The Silent Hill games are among the most unsettling works of horror ever made. This is in no small part thanks to Masahiro Ito, who worked as a monster designer on the first three games and the art director for Silent Hill 2 and 3, creating a line-up of ominous locations filled with memorable nightmare freaks like the hulking Pyramid Head and a bunch of jittery, gore-covered faceless nurses. Now, living like the rest of us in an Otherworld where normal life includes being scared of contracting a disease from hugging a friend or opening doors in public, Ito has found himself drawn to the more down-to-earth horror of the coronavirus.
Over the past couple of weeks, Ito’s been tweeting a lot about the pandemic. A big part of his feed is made up of Japanese news stories and gratitude for the healthcare workers trying to manage the outbreak, but he also seems to be drawing inspiration from our collective fears. Ito’s posted images of machinery-laden people headed to the “front line of [the] Corona War” along with old Silent Hill concept art and sketches of a monster he had a nightmare about, shared for the entertainment of those “getting bored of staying home.”
Ito tells everyone that COVID-19 is much scarier to him than “the creatures I’ve designed, especially Pyramid Head,” which helps explain some of the other, less immediately spooky work he’s been tweeting out during this time.
It seems, once you spend enough time thinking about the physical, cultural, and economic ramifications of the pandemic, Pyramid Head and Silent Hill’s murderous nurses suddenly start to look kind of quaint. If you’re Ito, they’re now benign enough to star in a pleasant little reminder to regularly wash your (possibly blood-and-guts-soaked) hands.
Asked by @MemoLeonhart how Ito was able to “make something that was originally too disturbing into something so freaking cute?” he replies with a simple picture.
Let’s take Ito’s smiling, text-emoji face into our hearts and remember, if the guy who dreamed up the art for Silent Hill can find a way to make his most terrifying monsters adorable, maybe we, too, can defang our own anxieties by trying to picture them as stubby little cartoons scrubbing up at the sink. At this point, it’s worth a shot.
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