The Brethren in the Silent Hill film is a fanatical religious sect based on the witch-hunts of various past cultures, led by a woman named Christabella and is rooted in the town of Silent Hill, West Virginia. The cult believes in seeking out those who could be deemed "witches" and burning them alive in order to ensure a cleansed existence.
The Brethren were the founders of the town of Silent Hill, and most of the town's buildings carry the cult's symbol, a sign of the townspeoples' devotion to their religion. Because the cult was so powerful during the town's heyday, they were able to get away with actions that were reprehensible or illegal, such as abusing a young child and hanging a painting of a woman being tortured in the local hotel.
The Brethren are directly connected to the current abandoned state of Silent Hill, having been the ones responsible for setting the blaze that ate into the coal mines beneath the town, setting the entire town on fire and leading to its permanent evacuation. Most, if not all, of the Brethren are either dead or trapped in an alternate reality at the time of Silent Hill's events.
They seem to have mainly Catholic leanings, however, it has been stated by the creators that the cult is not related to any one religion. To that end, their symbol is a mixture of icons from different religions.
The cult believes that sinful acts must be strictly punished, and that it is possible for females to become possessed by demons if she is associated with a sinful act. The cultists are shown to be obsessed with the concepts of Hell and damnation. It is possible that they were the ones who etched the words "Heaven" and "Hell" on a child's hopscotch drawing at the elementary school.
According to the canon of Silent Hill, the Brethren stand in opposition to the Order, a fanatical cult seen in the game series who worship a pagan God. Jennifer Carroll, a saint of the Order in the games, was burned alive by the cultists, and her burning was memorialized in a painting that hangs in the Grand Hotel.
After the cultists are dragged into the Fog World and Otherworld, an alternate reality created by the rage of a child they had tortured, they refuse to believe that they are responsible for their own damnation. To that end, Christbella misleads them, telling them that the Apocalypse has occurred, and that they were the only ones pure enough to survive the devil's wrath. The Brethren believe that their prayers hold back the darkness, when in reality, the coming and going of the Otherworld is in no way affected by their beliefs.
Alessa and The Great Fire
In 1965, Brethren member Dahlia Gillespie gave birth to an illegitimate child named Alessa, who was immediately deemed a witch by the Brethren due to her lack of paternity and possible psychic powers. The cult abused Alessa for nine years, insulting, bullying and ostracizing her, until she was eventually trapped in a bathroom with a pedophile while trying to hide from the bullying.
Christabella used this opportunity to insist that Alessa be "purified" for her sin of being born out of wedlock, and possibly for also possessing supernatural witch-like powers. Dahlia was deceived and gave in, and on November 1st, 1974, Alessa was taken to a sacrificial chamber, where she was burned alive as a witch.
Despite the cult's efforts, Alessa survived the fire and was overcome by rage and pain. In her drive to take revenge on everyone responsible for her suffering, Alessa split her soul and created the Otherworld and the Fog World, two alternate realities infected by her split psyche. She dragged the Brethren into these worlds, where she punishes them for their crimes against her.
30 years of misery
For 30 years, the cult remains in denial about the reason behind their fate, trapped in the Fog World and Otherworld, taking refuge in a church which acts as their sanctuary. Christabella has convinced them that the Apocalypse (End of Days) has come and that their prayers will keep the devil from entering their sacred church. They are unaware, however, that Alessa's powers are not deterred by their prayers.
Instead of outright killing them, Alessa and Dark Alessa seem to keep them in a perpetual state of fear and misery, forced to scavenge for canned and packaged food for survival in the town full of monsters. It can be considered a fate worse than death; revenge can be dealt in many ways other than death.
It is unknown why Dark Alessa can't or won't keep the Otherworld continuing forever. However, because the film is inspired by the first game, it is likely that the Fog World and Otherworld are linked to Alessa's mental dream state. It can be compared to the cycles of NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. During the times when the town becomes darker, it may be because Alessa's dream is deepening, becoming more surreal and twisted. In addition, the reason for the Fog World may be because Alessa and Dark Alessa are giving the cultists a chance to repent, especially for Anna, who was only an innocent baby during The Great Fire.
It is unknown why Dark Alessa can't enter the cult's church. She vaguely tells Rose, "Their blind conviction repels me from their church. I cannot enter while they deny their fate." There are two possible explanations for this:
- The alternate realms are part of Alessa's delusions. Alessa was strongly indoctrinated by the cult when she grew up, and she believed that their faith was too strong to overwhelm. Only when their faith was shaken - when they realized they had committed evil - could she finally enter the church and take her revenge. This is why Alessa needs Rose to tell the cultists 'the truth'.
- Alessa can enter the church anytime she wants, but she feels the cultists need to understand why she's killing them before they die. She craves both spiritual and physical victory over the cult, so that the Brethren members wouldn't think of themselves as "sinless martyrs" when they perish.
In the Otherworld, the cult has their own brute force of men who are used as guards to Christabella. They wear miner's outfits, complete with full body suits, helmets, and goggles and are armed with metal poles to protect them from the monsters. They show a sense of teamwork when they leave the church and enter the alternate reality together. They wear their church uniforms under their gear, and often carry bulky flashlights.
A group can even be seen carrying a canary in a cage, used to detect shifts in realities. This is an allusion to the historical use of canaries in mine shafts to detect pockets of poisonous gases. The outfits are used to protection from the Otherworld and its inhabitants, though it does not do much good, as several Order soldiers are killed by Creepers that eat through their gear.
Cybil Bennett enters a melee fight with a group of them to help Rose Da Silva escape and appears to kill one with ease. These members of the church do not appear to be very adept at melee combat, as they are initially overwhelmed by Cybil's attacks. Several corpses of cult members are seen in the Otherworld, including one whose entrails have been torn out and spread about on the ground near him.
Inside the school, several members of the Brethren chase Rose. Rose presumably flees them because they frighten her and she believes they could potentially kill her. They spot her in a bathroom and Rose uses the keys she finds in the main office to keep them out of the bathroom. The figures leave quickly as a warning siren blares. In the Otherworld, several members of the Brethren are killed, eaten alive by Creepers.
In the Grand Hotel, Rose and Cybil meet Anna, a member of the Brethren. She follows them along. When the Otherworld appears again, Anna takes them to a church where they are introduced to Christabella after being mistaken as witches.
Christabella tells them that a "demon" controls the town and that Rose must face the "darkness of hell" if she wants to find her daughter. After convincing Christabella that she wants to find the "demon" for answers, Rose is taken to a hospital with Cybil to find it. There, Christabella discovers the likeness between Sharon Da Silva and Alessa from Rose's locket and condemns Rose and Cybil as witches. Cybil is captured as she defends Rose, who escapes the clutches of the cult and descends in an elevator into the basement of the Otherworld hospital.
In a flashback, Rose discovers that Silent Hill had a history of ritual witch burnings. Alessa herself was condemned as a witch for not having a father and possibly possessing psychic powers. An attempt to burn her 30 years ago went disastrously awry, resulting in a devastating fire destroying the town. In her hatred, Alessa began manifesting psionic powers and ended up creating Dark Alessa and the Otherworld. Since then, she has been shifting reality to the hellish nightmare world in order to hunt down the cult members who hurt her decades ago.
After realizing what she needs to do, Rose agrees to help Alessa gain her final revenge to save her daughter. After explaining that the church's protection from the Otherworld prevents her from getting inside, Dark Alessa then makes Rose absorb her so that she can enter the church.
Rose enters the church soon after Cybil has been burned to death by the townspeople and sees Sharon is about to suffer a similar fate. She confronts the townspeople and Christabella with her new knowledge of the truth, attempting to convince the cult that they are in denial of their own fate. Christabella stabs Rose in anger, claiming that Rose has been corrupted and is an agent of the "demon".
Rose's wounds cause her blood to drip onto the church floor, releasing Alessa's tainted essence and opening a portal into the Otherworld. Dark Alessa and Alessa's adult form rise out of the portal, and proceed to kill Christabella and the townspeople with long tangles of barbed wire, leaving Dahlia, Rose, and Sharon as the only survivors.
Silent Hill: Revelation changes the Brethren's belief system and motivations to being the opposite of that seen in the first film. In Revelation, the cult burned Alessa as part of a ritual to impregnate her with their god, rather than because of her illegitimate birth. The Brethren in Revelation are stated to be the most fanatical members of the Order of Valtiel, the cult that they opposed in the first film's canon. The cult is also shown to mysteriously still have living members in the Otherworld, despite that the ending of the original Silent Hill depicts the deaths of all remaining members of the Brethren. The cult's symbol is also vastly altered, changing from having four crosses to being made up of various circles, with no crosses in sight.
It is stated that they will not breathe the air of the Otherworld, as they believe it taints their purity, and that this is why they wear the mining outfits. When Heather Mason yanks the mask off of a member's face, he actually does die of asphyxiation, as his throat and mouth clog with an unknown black liquid.
In Revelation, the Brethren have the ability to temporarily leave the alternate reality by carving images of the Halo of the Sun into their chests as same as the members of the Order themselves, however, this is ability does not exist in the first film's canon. Vincent Cooper is able to leave the Otherworld through this technique, and it is implied that Claudia Wolf uses it to hire a private detective to stalk Alessa's good side. How the cult knows that Alessa's good side exists in a separate body is never explained.
- The cult may have been inspired by the Molly Maguires (also called the "Mollies"), a secret society consisting of Irish and Irish-American coal miners, that used to coincide within the town of Centralia, Pennsyvania, which is the basis for Silent Hill, West Virginia. Although the cult aren't truly coal miners, they wear coal mining gear.
- The term "brethren" is the archaic Middle English word for "brothers".
- One misconception is that the Brethren are Christian, likely because Christabella quotes a part of Revelation 20 from the Bible, their symbol looks like a crucifix, and their history of witch hunting is reminiscent of the Salem witch trials. In addition, in the game canon, Jennifer Carroll was burned by Christians, and she was also burned by the Brethren in the film canon. However, the film's original script suggests the cult is a religion known as Manichaeism, and Christabella openly insults Christian beliefs:
|“|| We're not Christians. We're Manichaeans. The Testaments of Matthew and the other disciples of Jesus are what led to the End of Days that we are now in. We follow the old ways. Separation of Spirit and Flesh are the doctrines by which we live. And our faith has never failed us. It keeps the Darkness of Hell at bay.
- Similar to their use in coal mines, canaries are used as some sort of warning system of the Otherworld transition for the Brethren men.
- Silent Hill: Revelation writer/director Michael J. Bassett stated several times before the release of Revelation that the Brethren and the Order are two separate cults; however, Vincent Cooper explicitly states in the film that they are the same.
- The mining gear used by the Brethren was the main inspiration for the Order Soldiers seen in Silent Hill: Homecoming.
Silent Hill: Revelation
|Rose Da Silva - Christopher Da Silva - Cybil Bennett - Dahlia Gillespie - Thomas Gucci - Anna - Christabella - Sharon Da Silva - Alessa Gillespie - Dark Alessa|
|Sister Margaret - Eleanor - Colin - Lisa Garland - Jennifer Carroll|
|Armless Man - Colin - Creeper - Dark Nurse - Grey Child - Red Pyramid|
|Brahms - Brookhaven Hospital - Church - Da Silva House - Gans County - Grand Hotel - Midwich Elementary School - Nathan Drugs - Pete's Bowl-O-Rama - Sacrificial Chamber - Silent Hill, West Virginia - Smitty's - Toluca County Archives - Toluca County Mining Museum - Toluca County Orphanage - Toluca Lake|
|The Brethren - Monster - Flashlight - Manifestation - Otherworld - Fog World - Real World - Siren - Great Knife - Welcome Sign - Brethren Symbol|
|Heather Mason - Christopher Da Silva - Vincent Cooper - Claudia Wolf - Leonard Wolf - Dark Alessa - Douglas Cartland - Alessa Gillespie|
|Rose Da Silva - Dahlia Gillespie - Suki - Travis Grady - Order Soldier - Detective Santini - Mannequin Girl|
|Armless Man - Delusion - Leonard Wolf - Lobotomy - Mannequin Monster - Memory of Alessa - Missionary - Nurse - Pyramid Head - Valtiel|
|All Hallows High School - Brookhaven Asylum - Central Square Shopping Center - Jacks Inn - Sanctuary - Silent Hill, West Virginia - Lakeside Amusement Park|
|The Brethren - Halo of the Sun - Monster - Manifestation - Otherworld - Fog World - Real World - Robbie the Rabbit - Seal of Metatron - Siren - The Order - Great Knife - Welcome Sign|