Reviewed by: Phantomhour (Brendan Graham)
One of my favorite game franchises of all time just happens to be the Silent Hill series from Team Silent and Konami. Nothing has been quite as immersive as the fog you must find your way through in order to uncover the truth of the mysterious and quite frightening happenings going on around the resort town of Silent Hill. The games take a deep psychological approach in messing with the player, with intensely grotesque monsters, deeply disturbing story lines, and some of the best environmental designs in any game. So naturally when Sony Pictures announced that they were making a film adaptation of the first game fans reacted in a few different ways, including detesting the film before it was even released. I was one of the many fans who were intrigued by what they could accomplish on the big screen with the town of Silent Hill. How did they do?
If you’re unfamiliar with the story of this film, it takes after the very first game that came out for PSX (of Playstation 1 for those not in the know). In the game, Harry Mason and his daughter Cheryl, are driving out to the resort town of Silent Hill, when a mysterious figure appears in the road and causes him to crash his car. When he awakes, he finds that the world is literally shrouded in fog and his daughter Cheryl is gone. The movie, however, changes things a bit. Instead of a male protagonist, we get Rose Da Silva (Played by Radha Mitchell). Her and her husband Christopher (Played by Sean Bean) are having a bit of trouble with their adopted daughter, Sharon (Played by Jodelle Ferland). She keeps sleepwalking into dangerous situations, and she always mentions the name of a town called Silent Hill. Worried and perplexed by the behavior, Rose goes against her husband’s wishes and takes Sharon to Silent Hill, along the way being chased by police officer Cybil Bennett (Played by Laurie Holden). Christopher decides he’s going to try and find them, and that’s all you need to know in order to move forward.
What Worked: We all know it’s incredibly hard to translate the world of a video game into a movie, we saw it crumble apart with the Resident Evil films gradually over time, and don’t get me started on that awful Doom movie with The Rock. With that said, Silent Hill looks gorgeous in this film. The detailing in the destruction of the town, between the rusty world, the foggy world and the real world that Christopher Da Silva is running around in, all look amazing. The visual effect design of the fog and how it interacts with the ash falling from the sky and the environment around the characters is breathtakingly accurate to the game.
The sound design is also immensely effective (mainly because they use a lot of the sounds from the game series, which is an epic win). When you hear the siren go off for the first time and the darkness comes over the town, it’s an incredibly intense and quite immersive experience, definitely a stomach churner later in the movie as it cues you into more demented madness coming up. The make up design is also pretty top notch, especially on the monsters, a lot of fan favorites make an appearance in the movie which is a good point and also a bad point to the movie. (I’ll explain later). Another Double edged sword I’ll mention is the acting in the film, some of it’s pretty good, and some of it’s absolutely awful. I’ll get to the awful ones a little later. Radha Mitchell is a very strong choice for Rose, and she plays the motherly role quite well, and I gotta give her a lot of respect for doing a lot of the stunt work her character endures in the film. Sean Bean plays a pretty good husband and father, searching the town of Silent Hill for his wife and daughter. Laurie Holden as Cybil Bennett and Deborah Kara Unger as Dahlia Gillespie, put in pretty good performances as well. It’s also worth noting that Alice Krige as Christabella is rather good as well.
What Didn’t Work: As much as I do enjoy the movie, somewhat as a guilty pleasure at times, there is quite a bit to dislike about this film. If you’re a big fan of the games, and you’re familiar with the story of the first Silent Hill, you’ll notice they changed a lot to the story, and to the point where it gets quite silly. The church cult of witch burners? Really? That’s the best they could come up with instead of what actually happens in the game? I could forgive the change from Harry Mason to Rose Da Silva, but a lot of the disturbing and demented happenings in the game don’t transfer to the movie well, and it’s rather disappointing.
I mentioned above the presence of fan favorite monsters was both good and bad. As much as I enjoyed seeing Pyramid Head in this movie (especially when he takes out a rather obnoxious character) he is not supposed to be there. He is a manifestation intended only towards the main character of the game Silent Hill 2: Restless Dreams, thus as cool as he is in the movie, many fans are very disheartened by his appearance in the wrong story. Back to the acting, some of it is absolutely atrocious, which may not all be the actor’s faults as the script and the dialogue within are all pretty badly written, with some lines being downright funny or just painful to listen to. Anna, played by Tanya Allen, is one of the most guilty of just being awful, so is the detective that takes Christopher through the town of Silent Hill (Kim Coates as Officer Thomas Gucci). The actress that plays Sharon and a few other characters close in appearance (you’ll know why when you watch the movie) is often criticized for being one of the worst actresses in the film, I note this here because I don’t agree with that assumption, she had the hardest roles in this whole film and for being so young, it’s actually quite impressive. However,her dialogue is some of the worst as well, so it’s a hit or miss type of performance for different people, so I’ll leave it up to you.
I thought long and hard about what to give this movie, and this score will probably vary between person to person. As I had said above, this movie is a guilty pleasure of mine and thus I couldn’t give it a mediocre like a lot of people would probably give it, if not worse. Despite all the films issues with story, characters and script that make this movie sound like a brand of torture, the reason I have it an OKAY is because the design of the movie is just fantastic, the make up effects are well done, the sound design is jarring and intense and just seeing one of the most iconic towns in all of survival horror brought to life, makes Silent Hill one of those movies that I still watch to this date, even though a lot of it pains me in context with the brilliance of the games.
Silent Hill gets a 6 out of 10 from me. Your personal scores may vary however.