In honor of the new Tomb Raider movie out later this week, we are watching lots of video game movies! … We might regret this decision. We think Sean Bean might also regret this decision.
Rating: D, because the bad really outweighs the good here.
Summary: A woman goes to Silent Hill, hoping to find answers about her adopted daughter.
Silent Hill is generally received as “one of the better ones” when it comes to video game movies so I thought I’d give it a try. Note to self: “One of the better ones” really lowers the bar for video game adaptations. I’ve adjusted my personal rating for this genre from “downright awful” to “one of the better ones” to “Sure… I guess?” Think Legend of Chun Li (nope, haven’t seen it but I can assume from the trailer) then Silent Hill and then Mortal Kombat (say what you want- MK is entirely watchable). Even though I enjoy watching them, I don’t think I’ve seen any video game adaptations above a C.
I’ve said it before- I’m not typically a horror fan in any way, shape, or form. When I was a kid, I watched my dad play Resident Evil: Nemesis and the zombies bursting out of the cars was enough for me. I’ve blocked out the gameplay of Silent Hill because it’s downright terrifying- it’s more psychologically unsettling, relying on absence and quiet to set the tone. Jump scares run amok!
Starring Radha Mitchell, Sean Bean (006!), and Kim Coates (Tig!), Silent Hill was made back in 2006 a bit after the Resident Evil movies began to pick up steam. The plot of the movie is simple- Rose (Mitchell) and Chris (Bean) adopted Sharon (Jodelle Ferland), who has some strange habits in her sleep… including drawing satanic images over innocent ones, sleepwalking, and, oh, waking up screaming. Determined to find a cure for these night terrors, Rose tracks down Sharon’s origins and is led to Silent Hill, a ghost town destroyed by a coal explosion thirty years ago.
I was really, really intrigued by the first twenty minutes of Silent Hill. No, I’m completely serious. Not only are the aesthetics on point with the tone of the game, but the way the information unravels is pretty well done, using very little dialogue and mostly demonstration. Silent Hill is full of mystery and the concept of how the town works isn’t too hard to grasp (things go bad when the sun goes down), which we learn mostly through Rose’s own discovery. The CGI isn’t all that great, but it’s made up for with ambitious emptier shots that do much more in supporting the movie’s tone. It was refreshing to see Silent Hill successfully resemble the gameplay while establishing the same mood. Sometimes this doesn’t always work out so well (Ah, those later Resident Evil movies), but it makes sense in the horror genre to follow those elements.
It’s a shame to say this doesn’t last- once Silent Hill brings in more characters (and thus dialogue), it starts to do the whole “We need to explain everything through narrative-heavy exposition because there’s no other way to do it” thing and this is really where the whole thing falls apart. Instead of sticking with the deliberate quietness and visuals, Silent Hill becomes an “action horror,” much more resembling the Resident Evil series and bad torture horror than the movie we are led to believe this will be. The first twenty minutes feel like a completely different movie. Where previously Mitchell’s Rose is finding clues and using shot sequences that show her thought process, Sharon’s origin is explained to us in a three-minute voice-over montage. (This is also confusing as the film is so attentive to sound- Ferland’s paint-by-numbers voice doesn’t exactly have the effect it could have.) There’s no sense of discovery and it lacks the impact that should have been there, somewhat dismissing all the tension Rose’s previous deductions had been building. As a result, the third act completely falls apart, relying on weird torture gore to gross us out rather than give us internal unshakeable disturbance.
I wouldn’t necessarily call this lazy, but it’s almost as if the writing team or whoever didn’t quite know how else to reveal this information when all they really had to do was have Rose find a book, see a series of stained glass within the church, or put all of Sharon’s drawings together. For whatever reason, attention to detail and the visuals take a backseat. Midway through, I think they got too attached to the game and added in some unnecessary side plots which meant they spent much of the conclusion time trying to tie everything up. Pyramid Head doesn’t even get a conclusion! Not to say that the town’s residents aren’t interesting (Alice Krige as their leader is boss), but I don’t think they needed to spend that much time with them as their overeall purpose is to just… die and be bloody messes. Aside from Krige, the acting also gets considerably worse- specifically, Bean’s accent starts to waver. Come on, Sean! If the second half had been written differently, Silent Hill would have been much more tolerable and interesting to watch instead of devolving into what gave horror and video game adaptations such bad reps at the time.