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Silent Hill: The Movie: The Review

posted on May 9th, 2006 by tony

Silent Hill is not your usual horror film. There are no promiscuous teens in peril. There is no lone psychopath that needs to be stopped by said promiscuous teens in the final scene. There is no supernatural/scientific/alien explanation other than bloody revenge and damning the souls of your enemies to a life of everlasting torment and pain. There is no happy ending. Speaking of which, there will be mild spoilers throughout this review so be forewarned.

As a fan of horror movies, I think it’s very well done. Director Christophe Gans (Brotherhood of the Wolf) does a great job setting up the world the movie will be taking place in without getting bogged down in usual horror movie fare. Rose (Radha Mitchell) decides she and her adopted daughter Sharon (Jodelle Ferland) must take a trip to Silent Hill after months (years?) of strange behavior culminating in Sharon almost plummeting to her death while sleepwalking.

Cut! Cut! … Ricky left the damn fog machine on again.

That’s the opening scene. No long explanations about the family; no personal interest stories; no “look how normal things are … BOO!” It doesn’t take long for them to get to the titular ghost town and you’re given just enough information to understand that people don’t go there and aren’t very helpful to people who are trying to get there.

Visually, the movie version of Silent Hill is quite faithful to the games it takes its inspiration from. After a car accident on the access road to the town, Sharon disappears and Rose goes looking for her. The constant cloud of smoke from the underground coal fires lends the right amount of eeriness to each scene. There’s something inherently creepy about low visibility when you know there’s evil things lurking just out of sight. When a strange air raid horn sounds and the evil things come out to play the decrepit and deserted town transforms into a pit of flaming death, making it seems a character unto itself.

It’s round about there where the movie gets unsettling. Warped baby corpses burning from the inside out, fleshy walking sacks that spurt acidic blood, twisted bodies wrapped with barbed wire dragging themselves around and of course Pyramid Head with his giant rusty butcher knife and his army of fist-sized roaches with almost-human faces. Everything is sapped of color except the oozing bloody walls. Pale gray demons wait around every corner.

It was during these scenes where the movie did justice to the license. There are a lot of nods to fans of the franchise and all of them fit perfectly into the movie as well. One scene requires Rose to pull a note from the mouth of a hanging corpse in a bloody bathroom stall behind a net of barbed wire. I could almost see the dialogue box saying “There appears to be a map in the mouth of that corpse. Reach into corpse? Yes …. No.” In the game you sit there and think “I don’t know … that’s kind of creepy and I’ll probably need both of my hands for the later levels,” but you know you’re going to do it anyway.

Another scene involves Rose needing to memorize a cryptic building map which could mean life or death in the event of a wrong turn. Multiple times in the games I’ve turned down the wrong path and met my gruesome demise. Speaking of which, the death scenes in the movie are quite gory. Flesh torn from bodies, people being eaten by swarms of bugs, and the most horrific burning alive scene I think I’ve ever seen. One review I read said if you took the most gruesome four minutes of this movie and edited them together you’d have the single greatest GWAR video ever. I agree.

Ladies and gentlemen … Stevie Nicks!

Where the movie faltered was in the last half hour or so. For some reason, the writers felt the need to walk the audience through the explanation three times. The first time involves the leader of the fanatic survivors explaining to her followers why things have happened and why they have to live in this evil place. They attempted to burn a child they believed to be a witch but their lovely bowl of cleansing fire tipped over and set the town ablaze, killing almost everyone in the process. Evil was released and they believe the apocalypse has destroyed the rest of the world sparing the only the church they live in.

We know from the investigation of Rose’s husband Chris (Sean Bean) that there’s more going on than we think. He and the town’s sheriff find the crashed car minus the two women and go looking for them in Silent Hill. We find out there was a horrible accident that the locals are trying to cover up and that Sharon is somehow connected to the girl who was burned as a witch forty years ago. The real world version of the town looks nothing like the one Rose is trying to escape from. On more than one occasion we see Chris and his wife occupying the same location and not seeing each other and the audience makes the realization that Rose and Sharon aren’t in the land of the living anymore.

But wait! We need to go over that again. So we get a fifteen minute long version of the same story from the little girl’s perspective, nice and grainy looking as proper evil flashbacks should be, narrated by Sharon’s creepy alter ego. Surprise, surprise … Sharon is the daughter of the witch girl she looks exactly like. All of this exposition brings the movie to a screeching halt. Everything was going great up until the writers tried to flex their muscles. Thankfully they redeem themselves in the final scene with a totally bitchin’ barbed wire octopus monster that destroys the fanatics and their sanctuary.

Overall, the movie is unique enough to be worthwhile, especially if you like the games. While it’s not a perfect adaptation, it’s as close as I think a director can get without ripping the cut scenes from the games themselves. Taken strictly as a horror movie I think it’s fantastic. Creepy as hell, a ton of atmosphere, great creature design and enough gore to satisfy most horror buffs. There are way too many reworked Japanese ghost stories and psycho killer movies if you ask me. When you look at the current crop of movies they try to pawn off as being edgy and unique do you see any burning baby corpses? Didn’t think so.

9 Comments

  1. Billy said on May 9, 2006:

    Second opinion:

    This was a terrible film. I am a huge horror fan and this is one of the stinkiest I’ve seen in some time. And thats saying something for a genere plauged with money shortages and bad actors.

    I bought all the demonic stuff on faith, its a horror movie. However the continuity was dreadful, the characters were 1 dimensional and stale and they had the WORST speaking lines I have ever heard next to Troll 2 or 3.

    Graphically the film was semi appealing to the eyes, and there was a lot of gore I enjoyed. However that didnt make up for the terrible and convoluted story turns, terrible acting, bad speaking lines, and all.

    I would grade this film a D or a D minus if I was feeling kind of crappy. The one redeeming quality was to see someones skin getting ripped off, other than that the rest of the film was a waste of time.

    We actually had people laughing in our audience at some of the dialogue.

  2. Tony said on May 9, 2006:

    Oh come on. Video game movies NEVER have good dialogue. Horror movies NEVER have more than one dimensional characters. I fully agree that the writing was horrible, but all the writing was in the last 30 minutes of the movie. For that first hour, it was entertaining enough and unique enough for me to give Gans credit. I mean, look at the what we had before this: The Grudge, The Ring and the Ring 2, Amityville, Wolf Creek, When a Stranger Calls, The Hills Have Eyes, Stay Alive, Cursed, Dark Water …. tell me any of those movies are better than Silent Hill.

  3. Billy said on May 9, 2006:

    We also had Saw, Dawn of the Dead the Remake, Dead Reckoning, and 28 Days later, not to mention a personal favorite of mine just for the fun factor Cabin Fever.

    This movie was sub par on every level. I am kind of a movie buff, and elitest to a degree so maybe my tastes are a little more discerning but this movie was on par with Mortal Kombat the film and Resident Evil 2 (the film). It was just poorly done.

    A few good moments dont make up for the utter lack of talent that permiated throughout the rest of it.

  4. jay said on May 9, 2006:

    I generally dislike horror films but I was pleasantly surprised by Silent Hill. Knowing Tony liked Land of the Dead and that the guy who did the horrible Brotherhood of the Wolf did this, too, I went in expecting to hate the movie. I disliked it for a good 20 minutes or so but eventually gave in after a scene that created palpable tension. Horror movies generally don’t frighten me at all. Not because I’m super macho, but because I generally don’t care about any of the characters and the methods of death are usually extremely gorey but not psychologically stressful.

    This wasn’t good compared to real films, but it was solidly entertaining and much better than any video game movie I’ve ever seen. The fact that the critics seem to hate it as much as anything Boll puts out is a sure sign they either don’t watch the movies they review or are idiots. Probably both.

  5. Billy said on May 10, 2006:

    [Comment ID #302 Will Be Quoted Here]

    You mean, if the critics hated it the only reaosn could be that they didnt watch it or were jagoffs? Thats sound logic. What if the movie just really sucked?

  6. jay said on May 10, 2006:

    If you thought Blood Rayne or Alone in the Dark was a better movie than Silent Hill I do not know what to say. We are working on entirely different criteria of what makes a movie good.

  7. Billy said on May 10, 2006:

    I dont recall saying they were better movies is it possible that they all suck together? I think it is, and I will say that they do. Silent Hill doesnt Resident Evil 2 suck, but it certainly Resident Evil 1 sucks.

  8. jay said on May 10, 2006:

    I know what you said, you don’t seem to know what I said, though.

    “The fact that the critics seem to hate it as much as anything Boll puts out is a sure sign they either don’t watch the movies they review or are idiots.”

    When taken out of context (by only reading half of the sentence) it may look like I am saying the ciritcs are idiots because they disliked Silent Hill. This is apparently how you took it. When taken in context (read the whole sentence, not just the half that allows you to make arguments against strawmen) I am saying that the critics are idiots because they see no difference between Boll quality films and Silent Hill.

    This isn’t a forum for arguing details of nuanced arguments and “pwning” people who disagree with you. It’s fine that we disagree but next time don’t be so quick to jump on someone’s logic.

  9. Billy said on May 11, 2006:

    Wait, so youre saying that is a difference between this films quality and Bolls? I wouldnt have thought so. But youre right, agree to disagree. Although I dont know why your opinions get to be facts and mine gets to be just an opinion.

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