Welcome to Mother of Fears – a monthly column that will explore the various roles that mothers play within the horror genre. Mothers are a staple feature in horror movies, and yet, their stories, motivations, representations, and relationships with their children are so varied and complex that we never feel like we’re watching the same story twice. Every month I will take a look at a different mother from the world of horror, explore their story, and look at how they fit into the broader representation of women in horror.
Mother is God in the eyes of a child, and it seems God has abandoned the town of Silent Hill. Silent Hill is not a place you want to visit. It’s a town destroyed by the warped beliefs of the townspeople and their evil practices which they carried out under the guise of purification. It’s a town sitting in limbo, punishing its population for their past actions. A fire still burns under Silent Hill, in the abandoned coal mines, and in the heart of a little girl now twisted by anger and her need for revenge.
And yet, Sharon finds herself called to Silent Hill. In the nights she sleepwalks and calls out for the town she has no memory of as her adoptive parents Rose and Christopher feel powerless to help her. While Christopher believes Sharon needs professional help, Rose decides that a road trip to Silent Hill itself will finally solve the mystery of her daughter’s night terrors.
Mother Knows Best
Rose may be Sharon’s adoptive mother, but she still has a strong mother’s instinct. She knows that the only way to figure out what is going on with Sharon is to return to the town that plagues her dreams and answer the call the town has made to her. Rose has to fight her husband to prove that she knows better and she understands the needs of her daughter, even if Sharon doesn’t fully understand what is being asked of her. Because the truth is, no matter how horrible a place Silent Hill is, Sharon will never be free of the nightmares that make their way into her head every night unless she returns home and confronts the other parts of herself that have been left behind.
Christopher blocks Rose’s credit cards and pleads with her to return, but Rose is strong in her resolve. Even when they almost get pulled over by the police officer Cybil Bennett, Rose decides to make a break for it instead to make a desperate bid for Silent Hill. It’s almost as though she believes all their problems will be solved the minute they cross into the town boundaries.
A Tale of Two Mothers
When Rose first enters the town of Silent Hill, she thinks she sees Sharon running away from her, just out of reach and always too far away to catch. Rose quickly discovers the child is not Sharon, but actually Alessa, a young girl who was burned as a witch 30 years earlier. Sharon and Alessa look exactly the same, so Rose reasons that Alessa definitely has something to do with Sharon’s connection to the town.
We’re also introduced to Dahlia, Alessa’s mother who wanders the streets of the town seemingly searching for her daughter. Dahlia and Rose quickly bond over the shared pain of losing a child, but Dahlia attacks Rose when she sees the picture of Sharon in Rose’s locket.
While Dahlia was not complicit in the death of her daughter, she was powerless against the town’s mob mentality and unable to stop them until it was too late. She is stuck in the limbo state with everyone else, but immune to the powers of the evil creatures that lurk in the street whenever the darkness descends.
A Mother’s Love
While Alessa’s/Dark Alessa’s initial calls were to Sharon, it becomes clear that Rose was the real key to solving the problem all along. Dark Alessa was able to maintain a strong connection with Sharon because she was the good part of Alessa, ripped away from the evils of Silent Hill, and stored in the outside world for safekeeping.
Dark Alessa uses Sharon as a pawn, to bring fresh meat into Silent Hill to help Alessa get her revenge. While Dahlia clearly still loves her daughter very much, she has been beaten down by the pressure of the town, and their leader Christabella, who also happens to be Dahlia’s sister.
So Dark Alessa decides to exploit Rose’s love for her daughter instead, leading her into the basement of the hospital so she can finally uncover the grisly truth about what happened to Alessa all those years ago. She emotionally exploits Rose by using Sharon’s drawings to direct Rose all over town, knowing that Rose will cling to any connection to her daughter she finds.
“Mother is God in the eyes of a child, and it seems God has abandoned the town of Silent Hill.”
Even faced with intense encounters with terrifying creatures that could spring forth from the darkness with only a couple of siren blasts as a warning, Rose never wavers in her task to find Sharon.
Rose even agrees to take Dark Alessa into herself, so that she can sneak the demon into the church and wipe out the townsfolk once and for all. Rose knows this is the only way she will be able to get Sharon back, but she also recognizes the importance of Alessa getting her revenge. Rose sees Sharon reflected in Alessa, and as a mother, sympathizes with the things Alessa was put through in the name of religious purification.
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It’s in this moment that Rose steps in and does what Dahlia couldn’t, by standing up for Alessa and supporting her needs. Rose is not overcome by fear or the pressure of the townsfolk and only thinks about what is best for her child. Her motherly bond is so strong that she saves both Sharon and Alessa from the horrible hold the town has over them at the same time.
A Mother is God in the Eyes of a Child
Dark Alessa and Alessa are true to their word, and when they wreak their revenge on the town they leave Rose and Sharon unharmed. Rather than being evil just for the sake of it, the two versions of Alessa have a very clear purpose in their hatred and anger, and it’s very rightly focussed on the people in the town who caused all this with their warped religious beliefs.
The only Silent Hill resident left alive is Dahlia. While Dahlia is confused that Alessa didn’t take her, Rose explains it’s “because you’re her mother. Mother is God in the eyes of a child.” While Alessa is unable to rescue Dahlia from the dark realm of Silent Hill, she spares her the torturous barbed wire death that everyone else has to suffer. Also, staying in limbo is surely preferable to being sent directly to Hell, which is definitely where Christabella was going.
Earlier in the film, Anna remarks that “not even the darkness wants her” of Dahlia, but the truth is Alessa has been keeping her mother safe as much as possible from the creatures that roam the streets. Even after 30 years and enough rage to turn a whole town into a nightmare scape, Alessa still loves her mother, and forgives her for the part she played in Alessa’s burning.
While Rose is not Alessa’s mother, both Alessa and Dark Alessa recognize her significance because she chose to welcome Sharon into her life. Rose formed a bond with Alessa by mothering and nurturing the good side of her, and that’s why she ends up such a vital part of Alessa’s plan.
Alessa has tried to take down the townsfolk on her own, and yet they are still safe from her in their church. It is Rose’s bravery to take Dark Alessa into herself and fight Christabella head on that finally allows both versions of Alessa access to the church. Christabella thought that God was the most powerful force in Silent Hill, but she clearly hadn’t reckoned on Rose. Only Dark Alessa recognized Rose’s full potential, and the things a mother will do to protect her child.
Adoptive Mothers in Horror
Adoption in horror movies is often told as a scary story from the point of the mother or new family who have welcomed this child into their home. Movies like Orphan (2009), The Omen (1976), or Before I Wake (2016) show adoption as a perilous activity that means welcoming a child into your home who may very well want to kill you (or possess powers that will kill you accidentally).
Adoptive mothers are often dealing with the grief of a loss of a child, or the inability to have their own children, and adopt in what is seen as a second choice option.
In Silent Hill, there’s never any real reason given for why Rose and Christopher chose to adopt Sharon. There’s no traumatic story from their past, but instead just a need to have a child and love it. And so, they chose to pick a child that had already been born and abandoned and was so in need of a loving home.
“Even faced with intense encounters with terrifying creatures that could spring forth from the darkness with only a couple of siren blasts as a warning, Rose never wavers in her task to find Sharon.”
They’ve had Sharon since she was a baby and clearly formed a very loving family around her. At the first signs of trouble, Rose takes immediate action to try and solve the mystery of Sharon’s past and help her get a good night’s sleep again. Sharon is seen as a happy and content child, drawing under a tree with her mother as they continue on their road trip. The bond the two shares is undeniable.
And so, Silent Hill gives us a more positive representation of adoption and the adoptive mother than a lot of other movies have managed. Rose never feels a disconnect from her daughter or like she isn’t her real mother. She tells Cybil, “Sharon’s adopted, but I’m her mother. I knew that from the moment I first laid eyes on her.” There’s never this worry of Sharon being some sort of cuckoo in the nest, waiting to strike and cause pain for her parents.
Silent Hill merely uses adoption as a plot mechanism to explore Sharon’s unknown past, but Sharon is never the monster of the piece. She’s always represented as the good part of Alessa. Sharon is merely a vehicle for Dark Alessa to call assistance to Silent Hill, and Rose provides that without any hesitation because of how much she loves her daughter.
Let’s Go Home
The ending of Silent Hill is left slightly ambiguous, which was made worse by the sequel Silent Hill – Revelation (2012). However, whatever happens to Rose and Sharon, they don’t manage to completely escape the realm of Silent Hill.
After helping both versions of Alessa complete their plan, Rose and Sharon are allowed to walk free as their reward. Their car starts, and the chasm in the road heals itself so that mother and daughter can finally escape their waking nightmare.
However, upon returning to the house it’s clear that everything is not as it seems. While they’ve made it back home, they are on a different plane of existence from Christopher, who seems to sense Rose’s presence in the room.
But none of that seems to matter. Rose’s aim was to rescue her daughter and to free her from whispers of Silent Hill that were calling her home. They’ve escaped the monsters, and they’re together, and really, that’s all that matters to Rose now. Even if they are trapped in another world, they have each other, which is something Alessa and Dahlia were never able to achieve.
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