Silent Hill review by The Grim Ringler

What did you think of the movie?

It was crap.

Such were the musings of two fellas I overheard in the mens room after the film. I guess its safe to say that they were unimpressed. Eh, fine. Though, I have to be honest, every time I hear someone speak as such I want to ask them, seriously ask them so what is a good scary movie to you? Which is not to say this was or was not a good film, but merely is to have someone question what they find scary. Hell, if you look at a lot of the movies making money I wouldnt say that many are truly funny, thrilling, or scary, but, heck, what do I know, right? Well, what I know is that I too saw Silent Hill and, unlike the gentlemen I overheard, I liked it quite a bit. Though I didnt feel that way at first.

A young couple is having trouble with their daughter, a girl they adopted several years earlier from an orphanage. Of late she has taken to sleep walking and speaking of a town called Silent Hill. Her latest midnight stroll almost took her over the edge of a small cliff and her parents are at odds with what to do. The father feels its time to bring in some experts and let her be hospitalized to see what they can find. The mother on the other hand feels that the heart of the mystery lies within the city of Silent Hill itself. Only, Silent Hill is a ghost town, abandoned after an explosion in the mines there took much of the citizens. Making a series of questionable and honestly stupid choices (stealing the girl from the father, evading the police, running a barricade and such), the mother makes sure that her daughter reaches the place of her dreams. Only, the city they find is more like something from ones nightmares. After running her SUV off the road and knocking her head pretty well, the mother awakens to find that her daughter is gone. Frightened, the mother heads into the thick fog that surrounds Silent Hill in search of her daughter. She finds an abandoned world that looks as if time has frozen with cars still parked on the side of the street and businesses looking as if they might still be open for business. As she is searching a siren sounds and what dim light there was disappears, leaving her in the darkness to search for her child and finding that in the darkness, she is far from alone. Whatever Silent Hill is, its evil, and it is full of creatures that want nothing more than to kill any and all who enter the city limits. But why is her daughter drawn to this place? And what indeed is Silent Hill? The answer may well lie in the darkness just as much as it lies in the past, a past this mother may well have to enter in order to save her daughter. If she really wants to be saved that is.

This film is as much a thriller and mystery as it is a horror film. The story of the town, and of what happened to it and more, what happened in it is the heart of the story here. Its a tale of revenge and the deep power that an evil act has to change the world. There is a lot of love in this film the love of parents for their children but there is just as much hatred and fear, and that is what overpowers the love here. Silent Hill is a nightmare place. A place where reality is tenuous at best and where the past and present co-exist, overlapping one another and creating a new place in existence. A place stained by the sins of the past. There is an interesting mix of the old and new here. The old being in the story telling. There is no rush here to explain things or to kill off twenty people in a few minutes. No, the emphasis here (much like the game) is on building tension and terror, and this they do very, very well. The new in the film is the use of CGI for gore, the use of extreme acts of horror to break the stillness of the film, and the willingness to create images that will sicken some. This is not just an adaptation of a video game, this IS the video game brought to life.

Director Christophe Gans has nailed the mood and feel of the video game series. Instead of trying to re-make that world in his own image, he has taken what existed there and used it as a template to create this new world, this new Silent Hill that is so much like the old one. Tension and atmosphere rule here, and there is a genuine sense of danger and horror. What Gans gets about horror is that yes, you can have the gore, but if you dont give us characters we care about (and as stupid as the mother is in the film, you do feel for her, and the daughter), and give us moments where you build up to the horror, then you have us. You have the audience. Credit the games original music coordinator for the atmosphere as well due to its sparse, haunting nature. Instead of overloading the film with bombast, they allow the movie to breathe and create tension without demanding we be scared with an obnoxious and obvious score. There is also a sadness that permeates the film that, again, comes from the games. The biggest strength in this film is that it doesnt explain everything. Yes, you will have to put on your thinking caps. Yes, some questions go unanswered. And yes, these are good things.

The biggest plight of the film is that there is too much explanation, to be honest. There is a sequence where we are told what really happened in the town and it feels unneeded. It feels like they could have done this without ten minutes worth of flashbacks. I can appreciate that some audience members may need to have the plot explained to them in such a way but, really, it slows the film down and is too heavy-handed. The other major knock is that the climax is LOOOOONG. I liked it, but it did feel as if it might have been shorn of a few minutes. I think what bothered me most was the sheer idiocy of the mother as she heads to Silent Hill. I mean, if she is so concerned for her daughter, she sure doesnt act like it. She goes to the town against her husbands wishes. She acts shady to a policewoman and then evades her when she is pulled over. She drives recklessly. And more than a few times she disappears when the policewoman is trying to help her find her daughter. UGH! Frustrating.

I just think that writer Roger Avary just dropped the ball on some of that. He nails the horror, but wow, with the lead up to the town, its not pretty.

I really liked this film. It has so many levels to it, and has so much to explore. The creatures are amazing and Id love to see a movie with just them. HAHA. There are some problems with pacing, logic, and over-explaining things but its a movie, if you can go with it, youll be ok. It was nice to see a hardcore horror film that is brutal, but isnt cruel. Easily one of the best adaptations of a horror video game. Easily. Very creepy movie.


7 out of 10 Jackasses
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