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Alessa

Alessa Gillespie

Alessa Gillespie is a fictional character in the Silent Hill video game series, largely created by Team Silent. Their enduring popularity has led to many incarnations of the Silent Hill story and of its Alessa Gillespie character. Alessa's first appearance took place in the 1999 Silent Hill video game. The character Alessa has been included in two follow-up Silent Hill games and in a horror film based on the Silent Hill series.

Alessa is the daughter of Dahlia Gillespie, the leader of a cult known as The Order that operates out of the fictitious titular town of Silent Hill. She was originally meant to follow in her mother's footsteps and take over as spiritual medium for the religious group, but her role in the franchise is greater, her history directly influencing all events in the Silent Hill universe.

In the 2006 Silent Hill film, a young Alessa is portrayed by Canadian actress Jodelle Ferland, with her older self played by Lorry Ayers.

Conception and creationEdit

Character creationEdit

"The principle behind her [Alessa's] behavior is that she desires to escape from suffering. It will become easier to understand if I say 'to die'."- Hiroyuki Owaku[1]

Silent Hill writer Hiroyuki Owaku described Alessa's situation as one of "obsession", wherein "the object of Alessa's obsession was only for herself to cease to exist. It is a sentiment rooted in benevolence".[1] As Alessa is rendered immortal while acting as the vessel for her faith's unborn god, she becomes affixed to the idea of escaping life to die. Her appearance changes depending on the place within which she resided, as her most negative emotions are concentrated in certain locations that hold significance to traumatic experiences in her past.[1]

Team Silent originally intended to name her "Asia" after Italian film director Dario Argento's daughter, Asia Argento, but dropped it in favor of "Alessa" when they decided that it was much too uncommon a name.[2]. Although not an Italian name, Alessa is similar to the Italian version of the name Alexis, Alessia. The character is represented by the Empress card in Silent Hill's Tarot symbology.[1]

Although Alessa is not always physically present throughout gameplay, her presence is reinforced by symbolism. Images of wheelchairs, bloody bandages, and halved things are suggestive of her hospitalization and death, and rotating objects such as fans and valves are indicative of her constant cycle of death and rebirth.[3] The burns suffered in her mother's ritual are reflected in writhing shadows and the twisted movements of Silent Hill's creatures, and her rejection of the cult's teachings and of herself as the conduit for calling forth its god are marked by blood-red background tones, recurring bad dreams, and afterimages.[4]

Actor portrayalEdit

In the first Silent Hill video game, Alessa was voiced by Sandra Wane. She was succeeded by Heather Morris, who took on the role of Alessa's reincarnation in Silent Hill 3.

CharacteristicsEdit

Alessa's thoughts and fears are contorted by her powers into the various supernatural phenomena that plague Silent Hill. When she was young, the girl enjoyed collecting butterflies and drawing pictures, but she was afraid of insects other than butterflies and menacing or frightening animals like large dogs, snakes, and worms.[5] In addition, she develops an aversion to adults from being mistreated by her mother and the cult.[5]

Fairy tales and similar books read by Alessa in her youth also contribute to the town's motif. Her favorite work, Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World, is the in-universe basis for the "Air Screamer" monster,[5] and the predicament that Harry Mason and his daughter Cheryl face in the first Silent Hill game (that of being lost in another world) is compared to Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.[6] , The Wizard of Oz and Mother Goose nursery rhymes are prevalent as well.[6] The transformation that Silent Hill goes through therefore embodies Alessa's mind, and signs of her influence become more prominent as the town sinks deeper into darkness.[6]

Pseudonyms and Reincarnations Edit

Cheryl Mason Edit

The adopted daughter of Harry Mason and his wife, Cheryl disappears when Harry takes her on vacation to Silent Hill. It is later revealed that Cheryl is a part of Alessa intended to escape torture and oppression from Dahlia and her fellow cult members. She was created seven years prior, thanks to truck driver Travis Grady interferring with the cult's plans. When Cheryl entered the city limits of Silent Hill she rejoined with Alessa, bringing about the fractured world explored by the series' protagonists. Harry wanders the town in search of her and, after a final encounter with Dahlia, two of the possible outcomes have Alessa/Cheryl bestowing a new child upon Harry before he escapes.

Heather Edit

Later in Silent Hill 3 it is revealed that the game's protagonist, Heather, is the child handed to Harry at the end of the first game, and that the two have been on the run from The Order for quite some time. The character is represented by "The Fool" tarot card.

Sharon DaSilva Edit

Appearing only in the film version, Sharon takes a role similar to Cheryl's. As Alessa was corrupted by her dark desire for revenge, her remaining innocence was split into an infant, which was left at Toluca orphanage. The baby was eventually adopted by Rose and Chris DaSilva. Nine years later, Sharon starts to have horrible nightmares involving the town of Silent Hill, during which she sleepwalks and almost kills herself. Desperate to save her, her mother takes her to Silent Hill, where she learns the truth about her daughter and why she looks strikingly like Alessa. Like Cheryl, she goes missing upon arrival. Though Dahlia-a kind mother in this version-attempted to hide her, Sharon was found by the cult. Rose saved her from being burned alive as Alessa had been.

GamesEdit

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Silent HillEdit

Alessa debuted with the January 31, 1999 release of the video game Silent Hill in North America. The character is born in 1972, with incredible psychic powers, including spiritual intuition and premonition, leading to her being ostracized at school and branded a witch.[7] Her only friend in childhood is Claudia Wolf, who sympathizes with her because she also comes from an abusive family background.

Dahlia becomes convinced that a certain ritual, to birth The Order's God, would likely be a success if she used her daughter as its birth mother. The technique had been performed on other girls that The Order abducted, but all previous attempts had failed. At the age of seven, Alessa is offered as a sacrifice by Dahlia to the god in their house by immolating her body.[8] The plan succeeds, with Alessa becoming pregnant with the deity, which remains suspended in embryotic form. Due to the actions of Travis Grady, a part of the girl's soul escapes and is reborn as a baby found by Silent Hill's protagonist Harry Mason and his wife outside Silent Hill.[9] Harry names the baby Cheryl.

In order to lure the missing portion of Alessa's spirit back to its point of origin, Dahlia intentionally keeps her daughter in a state of excruciating pain for the seven years prior to the first game in order to get her to cry out to her other half and compel her to return. Confined to Alchemilla Hospital's basement and tended to by Lisa Garland, Alessa is given hallucinogenic drugs, further intensifying her torment. Upon Cheryl's return, Alessa's latent psychic abilities are triggered; she shrouds Silent Hill in fog and altered reality to prevent her mother's scheme from advancing. Many of the drastic changes that befall the town in the game, such as the horrific creatures that come to inhabit it, are conjured from her imagination and delusions.[5]

While searching for the missing Cheryl in Silent Hill, Harry is manipulated by Dahlia into believing that Alessa possesses the "Mark of Samael", the mark of a demon. She instructs him to use a sacred item, the Flauros, to stop Alessa from completing Samael's five crests and plunging the entire town into a hellish alternate dimension known as "Otherworld".[10] Taking the bait, Harry neutralizes Alessa, only to learn that she was really trying to contain Otherworld herself with the "Seal of Metatron" (a talisman that recurs in Silent Hill 3).[11] At the end of the game Dahlia finally combines both halves of Alessa's soul into one to complete the ceremony of the god's birth. Depending on the player's actions during gameplay, Alessa emerges either as a white-clad figure named "Incubator" or the demonic "Incubus", the latter coming about by Dahlia's former associate Dr. Kaufmann throwing a sample of Aglaophotis onto Alessa to prematurely expel the god. In either case, the birthed deity kills Dahlia and fights Harry as the final boss.

Following the defeat of the "Incubus" a fading apparition of Alessa creates a small portal back to the real world to enable Harry's escape after handing him a newborn child containing the fused soul of herself and Cheryl, who he raises as his own child.[12]

Silent Hill 3Edit

In Silent Hill 3, seventeen years after the events of the first Silent Hill game, the child given to Harry by Alessa (going by the name Heather) is approached by Claudia Wolf (now a priestess for The Order), who intends to bring about the descent of the cult's god to usher in Paradise. For this to happen Heather must remember her "true self" (Alessa). To nourish the growing fetus within her, Claudia has Harry murdered. A "memory" of Alessa, a dark emotion mimicking her likeness, is encountered by Heather in Silent Hill's Lakeside Amusement Park. This "memory" attacks Heather as a boss enemy, intent on ending the character's life herself to spare her and everyone from further pain after the god is born.[13][14]

To rid herself of the god, Heather swallows a tablet of Aglaophotis given to her by her father, thereby vomiting it out of her body. Claudia, however, in desperation, devours its remains to birth the god herself. Being born of Claudia's womb, the god personifies her vision of what God would look like, and therefore vaguely resembles Alessa.[15][16]

Silent Hill: OriginsEdit

After being saved by Travis Grady from a house fire at the start of the story, Alessa helps Travis throughout the ordeal in order for him to understand his past and clear up his mind. At the same time, Travis unknowingly helps her to take control over Silent Hill. Once Travis collects the "Future", "Past", "Falsehood", "Truth" and "Present" pieces from various places in the "Otherworld", he assembles the Flauros which liberates Alessa's power. As a result, this allows her to temporarily take control of Silent Hill, transforming the town into its grotesque Otherworld counterpart. She then guides Travis, via a drawn children's map, to the Antique Green Lion, where her burnt body is being used in a summoning ritual by The Order. With the help of Travis (who confronts the Flauros demon in a dream-like vision, containing him and his powers in the pyramid), she uses the power of Flauros to split her soul in half, creating a newborn baby.

As Travis leaves Silent Hill, he sees Alessa once more in his truck's rear-view mirror, holding the baby in her arms and smiling as he heads off. A static radio message can then be heard of a couple, Harry Mason and his wife, who find the baby near the road, and give her the name "Cheryl". Another message is then heard between Dahlia Gillespie and Michael Kauffman, who plots to cast a spell in order to finish the ritual one day.

FilmEdit

Silenthill6

A younger Alessa Gillespie as portrayed by Jodelle Ferland in the Silent Hill film.

In the 2006 Silent Hill film adaptation Alessa, as well as the adaptation's version of Cheryl Mason, Sharon DaSilva, were played by Jodelle Ferland. Director Christophe Gans selected Ferland after viewing her performances in Kingdom Hospital and her screen test for Terry Gilliam's film Tideland.[17] Alessa's older, scarred self was portrayed by Lorry Ayers.

Based on the first four games of the series, with a plot line mainly from the first game, the movie presented Alessa as a good child who was the subject of constant ridicule by her classmates. It is implied that, at the age of nine, she was molested by the janitor of Midwich Elementary School, Colin. Refusing to divulge the name of Alessa's illegitimate father, the film's more sympathetic Dahlia caves in to requests by the cult's Puritanical leader, Christabella, to set things right.

Alessa is burned alive by the cult to "purify" her and supposedly hold off the Apocalypse. When the ritual fails, the fire rages out of control, consuming much of Silent Hill and eventually reaching the town's coal mines. Alessa is pulled out of the blaze, horribly scarred with third degree burns over one hundred percent of her body, and sent to the nearby Brookhaven Hospital.

Alessa inflicts her nightmares onto the town and twists it to punish the people responsible for her suffering. [18]

With the assistance of Rose DaSilva, Alessa is able to penetrate the safe haven of the cult's church by means of possession, and slaughters Christabella and her flock in a scene inspired by the erotic anime Legend of the Overfiend,[19] tearing them apart with living barbed wire. Her appearance at the climax of the film closely resembles the Mary/Maria demon James Sunderland sees at the end of Silent Hill 2 due to the game being Christophe Gans' favorite installment in the Silent Hill series.[20]

</blockquote>Christophe Gans notes:

Perhaps the common link between all the stories of the Silent Hill world is the concept that this is a place where both reality and personality can be split.I like the fact that this is where many dimensions intersect, and where you can exist on many planes. This fracturing between realities is reflected as a fracturing within a character. Characters can become multiple, like Mary and Maria in Silent Hill 2, and Alessa in SH1.Because this is such an abstract concept, this was the most challenging aspect of trying to adapt the game. The first game tells the amazing story of an adult woman who also exists as two little girls, good and bad doubles representing who she was when she was hurt.We are forced to realize in Silent Hill that we can be our own devil, our own God. This very Asian perception is so completely different to the Anglo/Christian concept of God and the Devil as separate beings.[21]
He also says:
If we want to explain what happened with Alessa, we are dealing with the theme of doppelgangers. For every fan that has read the synopsis of the first game's story in the strategy guide of Silent Hill 3, they all know that we are dealing with doppelgangers--and it's a very cross-cultural concept, both Japan and Europe have this myth. But in Japan, it means that every character has aspects of a God and aspects of a devil inside them. It's a very shocking concept if we attempt to transpose that into a North American, traditionally Christian perspective. The line between good and evil is much more clearly in North America, especially today. And here we are dealing with a character who has the capacity to split, and when you realize that Alessa is no longer one character, but many, it explains the story of the town. It's interesting because the town itself mirrors this fractured psychology--different dimensions, different doubles of the same person.[22]

Sharon is the manifestation of the good side of Alessa. The baby Sharon is sent outside of the town, where she is adopted by Rose and Chris DaSilva. Sharon is brought back to Silent Hill nine years later when she begins to have disturbing nightmares about the town.

A mysterious figure (referred to as "Dark Alessa" or "the devil" on the movie's site [23]), resembling the young Alessa appears in the road in front of Rose's car, causing her to crash and bringing her into the alternate realms, and leads Rose through the town and narrates Alessa's story.

Describing the casting for the part, Director Christophe Gans noted:

"that little girl, played by a little Canadian actress, has to play, in fact, different characters, including the devil."[24]
I went, I present myself, and I said, 'You know, Jodelle, you are going to play different characters.' And she say, 'Yeah, I know. And one of them is the devil.' And she told me, 'I always wanted to play the devil.'"[24]

Actress Jodelle Ferland says:

"I also play Dark Alessa who is the bad part of Alessa – she's the one who I get to wear the scary make-up for." [25]
"Dark Alessa is sort of the bad of Alessa and that's why she's all scary and strange." [26]


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