and watches helplessly as he brutally assaults and kills other monsters with ease. It is during that heart-pounding moment, when Pyramid Head turns from his victims to us, that we know what real terror feels like.

Pyramid Head wields The Great Knife, which he drags behind him - emitting the horrific scraping noise that has become his calling card. Sometimes, but only in Silent Hill 2, he carries a spear and just when you've changed your pants, here he comes with another Pyramid Head. James can even steal The Great Knife at one point in the game, and though it may be slow and heavy, the blade makes for a devastating weapon.

Despite the initial shock of his brutality, Pyramid Head became so popular with the fans that he appeared again in the Silent Hill comic book series, Silent Hill: The Arcade (Only available in Japan), Silent Hill: Origins, Silent Hill: Homecoming (Silent Hill V) and the Silent Hill movie. (The film was inspired by the original game, despite fan outcries, but director Christophe Gans felt that The Red Pyramid still played a pivotal role in his vision for the story.8) A caricature version of Pyramid Head can also be selected in the

game, New International Track & Field for Nintendo DS.

Although hardcore fans argue over his "true" name and appearance, Silent Hill producer and composer, Akira Yamaoka agrees that since Pyramid Head is a manifestation of guilt and the desire for punishment, his appearance will be translated by each character's psyche8. As such, he is depicted in a unique way each time he is encountered throughout the franchise.

"...Beware of he who took them, he goes by many names: the Bogeyman, the Shadowed One, but all are he - the same..."

 

Pyramid Head, as seen in Silent Hill 2: Restless Dreams

Red Pyramid

Red Pyramid, as seen in the Silent Hill movie adaptation


The Butcher, as seen in Silent Hill: Origins (aka Silent Hill: Zero)

Bogey Man

Bogeyman, as seen in Silent Hill: Homecoming

 

Costume changes aside, Pyramid Head has become an icon for both the Silent Hill series and horror games alike. He is perhaps the deepest, most symbolic villain in video game history; fascinating and horrifying all at once. Call him what you will...but if you find yourself alone in the darkness, hearing the long, metal scrape of The Great Knife growing near; know that as your heart races, your atonement will soon be at hand. Now ask yourself: how would he appear to you...?

"...so do not cry aloud at night, stay hidden in your bed...or the Bogeyman from Silent Hill will come chop off your head." - Silent Hill: Homecoming


References

1. Brady Games "Silent Hill 2 - Official Strategy Guide" by Dan Birlew
2. www.avary.com - Official Roger Avary website (Silent Hill blog no longer available)
3. Game Informer Issue 174, October 2007
4. G4 Top Scariest Games 2006; Game Trailer's Top 10 Scariest Games 2006; IGN's Top 13 Scariest Games 200), Gamegirl.com Top 7 Scariest Games October 2007, Game Daily Top 10 Scariest Games 2008, Gossip Gamers Top 10 Scariest Games posted March 9, 2009, Gameplayer.com.au - The 9 Scariest Games of All Time March 31, 2009, Virgin Media Top Ten Scariest Games Ever! 2009
5. Joystiq.com - Boo! Scariest Moments in Gaming History 2006, Game Informer Issue 174, October 2007
6. Gamesradar.com 2008, Gamespot.com 2008, Movietome.com 2008, Thatguywiththeglasses.com - Top 10 Video Game Villains 2008, Computerworld.com 2008 - You can run, but you'll only die tired: Gaming's 'baddest' villains 2008
7. www.TranslatedMemories.com - The Translated World of Silent Hill
8. Sonypictures.com - Silent Hill: On The Red Pyramid

 

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