Pretty much all the places that James visits in the game mean something to him (the hospital, the Historical Society, Rosewater Park, the hotel and the prison to an extent). I was just wondering if the apartments James goes through hold any significance to him, or were they just a random obstacle?
I think it was mostly to convey an...uhm 'homely' environment, we see Mary's clothes and dead James sitting in front of the TV linked to the first signs of suicidal and homicidal tendencies - all this happening in people's homes I think is to show James that these themes apply to real situations, and his situation at that. There isn't any impossible architecture and the like in the apartments as opposed to the hospital, the prison or the hotel, making it more realistic.
There is also the matter of Mary having been alive for 3 years, out of James' life, leaving him to wonder just what she's been doing all these years. If she's been in SH all that time, she must've been living somewhere, so that's something to consider for players on their first playthrough.
^ I definitely agree with this... especially the "homely" environment part.
My silly brain interprets it as a compartmentalization of different memories all in his head (different rooms, different scenes or possibilities for his life, etc.).
The dress is a reminder of Mary (where he also finds the flashlight... which could mean a variety of things). The room with the "suicide body" is a reminder of what James came to do in Silent Hill initially. You could argue that he "killed himself after viewing the videotape." I argue in favor of that theory as well. But either way, it's just a mental construct to remind him of something.
I am in no way condoning that this is fact. T'is only my interpretation.
Eh, the apartments have always stood out to me as probably the only main area in the game as having no major thematic significance (apart from the body in front of the television and the model with Mary's clothes and the flashlight) but I don't think these are really enough to make this area "relevant" in any large way.
I remember in some making of feature where one of the team said that their priority was to make stuff scary before adding symbolism, I think the apartments are primarilly to fullfil the former.
Going with what the Gentleman says, it makes sense to make the player feel insecure in an area in which we would hope to feel secure. It makes our imagination go wild with the idea that we aren't safe even in our own homes. Although, I'd have to say that SH4 and Homecoming did much better with making the home areas scary.
It was a good way to establish all of the characters and to have foreshadowing for things to come. For example, in Eddie and Angela's rooms you see aspects of their damaged psyches manifested in the rooms. The dead corpses and football posters in Eddie's room and the broken childhood home of Angela's room.
It's actually my favorite area in the entire game. I think that it was the most detailed with each room being different and there were a lot of hidden gems to discover in the apartments, like the creepy whisper and the things related to James and the other characters, which also makes it the most interesting area to analyze.
I always thought that James and Mary lived in an apartment somewhere rather than a house, but of course I have nothing to back this up.
I think Devoured, Q.Valintyne and Noname6 are right and their points are somehow connected to each other. The apartments level contains a lot of things related to James and the other characters, like their familial lives with parents (Angela and Eddie) and spouses (James and Mary). Of course, you don't realize this on your first visit to the apartments and you think that they are meaningless details. All the stuff you talked about, like the dead body in front of the TV and the significance of room 208. The room where we see Mary's clothes and some mannequins, of course we all know that Mary was a housewife, but I think it indicates - besides the objectification of Mary and representing her as a body with no feelings - that James remembers that Mary used to spend her free time by doing some sewing. The old, blocked door of childhood right next to the white door of tranquility and adulthood in Angela's apartment, and the prisoner's coin in her room. You also correlate the dead body(murder) and the fridge(food) with Eddie's complex, not to mention the football players' pictures and the poster that say "Physical beauty: Nature's divine protection" in his room. And, of course, we meet the famous Pyramid Head for the very first time IN the apt. build., and I THINK that the scream we hear just before seeing him means that he has killed the James in front of the TV screen. And we see "Scars from the past shall remove the nail that stops time." Yeah, that's why the apartments are important: to show us fragments of the characters' memories and a transitional level that will prepare them for the intense upcoming parts of their nightmares in Silent Hill. That's how I like to think of it. I also like to think that James and Mary lived in an apartment in the apt. build. in Ashfield, where James' father works as a superintendent, but just like you said, there's not enough evidence.