Silent Hill 3 & Embracing the Absurd, Silly Side of Horror
Silent Hill 3 was filled with many unsettling, upsetting, and disturbing moments. The game isn’t without a sense of humor, though. Try getting Heather to remove a blockage from a toilet if you don’t believe me. She’s far smarter than the average horror game protagonist, for sure. That’s only one hint at the game’s acknowledgement of horror as a ridiculous genre. One that’s definitely scary, but also a genre where the absurd, unreal, and sometimes funny events are part of its appeal.
Running away from club-handed beasts, sickly dogs, and bloated sacks of flesh is a frightening experience. Even so, there’s a kind of silliness that runs underneath it all. I mean, the Numb Body enemy basically looks like a penis on legs. A part of that enemy carries some disturbing symbolism. Another part of it is still this weird penis on legs chasing you. Horror tends to straddle this bizarre line very carefully. Sometimes it succeeds and scares you. Sometimes it doesn’t and you can’t help but laugh.
Usually, horror games avoid the latter. If your player is laughing, they’re probably not screaming. Even so, it’s hard to deny that this absurd undercurrent flows through even the most successful horror games. Resident Evil’’s voice acting loans the game this hilarious cheesiness. Resident Evil 8’’s endlessly regenerating protagonist might have better voice acting, but pouring a healing fluid over a severed limb to reattach it is just as ridiculous. We haven’t changed much in all of these years of horror games, and Silent Hill 3 proudly exemplifies this silliness with a number of elements.
You’re given a straightforward, no-nonsense horror experience in your first playthrough of Silent Hill 3. Well, except sticking your hand down a toilet. Heather’s not doing that. Other protagonists will do what they’re told. Not Heather. To hell with that. Other than finding Solid Snake bricked up in a wall in a construction site (yay cameos!)., things stay fairly serious and frightening throughout. Once you beat the game, though, things open up to get pretty silly.
You have an array of options to make things more absurd for yourself. Throughout the game, you’ll run into Douglas, the detective. Want to see him wearing just boxers and a tie? Input the Konami code to have a more stripped-down detective to interact with throughout the game. Feeling a bit Star Wars? If you beat enough enemies using melee weapons during your quest, you’ll unlock the Beam Saber. Horror monsters don’t seem to care for being cut down by this weapon from a galaxy far, far away.
Silent Hill 3 is only just beginning with its silliness, here. If you can beat 333 enemies (which takes a few playthroughs), you’ll unlock the Heather Beam. This lets you fire off balls of energy and monster-seeking lasers from your eyes. If eye beams aren’t goofy enough, you can unlock the Princess Heart costume using a code to turn your abilities into the Sexy Beam. This combines those powers and adds some flying hearts. And makes Heather call out the attack name when she uses it. In this dark world, seeing heart beams blasting foes to pieces is pretty funny. Especially when Heather does a full magical girl transformation to get in costume.
Now, these are some nice extras to get you to play the game again. The Sexy Beam really mows down enemies, so you can breeze through the game and get a whole new experience. Due to the serious, dark nature of the story, though, it’s hard not to bust out laughing at some of the more serious moments. When you’re wound so tight from the awful events that happen to poor Heather, it becomes that much easier to crack up when you see her grieving while wearing her Princess Heart outfit. The whole thing becomes completely absurd.
But like I said, Silent Hill 3 is a bit absurd from the beginning. These are abnormal, paranormal events. They’re so far from reality that, even if they ARE scary, they’re still absurd. The game still asks us to step outside what we know or feel is real and embrace this world where things are frightening and different. We accept this concept of another world when we play a horror game. Sometimes that acceptance means glossing over a bizarre take on reality. However, this strange world can come with things that carefully dance on that line between funny and frightening.
This game stays scary at first, but uses that existing absurd nature to throw in a few silly elements to make some outrageous situations. The Princess Heart costume wouldn’t make me laugh half as much in another game. Seeing those heart beams bursting against monstrous dogs and cancerous bodies, though? It’s hard to keep a straight face. Plus, there are some secret interactions you can find in this outfit that continue to dial up the silliness in the game. Go find a special room in the Otherworld Hilltop Center for a truly magical encounter.
Silent Hill 3 even wraps up with a goofball ending that involves alien weaponry, martial arts dads, and an incredible song if you complete it in just the right way. The previous games in the series have also had their own silly endings, from the UFO ending in the first one to the canine encounter at the end of Silent Hill 2. There’s not just an acceptance of silliness in these games, but a realization that horror and the absurd go hand-in-hand. These titles ask us to embrace a world that might not make a lot of sense. That might have some bizarre things living there. If you can come along for the ride and accept this as your new reality, you’ll have a frightening good time. And maybe an equally-enjoyable silly one, if you’re willing to be open to it.
If you really think on it, it’s kind of silly, isn’t it? Chasing sexy undead nurses and walking penises is scary in the world of Silent Hill 3, but it’s also completely ridiculous if you dwell on it. Instead of trying to shun that silly side, this game totally embraces it as part of the fun. We play horror games to enjoy ourselves, after all. We just want a controlled scare and a good story for a while. Instead of being ignorant to that, the game offers two experiences. In one, it’s played for scares. In the other, it’s played for humor. Both are enjoyable and enrich the game, making for various ways to see its world.
It’s rare to see a horror game deftly make use of the funnier elements of itself, but Silent Hill 3 makes the most of its absurdities and becomes a stronger game as a result. It also reminds us that horror can often be as good for a laugh as it can be for a fright.