Why Silent Hill is Feminist Dark Comedy Disguised as Horror by Klingon Vanna White
February 8, 2015
What do Walking Dead’s Andrea, The Borg Queen, The antihero female navigator from Pitch Black and the beloved beheaded dad from Game of Thrones, Ned Stark, all have in common? Did the title give it away like perchance, a spoiler? Well this movie is from 2006. If you’re into horror you’re adultesque so don’t cry over spilled plot lines from a 9 year old movie. Maybe you should watch it now. I wrote this whole essay from memory. Maybe you’re the kind of person who would enjoy pointing out all my mistakes to justify your existence. You’re welcome. Let’s get started.
In Silent Hill, pretty much every line, is spoken by a female character. Never once do you feel like you’re being patronized in some Fried-Green-Tomatoes-Traveling-Pants 50 Shades of Grey FOR THE LADIES movie kind of way. (I haven’t seen any of these movies but I know I hate them.) In fact you don’t even fucking notice it until weeks later and you’re all OMFG that movie passed the Bechdel text like 500 times and I didn’t even know I was watching a lady movie the entire time!!!!
OH Silent Hill you are deep and you are funny as shit. And the people who think you’re shit just don’t understand your art. Silent Hill was written by three guys. I award Director and co-writer Christophe Gans an honorary uterus for spending 5 years begging Konami for the rights for this Dark Feminist masterpiece. I would give him two but sadly there's a lack of diversity that makes you feel like Silent Hill is in the Appalacian Mountains where everyone speaks neutral news caster American English. Ahem.
The film has four main feminine character archetypes, three of who enforce the Patriarchal status quo.
Rahda Mitchell of Pitch Black, plays Rose, the mother archetype as allowed in our Patriarchal society. Because, Maternal. Surprisingly she has a intense bond with her adopted daughter Sharon even though she didn't spring from her own lady parts.
Laurie Holden, plays a police woman Cybil, who accompanies Rose into Silent Hill to retrieve her adopted Satan Spawn. She is a civil servant who starts out acting as an enforcer of the Patriarchy.
Alice Krige, plays Christabella, a spiritual leader of the towns crazy conservative Christian cult who forces the residents into an even more extreme form of Patriarchy than they’re already accustomed to. She signifies how religion can be perverted into an instrument of the Patriarchy via it’s female acolytes.
Sharon is a creepy kid with sallow skin who sleep walks and says “Silent Hill”. She’s basically a cross between Wednesday Addams and every Japanese horror movie that has a little girl in it with long black hair. The entire film focuses around her break from patriarchy and becoming the living embodiment of Satan to do so - because really, it’s the only way.
OH and Sean Bean plays a one sided Dad character - the kind that is usually given to the Mom character in most movies and played by a 30 year old actress who can no longer find jobs and isn't ready to be a victim on CSI.
So, all the conflict starts when Sharon becomes haunted by the place of her seeming origin and Rose, her mother, wants to help her by returning to the place. On the way to Silent Hill they get in a car accident and Sharon disappears (or does she escape?).
Rose pretty much loses her shit and strikes out to find her on foot. A siren goes off and she’s attacked by a terrifying amount of needy children after chasing her daughter and wakes up in a bowling alley. She tries calling her husband but all he hears is static because that’s what women’s needs sound like to the ruling class. Annoying white noise. Meanwhile the cop, Cybil, catches up and apprehends her. Silent Hill is off limits and the reason why Rose got into the accident is because she was trying to avoid Cybil.
They try to leave but the road is blocked by a huge fissure. Cybil originally thinking that Rose is crazy starts to see the world as she sees it. They’re trapped in a patriarchal society even more rigid than the one they were already accustomed to and blinded by.
The encroaching darkness of extreme patriarchy gives Rose and Cybil an example of their potential fate if they attempt to threaten the balance of power by pursuing them with a huge shirtless guy with a pyramid as his head (The Illuminati). He signifies brutal male power and the allmighty dollar. He rips a woman’s clothes off, then tears her skin off, and throws it at them angrily splattering them with her blood. He would actually be kind of hot if there were a safe word and no dismemberment but this is not that kind of movie. (Full disclosure: I also have a Lord of the Rings Uruk-hai sexual fantasy. I also think Ronan from Guardians of the Gallaxy is hot but Lee Pace does nothing for me. Maybe I'm into cosplaying wrestlers. I don't know. If a cosplaying wrester was standing in front of me right now and said, "let's go at it", I'd be all "no you've ruined it already with the talking". That's the fleeting nature of fantasy verses reality, and yes, I'm not perfect.) Pyramid Head is a brute embodiment of patriarchal force and self-interested, unrestrained capitalism.
After being chased into a church by the approaching darkness of oppressive extreme patriarchy that threatens to skin them alive, they meet Christabella. She’s slightly helpful in the search for Sharon, but after seeing a photo, gets pissed off at Rose and Cybil for trying to find her. Sharon is an upstart who has tried to upset the rigid balance of the patriarchy before and is well known by the town folk.
She promptly condemns Rose and Cybil as witches. Rose escapes to the basement where she avoids a large group of faceless women in sexy nurse costumes who threaten to cut her to shreds if she shines a light on them and looks at them like a piece of meat. She successfully meets her daughter’s dark side and is treated to a weird expository as to how a little girl can become the embodiment of Satan. Society is so fucked up and sexist that the only way to stay true to herself is to become a super power of evil. She strikes a bargain with Rose to save her daughter's good side from the whack job Christians.
Meanwhile Christabella has captured Sharon’s sweet docile side and has taken her to the top floor to burn her on an ill-advised contraption.
Yep. Christabella clearly seeing Sharon as the living embodiment of Satan, wants to do the sensible thing and burn her on the top floor of a building that has no working elevators and treacherous stairs. OH and no working sprinklers. The place is so dry it literally rains ash constantly. But first she burns Laurie Holden/Cybil and totally destroys her sexy civil servant look. I’ve never seen anyone look as good in a cop uniform as Laurie Holden. Maybe she is a witch.
Rose arrives and confronts Christabella who promptly stabs her in the heart because THAT’S what it feels like to be stabbed by a woman who acts as an enforcer of patriarchy.
However due to Rose’s earlier pact with the devil, Sharon’s dark side leaks out of Rose and materializes in front of the confused Christabella. Sharon turns into a bunch of barbed wire and weirdness and starts ripping the town folk apart in a fierce and bloody display of feminine rage. Rose saves the good part of Sharon and her two halves join into one after the carnage.
Rose leaves with the newly whole Sharon and takes her back home. Or does she? Rose is changed by this awakening and sees the world differently for the first time as an oppressive grey place. With all her power Sharon has managed to only change one town and she had to destroy it.
Throughout the film Rose and her policewoman companion encounter a world full of mystery and monsters. In contrast her husband and his policeman companion come to the same town to discover it empty and abandoned, giving the viewer the impression that having a penis dulls the mind, and makes you oblivious. Or maybe they don't see how extreme the problem is due to their self interest. Again this was written by three men so I can only hazard that this self-referential humor is due to their struggle with the terrible deadening burden of their penises daily, hourly, minute by minute. They must be enlightened. Even for males.
In the end all the Patriarchal trappings of Silent Hill are destroyed along with the people who upheld their power structures. Rose and Sharon return to the real world is as an enlightened mother with an angry daughter with dark super powers. Forever changed by their experiences, they see everything as the oppressive cold grey world it really is.
The father returns to a beautiful sunny world. Because, you know, penis.