When her father disappears, Heather Mason is drawn into a strange and terrifying alternate reality that holds answers to the horrific nightmares that have plagued her since childhood.
The video-game movie genre is always something that has baffled me. On a basic level, why should I want to watch something that I would probably have more fun actually playing. More-so however it strips the medium from it's unique perspective on narrative. Video-game storytelling has come a long way from 'Save the Princess' or 'Shoot the aliens' and the Silent Hill series is arguably the best example of this development. A game should intertwine game-play and narrative (much like a film should tell its story through cinematic language,) - allowing the player and his actions to effect the events of the story. With Silent Hill, basic game design becomes an extension of the character's psychological state and the games thematic message. Enemies are not a means of obstructing progress, they are a twisted manifestation of the characters fears and desires. Decaying locals are more than mere tactics to unnerve, they are a template for an oppressive, omnipotent entity. 'Examining' certain objects will trigger different emotional responses which will effect the outcome of the story. Whilst many games have choices, often as simple as 'good' or 'bad', very few integrate as organically as Silent Hill.
The reason for this bloated introduction, the reason I'm telling you this, is to prepare you for my frustrations in the review to come. As a game, Silent Hill is the pinnacle of (and forgive me for using this term, but that's a different debate altogether) - one art form. This adaption however, is the lowest of another.
In the pre-title 'haunted fairground nightmare' sequence in 'Revelation' director Michael J. Bassett demonstrates his refined approach to cranking up atmosphere and tension with a dead goldfish sinking to the bottom of it's bowl, hitting the bottom with a might thud. As ridiculous as that sounds... it's undercut even further when you realize fish rise when they die. This is the madness that is Silent Hill.
So, the story picks up from the first one, which is a problem right away, you see unlike the Resident Evil adaptions which are virtually on annual release now, the first Silent Hill was released six years ago, and nobody cared enough to remember what happened, least not the writers who introduce a Deus Ex Machina along with a brief cameo for Radha Mitchell to fill in some gaps. She, rightly so, can't get out of town fast enough as she runs off into the gloomy fog via a mirror leaving Sean Bean's Christopher behind. The film is based, loosely, on the third Silent Hill game which is a successor to the first (the second being a standalone title.) By 'based' I mean it uses some basic plot elements and some iconic costumes for the characters, but that's more or less where any similarity ends.
Adeliane Clemens (who looks surprisingly like a younger Michelle Williams) plays Heather (or Sharon or Alessa she was known last time around) who is constantly moving because her father once stabbed a man in self defense. She starts a new school, knowing that it is only a few weeks before the whole process starts over again, a point she hammers home in a completely needless monologue in front of the whole class, channeling Bella Swan in excess. Within minutes Heather is hallucinating or day dreaming, it's never really explained nor is the delusional screaming girl even noticed by anyone around her. Except for Vincent, a shoe horned and rushed love interest, who may or may not (but most definitely is) hiding something played by Kit Harington. Neither manage to generate any feeling for their characters, but I feel this is an issue with the script more than actors. Wasting much more experience talent in Sean Bean's father. He's completely and utterly useless, just as he was in the first film. Even more bizarre is the cameo from Malcolm McDowell who hams it up so hard he projects himself into a six foot monster, it's perhaps the most amusing part of the film and worth looking up on Youtube.
Taking it's talk of ancient evil and demonic cults far to seriously, Bassett (who also wrote the screenplay) fails to impart any sense of foreboding. His lack of restraint with the pacing sidelines development and atmosphere for cheap scares that have little to no effect. Monsters come with so little build up and are dispatched with so easily that you begin to question what threat this 'hell' really poses. A problem only intensified by the film's poor structure, characters spring up from a 'convenient nowhere' to spout some convoluted expository babble before we're raced along to the next set piece, leaving us with very little investment in whats going on.
The games were designed to oppressively wear down the player, toying with them psychologically using sound design and imagery, while the pace escalated slowly through the game. The soundtrack, which the game's are also renowned for, were made up of industrial ambiance with melancholic piano and guitar riffs punctuating the horror with sombre, haunting hopelessness. Here, they grate incessantly out of place, all else is forgettable. The imagery is a crass attempt at grossing out the audience with icky effects, reducing the games Rosemary's Baby inspired theme of motherhood and rebirth to mere shock tactics. The 3D manages only to disguise the cheap sets from further embarrassment and it even lacks the predictable gimmicks that could have resulted in some low brow thrills.
The lowest point comes from series icon Pyramid Head, for the uniniated that would be the big guy on the poster with the... pyramid shaped head. Once a visceral and terrifying manifestation of a protagonist's violent and sexual urges, here he jumps to the rescue of our main characters to battle it out in a goofy 'final boss' style showdown. A baffling transformation that draws up comparison to Godzilla's reversal from destroyer to protector in the 60s.
Silent Hill Revelation 3D is a pointless, thrill-less ride through inconsequential gooey nonsense. It's infuriating disregard for the source material makes me wonder who this film is actually for; not the fans who are likely to pick it apart as I have, and I struggle to find a reason the public would connect with this, especially when there are much better horror offerings on at the moment, and that includes Paranormal Activity 4. No, this is a film in search of a quick buck from anyone it can entice down the rabbit hole with promises of madness and twisted scares, but they have been mislead, the only evil here is the uncaring money grubbers who rushed this out the door in time for Halloween. Heed the warning, don't go to Silent Hill.
I know content has been rather sparse on here for the last two weeks, and unfortunately that will probably continue for a number of weeks. As any other university student will let you know, work has a tendency to hit you all at once and as I type this to you now there is a niggle thought in my head to drag myself back to the books. Still I have plans for some good content on this site, including a retrospective on some older, undervalued science fiction films from an era gone by. As well as a continuation of the Absolute Cinema series among other things, but this leads me into my news...
I am now the Film Correspondent to the Arts section of the Yorkshire Times website (link). This opportunity came through a friend and is a chance I didn't think I'd see for a long time. Film criticism is something I've wanted to do for the best part of my life and to get such a jump so early on is practically a dream come true.
So be sure to check there over the coming weeks for my reviews and articles, as well as some of the other fantastic pieces on there that are well worth your time.