A game effort, if largely unsuccessful.
I must admit to feeling like quite the nerd as the lights dimmed and that creepy banjo riff filled the auditorium, for I, dear readers, am a committed member of the Silent Hill community. Which is not to say I am either a member of a mentalist puritan religious sect nor a hell-spawned creature of unimaginable evil, but rather a fan of Konami's most awesome series of survival horror games for the home console market. If that means nothing to you then you might as well book a ticket for Ice Age 2 instead, because I doubt this big screen adaptation will satiate your craving for satisfying cinematic bravura. For those of us forever entranced by the atmosphere and brooding of the source material however, Silent Hill the movie proves quite the artistic dilemma.
For those not "down with the kids", Silent Hill follows the exploits of a mother (in the game it was a widowed father) named Rose Da Silva (Radha Mitchell - hot) as she seeks to solve the riddle of her daughter Sharon's (Jodelle Ferland - annoying) fevered dreams by taking her to the titular town, of which she speaks in her sleep. Now, it would be a tad boring if they got there and discovered the American equivalent of Weston Supermare, so instead they discover a perpetually fog-shrouded ghost town with a heinous secret, into which young Sharon duly disappears. Poor parenting if you ask me.
What ensues is combination of off-the-peg chase convention, vague, pseudo-religious babbling and outright freakish horror of the kind that sees faceless, contorted demons writhing in agony amidst swathes of blood-drenched, carnivorous hell-maggots. Hardly Songs Of Praise, then, and not something you necessarily want to take your granny to see, but gore hounds certainly get their money's worth even if the intellectualists in the crowd might well be struggling to contain their mirth. Everyone else, except fans of the game, will probably just be caught in a constant state of flux between mildly disturbed and woefully bewildered. So what of we fans, then? Clearly we stand to benefit the most from this transition to celluloid. Don't we?
Well, in some ways yes, and in others no. Silent Hill was always one of the stronger contenders for conversion from game to movie format, and it's certainly a wonder that material such as this had to wait for the likes of Tomb Raider and Street Fighter (snigger) to get there first. With it's roots firmly in the ever-popular horror genre, Silent Hill and it's sequels had genuine shocks, a fine balance between character and mysticism, atmosphere to die for, and crucially also sported a very nice line in cinematic camera angles and set design. Unbelievably for such a venture, much of this has been translated exactly (and I cannot stress exactly enough) to the big screen, with many of said sets, music and most impressively camera angles preserved in ridiculous detail for this outing. Unfortunately therein also lies the rub.
While copying and pasting all the look, sounds and even beasties across might make this the most faithful translation from game to cinema so far, it doesn't necessarily make it the best. Much of the atmosphere and thrills experienced in the game came from the player's interaction with the environment and characters, and without that interaction all the best intent in the world can't save the movie from crumbling under the weight of it's own ambition. Unfortunately, despite a talented cast (and Sean Bean), the cheesy scripting and subsequent moronic delivery are also transposed with some accuracy, relieving any sense of atmosphere that might otherwise have managed to seep in about the edges.
Ultimately Silent Hill becomes just another average horror movie, albeit minus the shagging teens and hugely contrived death throes we've come to expect. The reason I'm going to score it in the following manner is that I, as a fan of the games, found huge enjoyment simply in spotting the references, characters, set-pieces etc., kind of in a Where's Wally stylee but with extra intestines and torture by barbed wire for your faded blue fiver. That and the fact that it's clear a great deal of effort has been made, even if things misfire in a most unfortunate way. If you haven't the first idea what any of it is about, look forward to much scratching of heads and confused plot sifting, as well as a minus 1 from my mark. Oh, and stop laughing at Pyramid Head; it's really good at keeping the rain off, even if he does look like a Ginsters Fresh Sandwich, alright?
I award this movie 3 out of 5 Things. A Brave Effort.
Sean bean (Christopher Da Silva)
Laurie Holden (Cybil Bennett)
Deborah Kara Unger (Dahlia Gillespie)
Jodelle Ferland (Sharon Da Silva / Alessa)