I’d be lying if I said Silent Hill 2 didn’t scare the crap out of me. While the entire game was scary in the sense that I was always dreading something terrible to pop out (Hello there, Pyramid Head), it was the revelation at the end that ultimately scared me. Without that plot twist about Mary and James, I could have passed Silent Hill 2 off as just another edge of your seat game. Instead, it’s a "Holy crap, I’m still really disturbed by it" game.
It wasn’t so much that James killed his wife to "ease her suffering" that disturbed me, but what Silent Hill stood for. It seemed like some sort of purgatory for people with really big problems that even Dr. Phil can’t fix. The fact that people who were at Silent Hill were all drawn to it because of some sort of guilt or past sin.
I got the ending where James meets Mary a final time and then gets to leave the town with Laura. From what I’ve read, this is as close to a happy ending as any of the other alternate endings in Silent Hill 2. While the conflict in the game is ultimate resolved (James gets to leave), it doesn’t make the whole story any less disturbing.
Silent Hill is a different town for each inhabitant of it. It seems like they see only what their inner fears want them to see. James was so full of guilt of what he did to Mary that he created a likeness of her, Maria, who is not only Mary, but also has traits that I think he desired in Mary. The fact that Maria dies over and over again in the game seems to point to James’ guilt that he wasn’t able to save Mary from her disfiguring sickness.
So what was so scary about the idea of Silent Hill? Everyone has made a mistake or is guilty for something in the past. While I’ve never done anything as extreme as what James did to Mary, I wonder if there’s a threshold of something like bad karma where if you go over that threshold, you can’t help but be drawn to Silent Hill where you’ll have to relive your guilt over and over again until you come to terms with it and either die or get to leave.