Saturday, April 22, 2006

Silent Hill

by Chris

The Silent Hill video game franchise is the cream of the crop when it comes to the genre of survival horror. In these games, you play characters who have found themselves drawn to the sleepy resort town of Silent Hill. The town is always enshrouded by fog, reducing visibility to about 3 feet. This is a problem because for some reason the town is swarming with nightmarish, vaguely-human creatures, and is cut off from the rest of the world by giant cliffs, as if the whole town was torn from the earth by the devil himself. Your only companions are tortured survivors, any makeshift weapons you can get your hands on, a flashlight, and a radio that warns you with disturbing static noises whenever a monster is near. You soon find out that you were brought to this town for purposes beyond your understanding. You have no idea what is going on, all you know is that you are surrounded by unimaginable terror. As you explore, you are occaisionally and abruptly thrust into an even more terrifying alternate reality that can only be described as Hell.

There is a bit that is lost in translation with the movie adaptation, because you don't feel like you are there, immersed in the world. You are simply a watcher. Because of this, the film isn't as scary as it should have been. There is plenty of disturbing imagery but it doesn't have the same effect becuase you just don't feel like you are there. Luckily, Silent Hill is beautifully shot and features some amazingly artistic setpieces and monster designs. There are many scenes of spectacular gore that will surely sate any gutsy horror fan.

There are flaws, many of them. This is not the great video game movie we were hoping for (it is undoubtedly the best video game movie ever made, but that isn't saying a whole hell of a lot). The acting is pretty much godawful; the little girl gives the best performance and that is never a good sign. Christophe Gans doesn't seem to be a very good director of actors, but he almost makes up for it with his disurbingly beautiful vision. Avary dropped the ball with the script by filling it with awful action-movie dialogue (in his defense, that is pretty much in line with the dialogue from the games) and making it just a little too confusing for people who haven't experienced the Silent Hill franchise (the games were very ambiguous as well). For those of us who are familiar with the games, we are treated to an excellent adaptation that totally captures the style of the Silent Hill and gives us a good origin of the town. Many fan-favorite creatures make appearances, and some of the excellent music from the games shows up in the score.

There is something that must be understood about the town of Silent Hill for the movie adaptation to make any sense. Silent Hill is Hell. The people who find themselves there are dead, and are usually being tormented for crimes in their past that they are unaware of committing. It makes sense that the people who are in Hell do not know what they did to belong there, because the torment is that much worse if they are made into victims of heavily exaggerated versions of their own sins. You are never told what these sins are, but there are hints scattered throughout the town that give you a pretty good idea. Rose, the main character of the film, is a slightly different case, but I won't say anymore so as not to spoil plot details.

Don't bother to stay past the credits. Any fan of the game is familiar with the crazy alternate endings that you can get by replaying the games after finishing them for the first time (like this one, where you find a secret door that reveals who is really responsible for the strange happenings of Silent Hill.) I found it pretty disappointing that there was nothing like this at the end of the credits to the film.


Blogger Brian said...

So, I have this friend, who's completely unfamiliar with the games. Would someone like that get anything at all out of the movie, or would it be equivalent to any other video game movie, except for a few cool images? I ... I mean, my friend, would really like to know.

4/24/2006 09:51:00 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Probably not. Although I wouldn't call it the equivalent of watching some other video game movie since it really is a lot better than any previous game adaptation. There is a story there, just not a very coherent one. The movie is also humorless and takes itself way too seriously, unlike the excellent Slither.

Your friend will probably hate it. I think the terrible dialogue and wooden acting will probably make your friend leave the theatre.

Did your friend like The Cell? The art direction in Silent Hill is on the same level as that film, but unfortunately the story, dialogue, and acting are also on the same level as that film (with the exception of the always-good Donofrio, whom I thought was pretty good in The Cell). I loved the Cell, style over substance works for me when the style is that beautiful.

If your friend wants a great horror flick, see Slither. It was flawless. The 79% cream-of-the-crop tomato rating is well deserved. Silent Hill is quite flawed, and people who haven't played the games are hating it.

4/25/2006 11:36:00 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

What? A movie opening to $20 million is bad? No. Nooooooo. Can't be. I don't care what the critics say. It looks so pretty.

4/26/2006 05:59:00 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

I didn't care what they said either, and I actually enjoyed the flick. I would reccomend it to you, Nick, but not Brian's "friend."

I think it is healthy to go into the movie knowing that it isn't quite the masterpiece we've been hoping for.

It is also interesting that all the flaws (cheesy dialogue, wooden acting, nonsensical plot) are all keeping in line with the spirit of the games.

The only time it strayed from the Silent Hill feel was at the end of the credits where there was no silly alternate ending. It seems like a small thing to get hung up on, but the funny endings are one of my favorite aspects of the series and I really wanted to have them worked in somehow.

I am gonna be seriously pissed if there isn't an alternate dog ending on the DVD special features.

4/27/2006 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

It's an interesting thing the fact that we look for movies to get good reviews, when what does us the most good is when they get bad ones.

Lowered, or no expectations, do in general do more for ones enjoyment than hype and expectation.

4/27/2006 12:26:00 PM  

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