P.T. Silent Hill + The Uncanny

The Silent Hill franchise is well known for its horrifying games and scares, but arguably, their greatest game would be P.T. The demo was released in 2014 with highly realistic graphics, only to be cancelled later, but the unfinished game had already left a massive impact on the horror game industry. Many games today like Visage and Resident Evil 7 are inspired by the psychological horror elements used in P.T., showing how absolutely influential it was. You play as a man who looks a lot like Norman Reedus, and find yourself in a house haunted by a past murder, told to you by a nearby radio. The supposed goal of the game was to figure out the mystery behind the killings, but sadly, since the game was cancelled, the clues you are given don’t result to anything.

Silent Hill have always used elements of the uncanny in their games, but with P.T., those horrors have been amped up all the way. I’ll be talking about the games structure and strong points in order to suggest why exactly the uncanny works so well in this game.

Content Warning: Dead babies, murder, children dying, blood, mental illnesses, graphic gore, brief mentions of sexual assault.

Why does P.T. Work?

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I love and hate this game. P.T. starts with you, a first-person player, waking up in a poorly-lit, empty room with a door. You step through the door, and it’s just an L-shaped hallway with another door at the end. You step through that end, walk down some stairs, and open another door — only to find yourself at the beginning of the hallway again — and this is basically what P.T. is, a series of never-ending loops. This may seem like lazy game design at first, but this is actually where The Uncanny starts.

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Within the discovery of the first loop, the player is to then realize that they are a small, powerless thing within the confines of the house. They cannot run, fight, or avoid the threat by taking another route — they are stuck in this tight hallway whose hauntings will continue to drag the player through the uncanny experience.

These loops are what makes P.T. so iconic and memorable. The repetitive yellow-tinted hallway is drilled into the player’s brain, conditioning them to become familiar with the path only to distort it into something unfamiliar. Like Sigmund Freud says, once a pattern is picked up by the mind, it will unconsciously/consciously look out for that pattern or changes in that pattern. The player knows that they will always be walking through the same hallway, but will also be aware that there is going to be something just off each time — never giving them a chance to feel comfortable with their environment no matter how many times they run through it — and that is the uncanny at work.

Sigmund Freud also mentions how the uncanny is related to infantile/primal fears, and those too, are elements used often in the game. At the start, a radio tells the player of a family shooting involving a pregnant woman getting shot directly in the stomach. Later, a talking fetus can be found in the sink of the bathroom and even much later a screaming baby is heard inside a hanging refrigerator (this part is awful to listen to). This is again, twisting the familiar into the unfamiliar. I believe that the sink and refrigerator are supposed to represent/parallel the womb, but instead of being warm, wet, and safe, they are cold, dry, and hard — and that is certainly no place for babies to be. Another disturbingly mention of babies is when the ghost, Lisa, attacks the player and forcibly pushes him to the floor. There is an offscreen sound of a zipper and a series of really gross and wet noises, which led many people to believe that Lisa is raping the player in a sick way of thinking to supposedly get her baby back. That’s P.T.

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