Movie Review by Ania Kalinowska
Starring: Radha Mitchell, Sean Bean, Laurie Holden, Deborah Kara Unger
Director: Christophe Gans
This game-turned-film is about a mother desperately seeking her lost daughter in a spooky town called Silent Hill, the destination of choice for demons, human-headed cockroaches, and puritanical fanatics hiding in its bowels. But how did mother and child end up in the devil’s playpen? Well, strange as it sounds, mum brought her troubled little girl there to cure her sleepwalking ailment, and then they had a car crash, and when mamma woke up her kid was gone. Easy as that.
Silent Hill is, as the name suggests, eerily silent. Until Rose (Radha Mitchell) starts screaming, that is. See, there are several dimensions to this place; in fact, there must be at least four, and they’re there to screw around with the concept of time and space. The worst dimension is ‘the darkness’, momentarily taking over and breathing life into the mutants and ghouls that are the town’s unnameable residents. This is not only creepy, it is also weird. So if you were Rose, you’d scream too. And probably run for dear life. Yes, Rose runs. A lot. But not to worry, she doesn’t do it alone.
She has company in the form of an ass-kicking female cop that picks her up along the way. They sprint across the seemingly deserted town in a single-minded quest to find the child, who leaves them clues, and who at this point might or might not have something to do with being the devil incarnate. They also discover a community of God-fearing villagers who burn witches at the stake to rid the world of evil. Oooh, the plot thickens; sadly this only contributes to the film’s general state of confusion.
As for Rose’s husband (played by an earnest Sean Bean), I still have no idea what he’s doing here, simply because his character is pretty much useless until the very last scene. He’s probably fulfilling some hunky decorative duties or assuming a calmer sub-plot as an attempt to get a breather from the creepy crawlies of Silent hell. Alas, he goes nowhere and he does so on valuable screen time. Tut tut. On second thought, this would be worrisome if the film had something important to say and no occasion to do it in, but clocking in at over two hours, perhaps it should be allowed to dilly dally after all.
It isn’t without its merits though. Worth mentioning is the great filming technique. Some of the visual styles are a nod to the game in its original medium, so at times you really do feel like you’re part of the experience. The effects are also above average, as are the sets which do a great job in creating the chilling and disturbing atmosphere.
But the force pushing this endeavour forward is a generous dose of poptastic entertainment. Like in RESIDENT EVIL and DOOM, action and effect is the desired state of being, and the bigger, the better. It would be fair to say that SILENT HILL beats most game-to-film adaptations because there’s a genuine human purpose backing its story (mother-child relationships are after all a core to life itself). Granted, it almost succeeds in giving us a real hell on earth. Unfortunately it doesn’t have the script or the ingenuity behind its multi-levelled attempts to take the film any further. The sheer stupidity of the increasingly convoluted plot, as well as the repetitive nature of the stunts, eventually makes it an arduous affair.
For a slick popcorn flick this is the way to go. You might even get a fright or two! But don’t expect to pick your jaw off the floor after a silent bout of admiration. The film is just not good enough for that kind of ovation.