A Review of Our Special Place: Conversations on Silent Hill by Whitney Chavis and Brock Wilbur

This was so much fun to read! Our Special Place consists of the transcripts from a series of podcasts about the Silent Hill series. Reading this is like listening to a conversation with two friends.

They go over all of the video games, except Silent Hill: Ascension, which wasn’t released then, and the media using the Silent Hill IP. Having not played all the games myself, hearing people talk about them is great. It is great to read about all of this.

This is one of the best books I’ve read this year! It mixes history, reviews, and analysis of the Silent Hill series. It is wonderful! I don’t have anything bad to say about the book aside from the fact that it has an ending.

Format of the Book and Chapters

Each chapter follows the same format. They’re transcripts from a series of podcasts, which helps keep the structure of each chapter the same. The chapters are dedicated to one game, movie, or subject at a time.

Most of them talk about a game in the Silent Hill series but also about the two movies and the comic books. At the end of each chapter, Whitney will discuss the merchandise she collected related to the game. I don’t remember her discussing merchandise related to the comics, but they bring up movie props.

Brock handles the introductions to each chapter/podcast and keeps the flow of things going. Whitney explains the story of the media that is the subject of the chapter/podcast. The two of them will sometimes chime in with comments or clarifications on things. Their interactions are great.

It is a happy conversation, which feels odd to say about a horror franchise, but it comes across like two friends having a great time talking about the thing they like. Even though they don’t always like the thing they’re talking about. Sometimes, one of them would like something more, or they would look for the good in something they disliked.

An example of this is the comics. Many of the stories are nonsensical and go against what the games say about Silent Hill. The artwork is usually good, but it can be too busy sometimes. Brock liked the art from one author, but Whitney didn’t.

There weren’t too many things that they disagreed on, and when they did disagree, it didn’t devolve into an argument. It was refreshing to see people talking reasonably about things. It starkly contrasted with what I experience when I engage with some fandoms or come across fans of series that I might have an opinion that is different from theirs.

I liked the way the book is laid out. I haven’t checked out the podcast episodes, but I don’t think I need to. Having them transcribed into this book made for a fun book.

The Games

This was done before Silent Hill: Ascension was released, so that isn’t in here. I’m unsure if you think that is a good thing. I don’t know much about it, but reading what they think about it would’ve been nice.

They go over the games in order of their release date. I like this better than trying to fit all of this into a timeline, especially when you have a lot of retcons and anthology entries in the series. It is also closer to how people might have experienced the games.

They try to find the good in each game but don’t sugarcoat it when they don’t like the game or have flaws. They also share their memories of each game. Brock played several of these games for the first time, while Whitney has played them several times.

It was fantastic to read about these games like this. Their conversations are fun to read, and I like that Brock brings up several questions I would’ve had about the games.

Two games stand out to me in all of this. The first is Silent Hill 4: The Room. It is one of the games that seems to be between being its own thing and being in the continuity of the first and third games. It doesn’t occur in Silent Hill but includes the cult from the first and third games.

They talk about how it is a challenging game to play. One thing that stood out to me in this conversation was the timing that it took place. This was recorded in 2020 as the COVID-19 lockdowns were going on. Reading this made me feel like I should’ve played it and made a review of the game.

I haven’t mentioned this yet, but we get elevator pitches for each game. These are great. For me, an elevator pitch is 30 seconds max because sometimes you need to give someone as much information as possible before their next meeting.

Back to Silent Hill 4. According to what he says here, Brock is a Silent Hill 4 defender. This always seems a little odd to me. Why would you need to defend how much you enjoy a game?

The descriptions of the game’s story and gameplay make it sound like a mess. However, even a mess can be fun to play. Like many of the Silent Hill games they talk about, this one had a small budget and had its development rushed.

I was interested in the end of this chapter, where they talk about speed running. This does get brought up a few more times, but this was the first time it was mentioned. It amazes me how fast people can beat this game, especially with all of the escort missions you have to deal with.

This was one of my favorite discussions, and I’m not sure I’m doing it justice here. Silent Hill 4 is a complicated game. I remember a friend in the Navy describing how he wanted to like the game but kept getting stuck and walking away from it. Reading this book made me want to try the game at some point.

Silent Hill: Downpour is the other game that the authors had a great discussion about. This is where they go over the game’s critical reception and put the reviews in some context. They also bring up something that I’ve been wondering about for a bit.

I also wanted to check out this game, but the options are limited. It isn’t available on Steam or my Xbox, and I’m not sure the servers are still up to download the patch for the physical game. From what they say in this, the game is either unplayable, or you won’t have a good experience without it.

It sounds like both of them enjoy the game. After hearing about the story, it sounds good. Unlike the other games made by Western studios, Downpour sounds like the only one where things weren’t shoehorned into it.

It is brought up several times while covering some of the Western-made games, but it feels like Silent Hill is jammed into an unrelated game. It reminds me of the direct-to-video Hellraiser movies where Pinhead was written into an unrelated script. Does it make sense to have Pyramid Head in most of these games? No, but some people expect him to be there, and someone at Konami felt he should be there.

They also talk about the development of each video game. It sounds like Konami never wanted to have a survival horror game, and when they got it, they didn’t know what to do with it. The way petty way that Konami treats its employees is also brought up.

This book has many more funny moments and exciting takes, but I feel like I can’t do it justice here. When you go over an entire series of video games, there will be a lot to talk about, especially when there are stories of how each game was made.

If you’re interested in what they have to say about your favorite, or least favorite, game in the series, then check out this book.         

Movies, Comics, and Other Merch

I wanted to hear what they said about the two movies. I liked the first one and thought the second movie could’ve been anything. Both movies looked like a Silent Hill video game and did an excellent job with the atmosphere, but the writing wasn’t always there, and you could tell when the studio stepped in.

It sounds like they liked the first film or had better things to say. The second movie should’ve been called Silent Hill: Studio Interference 3D. I remember seeing the second movie but didn’t remember much about it. Even when I watched it during lockdown, I didn’t remember anything.

The first movie is a reimagining of the first game. Several changes make the movie feel like it is taking place in an alternate universe or something similar. Whitney and Brock do point out some things I hadn’t noticed before.

The first film uses several camera angles from the video game. Entire scenes are taken from the video game and placed into the film with minor changes to fit the plot. It looks great, and if you hadn’t played the game before, you wouldn’t notice.

They also place the movie in context with the other video game adaptations. Most movie studios seemed to have no idea how to adapt a video game into a movie. There are some comically bad, and also just regular bad, movies based on video games.

When the first film was released, we had the attempts from the ’90s, with Mortal Kombat being the best, in my opinion. In the 2000s, we had the Uwe Boll films. None of them are good films, but they can be unintentionally hilarious.

Our authors share their favorite movies based on a video game. Brock’s choice was one that I’d forgotten about. He brings up Detention, a game I played a while ago. The movie is incredible! It is one of the many horror games that feel like it could’ve existed in the Silent Hill universe. The game is very good, and reading this reminded me that I should go back and play it again.

Because the book takes a chronological approach to the series, it is a few chapters before they discuss the second film, Silent Hill: Revelation 3D. They point out that it is odd that the movie is 3D and that this was during the period of return to 3D that happens in movies.

I’m glad they covered this movie because it saved me the time of going back and watching it. I remember seeing it, but I didn’t remember anything about it. Now I know it is a mess and based on the third game.

They do a great job of pointing out all of the problems with the movie. You can tell that this movie had a lot of studio interference. It isn’t a good movie, but it isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever watched.

The comics are odd. Many tell stories that don’t fit into what people think of when you think about Silent Hill. Things just happen in the comics, stupid things. People can appear in Silent Hill for no reason, and monsters can enter the real world anytime.

There are a few good comics. They focus on one about a soldier who is struggling with being the only survivor of a false flag. Personally, I wouldn’t say I like that phrase because of how crazy people have used it in the last 20 years or so. Aside from that one part of the story, the comic feels like it could’ve been a Silent Hill game.

At the end of each chapter, we go over some of Whitney’s Silent Hill merchandise. She has some weird stuff, but there was something I found a little funny. She says she doesn’t have much merch about a game several times and then brings up something cool. She even has stuff related to the movies. Brock also brings up stuff, but this part of each chapter is Whitney’s show.

The Fandom

They don’t talk too much about the fandom. It is brought up a few times, both its good and bad parts. One thing gets brought up at the beginning of the book, but it isn’t followed up on. It has to do with something I find funny.

A fan theory is brought up in passing. It has to do with one of the moderators having a meltdown over his belief that Walter Sullivan went crazy because he was circumcised. I will gloss over most of this because I don’t want to get into it for my sanity.

Things get bizarre the more you look at this story. Here is a video that goes into it in greater detail. Basically, one of the moderators of the Silent Hill Wiki was using the site to spread his beliefs on male circumcision.

While I would’ve enjoyed reading their thoughts on this, I can completely understand why they didn’t cover it. It seemed like they found the situation funny, and in hindsight, it is, but I can imagine someone who is dedicated to the games being upset or embarrassed by it.

There is also a fair amount of gatekeeping brought up. I find this strange whenever I encounter it. It is sad that some people think they need to control who is and isn’t a fan of a game or a series. It is part of the reason I try not to engage with fandoms online.

Final Thoughts

There is so much more to this book than I talked about here. Every game has a fun conversation about it here. The talk about the comics was very interesting, and I liked hearing about the merchandise.

I miss a lot by only talking about what they said about two games. They tended to avoid theories about the endings and focused on how you get specific endings or how they felt about a particular one. They also talk about the characters and how the series has progressed over the years.

I don’t know where to put this, but Whitney talks about the Silent Hill-themed Pashislot machine. It cost her more to ship it to where she lived than what she paid for it. Unless I read that wrong, then I apologize. It is cool that she has it, even if it isn’t my thing.

This is a fun book! Whitney and Brock have great conversations about the games, comics, movies, and merchandise. If you’re a fan of the games, then you’ll probably like this book. It is a great book!

Published by Paul Werkema

Hi! I'm here to share my hobbies with all of you. I love video games and books, so I write about the books that cover video games or are novels about video games.

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