Action Movie Fanatix Review: Silent Hill

Silent Hill banner

We’ve Been Expecting You.

Starring: Radha Mitchell, Sean Bean, Laurie Holden, Deborah Kara Unger, Kim Coates, Jodelle Ferland

Director: Christophe Gans

2006  |  125 Minutes  |  Rated R

“Only the demon knows where she is.” – Christabella

With most video game inspired movies the biggest complaint from game fans is that the movie strays too much from the source material.  With Silent Hill, my biggest complaint is that the movie feels too much like I am plodding through a video game… minus the fun parts.

After numerous sleep walking episodes, Rose Da Silva (Radha Mitchell) decides to take her adopted daughter, Sharon, back to her home town of Silent Hill.  Upon her arrival, Rose engages in a high speed chase with a police officer and ends up crashing her car.  When she awakes, Sharon is gone and Rose is at the entrance to Silent Hill.  Rose embarks on a blind search for her daughter, all the while getting sucked deeper and deeper into the horrors that surround this town.

So, Silent Hill is based on the series of video games by the same name.  I played the original game a long time back but I am sure I never completed it.  Having said that, I believe the movie came fairly close to the look and feel of the game if not the story.  Some small changes were made, chief among them taking the main protagonist and swapping the gender.  This change certainly didn’t bother me one bit but there may be some big time Silent Hill game fans that were pissed off.

The movie gets appropriately scary once the creepy little burnt creatures start swarming rose.  This is followed by the equally scary pointy-headed sword swinging guy.  But then it dies down into a dark and creepy, but never again truly scary, trudge through the town.  At many parts it felt as if I was playing the game, walking through the town, not knowing where to go but not advancing the game because I wasn’t doing the right things.  This is the big downfall for Silent Hill.

The movie also changes pace at this point going down a path that is more about disturbing, grotesque imagery rather than jumps and scares.  This is the moment where the movie goes from an average horror movie to a slow moving supernatural drama.

The special effects are particularly impressive at the outset of Rose’s journey into Silent Hill with ash constantly raining from the sky.  At times the entire world around her actually appears to erode away right in front of Rose’s (and our) eyes.  These were probably some of my favorite effects of the movie.  Unfortunately, not every bit of CGI magic was done quite so well.  After setting the bar so high it fell flat in the finale with obvious CGI barbed wire that looked like it was as thick as my wrist.

The meat of the movie is unfortunately the journey of Rose.  There’s nothing wrong with Rose or anything but her journey isn’t kept interesting.  The actiony / scary moments are few and far between and the movie probably could have pulled a puzzle element from the games to give us a sense that Rose is doing something other than walking around yelling “Sharon!” for two hours.

After wandering along, not knowing what is going on for far too long the movie slaps you in the face with a cut scene that seems right out of a video game that explains EVERYTHING.  It ends up feeling a little like the director didn’t quite know how to leave us breadcrumbs to get us to this point of realization ourselves – so he is left to force feed us a Silent Hill History Society educational film.

Then it hits you with an unexplained ending.  I’m not talking a “left for interpretation” type of ending.  I’m talking, I had to Google “What did the ending of Silent Hill mean?”  What I found was an explanation that was just about as long as this review.  I imagine if someone is a huge fan of the games they might get it more but I did not.  I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who might decide to watch so I will just recommend a Googling after viewing.

Even though I wasn’t particularly fond of the pacing of Silent Hill, I do have to admit, it is probably one of the more accurate video game to movie adaptations out there.  For some people this will be a huge selling point but for me the long haul to a inadequate conclusion left me disappointed and…well… a little bored.

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