Silent Hill
Starring:
Radha Mitchell, Sean Bean, Laurie Holden, Deborah Kara Unger, Kim Coates
Directed By:
Christophe Gans
Grade
B+

One can not talk about movies based on videogames without commenting on the many atrocities perpetuated on the genre. It seemed as though the interactive media was doomed to never get a fair shake in the theaters. When word that director Christophe Gans (Brotherhood of the Wolf) was to direct a movie based on one of the darker, more psychological game series, Silent Hill, fans became intrigued. With the producer, Konami, paying close attention to the development and many of the cast and crew playing the actual games, fans were cautiously optimistic.

The movie begins with Rose (Mitchell) taking her daughter, Sharon, to Silent Hill, a town the young girl calls out during her sleepwalking sessions. After being chased by a motorcycle cop (Holden), Rose wrecks her SUV, knocking her unconscious. Rose awakens in a foggy, ashen world to find her daughter is missing. She charges into the desolate town, only to find herself under siege by monsters as a warning siren sends the world into a deranged darkness.

After surviving her first run-in with the darkness that randomly shows up in Silent Hill, Rose (and eventually police officer, Cybil) follow clues left in the town that eventually lead them to a church where the remaining survivors hide away from the dark monstrosities that show up from time to time. At this same time, Rose's husband Chris (Bean) is trying to find her as he's escorted through the town by Officer Gucci (Coats) from the nearby town of Brahms. Between this "real world" portion and eventual revelations found by Rose tell a tale of zealot-filled town who burned the young Alessa thirty years ago, thinking she was a witch. During the ceremony, a fire broke out, igniting the coal mines below the town and killing many of the townspeople.

It's at this point where the viewer is lead into a string of dark revelations involving Sharon and the dark little girl who haunts the town. In true Silent Hill fashion, the endgame is brutal and the ending leaves just enough open for interpretation that viewers will have something to discuss.

I would have to say that the story does a good job at trying to capture the Silent Hill feel, though some of the plot decisions seem a bit iffy. I personally thought the endgame felt a bit disconnected from the build-up, as if they knew an ending needed to happen, so they whipped something up. Also, the script can offer up some lines that are a bit cringe-worthy and unnecessary. And, the whole sidestory with Rose's husband feels bloated, offering more content than it's worth to the story. Fortunately, most of the cast is more talented than the script allows. Radha Mitchell is excellent in her role, far surpassing the script she's given.

Visually, Silent Hill captures the locations and the mood of the games quite well. Fans of the series won't help but feel a certain level of nostalgia in just about every shot. Locations feel as though they're pulled straight from the games. Character designs are pulled largely from Silent Hill 2, except for the Hellraiser-like Janitor. Fan favorite Pyramid Head gets redesigned for the movie, but all for the better. Instead of a decayed hunchback that twists inhumanly, Pyramid Head is now a monstrous giant. It's a shame that he has so little screen time, as his presence in the film provides some nice set-pieces.

From a special effects standpoint, there's a lot that works well here. The liberal use of real makeup and CG effects compliment each other well. The transition from real world to nightmare world is so wonderfully done, I almost wish they had done it a few more times. The nightmare world sets are also done excellently, feeling dirty, decayed and rust-coated.

Considering the large catalog of music available from the four games, it's not really a surprise that the movie features a vast number of tracks from composer Akira Yamaoka. While most of the music is lifted straight from the original material, there are a few revised tracks and some string arrangements have been added. The inclusion of Akira Yamaoka's music (including Lost Carol, You're Not Here, Ordinary Vanity, Wounded Warsong and the original Silent Hill theme) does a lot for legitimizing the mood set in the film.

So, how does Silent Hill fare? In terms of the original content, quite well. The movie tries to capture the feel and does a fine job, though the story is not nearly as well realized as the original games. As a movie based on a game, it stands out in rare company. For those who are not versed in Silent Hill, though, you may find yourself lost on a lot of the fan service present.

- - Vane

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