WARNING: RIDICULOUSLY LONG REVIEW. ALSO SPOILERS.
Silent Hill: Revelations 3D has 6% on rotten tomatoes. Really?! I thought I was harsh. Seriously. That’s just mean. Even by my standards. I mean, did you people watch Cassadaga?
Poor SH3D – it didn’t have a lot going for it. They did take their time producing the sequel, especially considering the original had, at best, a Luke warm reception and at worst the sort of hysterical rejection usually only reserved for Uwe Boll. Add to that the routine bashing all video game adaptations get at the cinema (Prince of Persia accepted) and they really were fighting a losing battle. A one legged chicken with a tooth pick, versus a marauding horde of zombies.
With VG adaptations it seems you really can’t please everyone and in trying to do so, invariably end up pleasing no one at all. The fan boys are angry whatever you do: try and create something new and it lacks the ‘feel’ of the source material; include a homage and you are simply paying lip service. Of course pleasing all the demands of fanboiz would most likely lead to alienating the rest of the audience and/or retreading old ground. And that’s something which obviously horror films never do. Haha. Then of course there is that innate snobbery which is reserved only for horror and science fiction.
Well, I’m going to nail my colours to the mast and risk my reputation (hah) by stating: I liked the original. It wasn’t perfect but it had the feel of the games – and I love their central concept – so I was very happy that they kept the mythos of the Silent Hill world in tact. And the Silent Hill idea is deliciously Lovecraftian and darkly delightful in all the most creepy ways. They realised it well with fabulous visuals.
By ‘the mythos’ of the games, I don’t actually mean the canonical story. You can keep all that ‘demonic cult’ and ‘witch burning’ stuff. The only one of the games which has a particularly well realised story is Silent Hill 2, which takes something of a detour from the main thrust of the series’ narrative. And that story really is good enough to be adapted pretty much wholesale into a movie. Though it certainly isn’t the sort of story you would normally find in a horror and would probably prove a hard sell to any studio. They really don’t like investing in horror movies where we have to use our brains or engage our emotions at a sophisticated level.
The concept of a world shaped and populated by the anger, hatred and deepest fears of a tortured and disturbed mind is incredibly simple yet ripe for metaphorical and psychological imagery and meaning. In the film, as in the games, this is where the horror really manifests. While in the games the different characters who are trapped in Silent Hill can bring their own psychological nightmares to life, in the film they all come from the rage and suffering of Alessa Gillespie – a girl hideously burnt for being a witch, by the town’s aforementioned cult. She still ‘alive’, though horrifically disfigured and hidden away in the depths of this hellish world.
Corruption spreads visibly, disintegrating one layer of the world like burning flesh, falling away to reveal the deeper layer of horror beneath. The mist dimension or Fog World of Silent Hill is eerie, shrouding the horrifying creatures and acting as a buffer between our world and the Hellish Otherworld which arrives with the disturbing blast of the siren. The Fog World exists perpetually. Characters can become trapped there under Alressa’s influence. Disturbingly other people, like Rose’s husband Chris, can occupy the same place in time but be cut off from those inside the Silent Hill dimension. Because Silent Hill isn’t just a town, it is another level of existence.
The nightmare of the Otherworld is well realised and used sparingly. The film also suggests that this is when Alessa’s influence is at full power – and cannot be sustained permanently. Time spent there by the characters is nerve janglingly intense, every time the siren sounds all hell and darkness descends. I genuinely find these moments very scary.
Every creature is also rich with meaning, representing an aspect of the creator’s twisted mind. To appreciate this you really have to be familiar with the games, even though I appreciate that not elucidating on their meaning increases the mystery. The screaming child like creatures who burn from within represent either Alessa’s own suffering or anger at the children who tormented her, or both. The bubble-headed nurses are highly sexualised yet also disfigured and featureless – a representation of Alessa’s frustrations as a woman trapped in a ruined body from childhood.
Where it fell down was in leaving the audience deeply confused by the ending and – if you hadn’t played the games – the nature of the different realities of the Silent Hill world. Even fanboys struggled to make sense of the ending.
The other place where it fell down in a big way was the characters. It’s a shame that in a film that took the plunge and opted for a female dominated cast that the characters are all so disappointing. Rose is one dimensional: a woman who will do anything to save her child. Sybil is one dimensional: a woman who will do anything to save anybodies child. Sharon is one dimensional: somebodies child. Dahlia is one dimensional: she’s an unhinged woman who has lost her child. Christabllea is one dimensional: she eats babies.
All the characters are lumbering plot devices with horrible dialogue and even worse accents (I’m looking at you Sean Bean).
But for all that, I still like it because it looks really awesome, it feels really alien and it has lots of tantalising mystery and promise.
And then the fulfilment of that promise arrived: about 4 and a half years after everyone had stopped caring. And there weren’t many of us who did care to begin with. At the helm is the man who brought us Deathwatch (pretty good) and Solomon Kane (…) Michael J. Basset.
It follows the story of Silent Hill 3 game and is strewn with references, from Heather’s outfit to Robbie the Rabbit. What it lacks totally is any sense of fear. I really wasn’t scared at any point during this film and that is a big disappointment. For some people, the mannequin is terrifying and clever, for me it just doesn’t work. I’ve tried to find it scary – but if you have to try, it’s already failed.
The acting is ok. The script is…better than in the games (ouch). The monsters are uniformly shit and over reliant upon cheap scares and CGI (yuck).
It isn’t great, it spoon feeds you the story yet still manages to confuse the audience – which when you think about it is actually quite an accomplishment! But it isn’t that bad, really. There are much worse films that get let off much more lightly than this. It is hated because it is a video game franchise trying to flog a horse which is frankly in the later stages of decay, by jumping on the 3D bandwagon – which is also rapidly pulling away from the station.
Do what you should have done in the first place and make Silent Hill 2 into a film or push off. The world of horror would be greatly improved by some quality psychological-supernatural horror (
Superlogical? Psychonatural? No, those are both horrible). But you didn’t provide it!