Silent Hill: Revelations
by Bret Dorman
Video game movies have a bad rap for a good reason. Most of what makes the game fun doesn’t translate well to the the screen. Especially the Survival-Horror game genre. Instead of players actively trying to survive scary situations, an audience passively watches dumb characters make stupid decisions. Resident Evil had the right idea by turning its movie counterpart more into an action flick, it just didn’t do it extremely well. Silent Hill doesn’t even try the action approach and suffers for it.The Story: Heather but really Sharon (Adelaide Clemens) and her dad Harry but really Christopher (Sean Bean) are new in town. She awkwardly doesn’t even try to fit in and then her dad is kidnapped and taken to… SILENT HILL! Her and her new pesky/overly concerned kinda friend Vincent (Kit Harington) go try to find him. Things get weird. Secret societies get exposed. And revelations by some characters are apparently had. Also, (game franchise fan-fave) Pyramid Head has a (as in one) good scene.
First, my Silent Hill experience. I saw the first one on DVD. A lot of people hated it. After seeing it I liked it and thought it had some really good stuff. I bought it cheap on DVD. Years later I re watched it (although not too long ago, not even knowing the sequel was fast approaching) and all the stuff I liked wasn’t that great (except Pyramid Head ripping that ladies skin off and throwing it at the door, that’s awesome). A lot of the bad stuff I over looked was more dreadful the second time around. So I guess I am a fan of the first, but not a big one. I also played Silent Hill 3 on PS2. Or maybe Silent Hill 2? I was some dude. I loved the game though. It was legit scary, really got in my head. Good stuff.
Silent Hill: Revelations however starts off assuming no one has ever played any of the games or seen the first movie. The first half hour is wasted on settling into a new place we soon leave. Heather makes a school speech that basically outs her as a rebel and calls massive attention to herself by making fun of everyone. But really she doesn’t want any attention because her and her dad are on the run from the law. Oops! She has an extreme hatred for social media spouting off “fuck facebook” at one point, as if to make fun of the tween generation, who might assume the Twilight movies are “horror” movies of sorts. I’m sorry, but picking on those fans/movies does not make you tough. If you’re a heavy hitting horror movie you shouldn’t have to concern yourself with talking down others to prove your greatness, the horror/gore should do that.Vincent inserts himself into Heather’s life and accepts the mayhem of Silent Hill (written in blood in her living room) too easily for something not to be out of place. He keeps bumping into her, the first time being in the school hallways where he expertly covers up the coincidence by saying “I’m lost. I can’t find math.” Heather in the mean time runs away from her crazy visions that may or may not be reality. If Silent Hill, the town, has this much power over her then why does it need her to come to it? All the answers in this movie you will soon find out are “because that’s how magic, witchcraft, and secret societies work.” Rules and regulations are given the least amount of attention. I’m fine with just being told the basics, but it seems wasteful to have a conspiracy and cult condensed down to a bunch of loopholes and fine print.
SH:R isn’t all bad though. A lot of the imagery and use of CGI to add a layer of “grimy gloss” to the film makes it beautiful in a Francis Lawrence way, specifically Constantine (and yes, I mean that as a compliment). Once we finally reach Silent Hill (somehow?) the movie becomes much more interesting and all the sets have their own nice design. There’s an odd scene with a mannequin spider and a creepy scene with faceless nurses which are neat. But these ‘boss fights’ and ‘horror highlights’ just don’t make sense. The world of Silent Hill seems mostly fully realized, but not well understood. I liked Constantine because the viewer could fill in the blanks and learn the rules of the world by paying attention, but here stuff JUST happens because that’s JUST the way it is. Also, I’m still not a fan of CGI blood and gore (so much for being a ‘heavy hitter of horror’). And there are some weird places where CGI is used, like when Heather roams the streets and CGI people look at her from the buildings. The movie quite literally turns into a video game cutscene at these moments.
The cast is populated by some big, reliable names like Sean Bean, Carrie-Anne Moss, Malcom McDowell, Rhoda Mitchell, and Pyramid Head (as himself!) but these actors only really appear in short bursts. Sure the movie could use more of them, but its nice to see them at all. The real surprise is Adelaide Clemens (who yes, looks a lot like Michelle Williams). She sells all the scenes in just the right way and carries the movie as she is in most of its short run time. It takes a lot to be able to actually pull off some real AND fun acting in a movie as silly as Silent Hill, but she nails it.
SPOILERS!I’m not going to get into the small stupid stuff. We could pick apart all day how the Detective dude immediately finds Heather/Sharon and rats her out to a mysterious group and THEN researches them and finds out they are a mysterious super cult that only exists in an alternate dimension town. Or how the town of Silent Hill can only be broken out of if you have the two halves of a medal that’s super hard to get… or if you just really want to and fit some random selection process and cut yourself with a special knife in a ceremony. But pretty much any movie (especially horror) is filled with moments like this. So whatever.
But one thing that DOES bug me is the blade-face knife-hand assassin who literally kills the detective in Heather/Sharon’s dream world (or some real world accident that we are meant to take as influenced by Silent Hill’s presence). Not only are the logistics of that mind boggling, but then later when Heather/Sharon gives Carrie-Anne Moss’ character Claudia Wolf the medallion to show her true form, she turns into the Blade Face. So she *could* escape? But only in Blade Face form? Or does she, in that instance, turn into it for the first time? So who was the Blade Face from before? A premonition? Again, not quite sure how the rules work except when they are explained to me and I don’t question them any further. But hey, at least there’s some attempts!
Pyramid Head shows up to A) turn a carousel B) chop off some CGI arms of bad people (but then again, aren’t most Silent Hill-ians bad people?) and C) defend Heather/Sharon/Alessa from Blade Face. The fight is okay and filled with the typical fast cuts and shakey cam. Pyramid Head also awkwardly walks around lugging his big ass knife sword behind him. I’m not sure how accurate this is to the games, but I remember running into him and being ABSOLUTELY TERRIFIED. I don’t like the get into what I WANT from a movie, but I’d love to see a bad ass Silent Hill flick. Something like Hellraiser 1 or 2.Silent Hill works as a game and the story in those games is usually confusing and convoluted, like most conspiracy based games (did someone say Metal Gear?!) but there are plenty of bad ass things going on. When you are confronted by a Nightmare-ish Hell filled with crazy demon monster things, it seems to make sense that you’d want to have some confrontation with these things, not just run away from them (that’s what works in the games). Have Sean Bean lay a beat down on someone! Have a monster fight another monster! Have Heather/Sharon use some tricks and dismantle someone! Again, I’m not faulting the movie for not doing what I would have done, but I am saying no matter how good it does manage to do what it wants to do, it can only be so good.
By the end we are supposed to assume some people learn some lessons. I’m not sure what the big Revelation is here. Is it that Heather/Sharon and Alessa are the same person, but two different sides? You mean our main character is somehow connected to the biggest threat to Silent Hill? And magic is involved? Is the Revelation that the medallion brings out your true form? and that Wolf is Blade Face? Or is the Revelation that Pyramid Head is kind of a good guy? I’m not sure. But we’ll chalk this up to ‘Cool Subtitle To Help Us Differentiate The Movies’ Syndrome (also see The Raid but really The Raid: Redemption). Also, for a movie that goes out of its way to explain so much backstory and expostion, I looked up some trivia online (IMDB and its message boards) and there is a lot of Easter Eggs for the die hard fans. I’d love to see the rest of the movie treated as though we all just know what’s going on and explore more of Silent Hill’s nooks and crannies.
In Conclusion, I think writer/director Michael J. Bassett did the best with what he had. The only problem is that Silent Hill: Revelation is stuck in its games genre instead of breaking out and becoming its own. I don’t mind cheesy fun but there’s no reason you can’t be silly and over the top as well as completely bad ass. Midnight Meat Train is a good example of a silly little movie with a bad ass execution. Imagine that small scale brought to a bigger town.
Finale Grade: D+