Is Guillermo del Toro a good fit for Silent Hills?

Silent Hill Old - MB Screenshot - guillermo del toro

Out of the three names attached to Silent Hills, Guillermo del Toro is, bizarrely, the one I’m the most confused by. Compared to names like Hideo Kojima and Norman Reedus, del Toro seems like the perfect fit for a horror game filled with strange creatures. That said, for a variety of reasons, I’m not entirely sure he’s the best fit for Silent Hill. Here’s why:

Okay...let’s get this out of the way first

Pan's Labyrinth Pale Man Guillermo del Toro

Guillermo del Toro has a few undeniable qualities in regards to Silent Hill. For one, he has a knack for disturbing creature designs like the Pale Man above, featured in Pan’s Labyrinth. He’s also a producer of psychological horror films, like The Orphanage. He has an eye for dark horror, even if he doesn’t engage in it himself. Which brings me to my major gripe with del Toro in Silent Hills.

He doesn’t really do this kind of horror

Hellboy - Guillermo del Toro

Blade II, Hellboy, Pacific Rim; they’re visually stunning films full of cool creatures, but they aren’t horror films, and they certainly aren’t psychological horror films. I love Guillermo del Toro for what he does, but his aesthetic couldn’t be further from the aesthetic of Silent Hill. His closest work to Silent Hill, Pan’s Labyrinth, is still largely a dark fairy tale. It has that Pale Man, sure, but even that thing is no match for some of the horrors within Konami’s series.

If we’re talking about Guillermo del Toro’s more recent work, that’s where I really start to get concerned about his involvement. Has anyone seen the TV adaptation of The Strain airing currently? The show, based on the book co-written by del Toro, is quite possibly one of the worst dramas currently airing. I haven’t read the book, and perhaps its better than the show, but with director and producer credits on several episodes, he’s still involved. The show is campy, corny, and self-serious, like Hellboy draped in a wet blanket.

There are elements of his work, flashes of dark brilliance, that suggest Guillermo del Toro’s involvement could be a meaningful addition to Silent Hills. They’re few and far between, though, and for the most part his style just doesn’t fit -- it’s too light-hearted. Don’t get me wrong, I love a bunch of his work, but I just don’t see where he fits in with Silent Hills.

He’s tried to do this already

Guillermo del Toro's inSANE

I wouldn’t be worried about a Silent Hill project being cancelled unless it was in serious trouble. The series is well-established, and Kojima has shipped his fair share of games with great success. That said, it is a bit odd that Guillermo del Toro has been involved in multiple cancelled game projects. We may never know what troubles his games Sundown and inSANE went through before falling off the radar, or there is anything about his methods that caused those projects to languish, but it would be sad to see Silent Hills held up by similar issues.

It’s not that del Toro is incapable of surprising us. He makes a living off of surprising audiences with each of his visually stunning films. It’s just that, based on his pedigree, he doesn’t have that “thing” that makes him a key part of the Silent Hills formula. I hear those three names, and I understand Norman Reedus and I understand Kojima, but beyond name recognition, Guillermo del Toro doesn’t seem to fit. The P.T. demo is certainly scarier and darker than anything in any of his films, and I’d be curious to see what his involvement was there. In fact, it will be interesting to see what else he has to say about Silent Hills as we get closer to a real release. He’ll have a lot to prove.

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Joe Donato Video games became an amazing, artful, interactive story-driven medium for me right around when I played Panzer Dragoon Saga on Sega Saturn. Ever since then, I've wanted to be a part of this industry. Somewhere along the line I, possibly foolishly, decided I'd rather write about them than actually make them. So here I am.
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