Open Road Films
Something wicked this way comes: PAR watches Silent Hill: Revelation (spoilers)
The first Silent Hill film is regarded as one of the better video game to film adaptations, which is like saying feces makes one of the best fertilizers. The first film told a story that was, in many ways, a complete opposite from its source material: Dahlia was portrayed as an innocent mother who was deceived, and Alessa was shown to be in cahoots with, presumably, the Devil. In the game, Dahlia leads the cult in Silent Hill and purposefully set her child to flame, while Alessa makes no bargain with any outside forces.
The good news is Silent Hill: Revelation is much, much closer to the story of Silent Hill 3. The bad news is that, as a sequel, it still has to acknowledge and adhere to the backwards motivations and lore of the first film. This makes for a baffling, confused plot that could be described as many things, though “good” is not among them. That being said, it is infinitely more fun to watch and more frightening than its predecessor, while giving lots of nods to fans of the series.
I have to go, because reasons
Silent Hill: Revelation is held back by its horrendous screenplay, written by the film’s director, Michael J. Bassett. Here are the basics: Long ago, a girl by the name of Alessa was burned alive by a cult after she was accused of being a witch. She survived, but her pain was so great that she called out to a supernatural force - presumably Satan - who turned the entire town into a nightmare realm called the Otherworld. There the cult would remain for all eternity, where Alessa would punish them, torture them, and kill them. Alessa also split her soul in two, one innocent and one full of pain, so that she could, at least to some degree, live a happy life. The innocent part is Sharon, who was seemingly trapped in the dimension of Silent Hill at the end of the first film.
Revelation gives a mumbo-jumbo magic reason for Sharon’s return to the physical world, where her father Harry raises her. The two are pursued by members of the cult, who cause the pair to move from place to place, concealing their identities. “Heather” isn’t really Heather, she’s Sharon. The cult members need her to return to Silent Hill so they can kill Alessa and escape.
But wait. If they’re trapped, how are they hunting her? Heather has nightmares of the town and hallucinations of monsters, and when she wakes, she scribbles down “Silent Hill” onto pieces of paper. But Alessa herself says that Heather was sent away so she could be free from the darkness and nightmares that plague the Otherworld, so why is she having them? And didn’t Alessa rejoin with her other half in the first film? Didn’t she kill all of the cult for that matter?
Harry seemingly hides all of Heather’s scribblings and information in a box, yet he leaves a note for her in the box that she is to read should something ever happen to him. What’s more, the box has an ominous-looking symbol carved into it for no apparent reason, and despite the implication that Harry has hidden it from Heather, she doesn’t seem the least bit surprised when she opens it. Indeed, finding the box is never explained; has Harry been keeping the notes as mementos? Why rip them out of Heather’s notebook and keep them? Especially if they’re not even hidden from her?
Adelaide Clemens does a great job as Heather, working well with her one-sentence lines. Sean Bean as Harry and Malcolm McDowell as Leonard are charismatic despite their short screen times, and Carrie-Anne Moss makes for a deliciously evil Claudia, again, despite the brevity of her role. Martin Donovan and Kit Harington play Plot Device A and Plot Device B respectively, or as the credits will list them, Douglas Cartland and Vincent.
Cartland’s appearance is essentially pointless, as he exists only to warn Heather that bad people are coming for her and want her to come to Silent Hill. Maybe it’s assuming too much, but I think she could’ve figured that out when she returns home to find “COME TO SILENT HILL” written in blood on the wall. The guy has a combined screen time of around 30 seconds, and it’s clear he’s only in the film because he was in the game.
Vincent’s character has been changed to take over the responsibilities Cartland had in the game, while also serving as a love interest and exposition-speaker. Because you know, it’s a female protagonist; of course she has to have a boyfriend. He comes across as annoying and nosy when the writers probably aimed for endearing and concerned. Every piece of dialogue he spouts feels incredibly, painfully forced. Most of his lines to Heather consist of things like “We should get to know each other,” to which Heather responds, “You don’t want to get to know me,” or “I don’t think you should go,” which is answered by “I have to go.” Every other sentence he speaks is preceded by “Look,” which is screenwriter-ese for “I have no reason to say this to you, but I need to so the audience feels like we’re connecting.”
Small spoiler: Perhaps the most glaring example of this is when Heather is attempting to escape the darkness of the Otherworld. She flees to a room full of mannequin parts, where she finds a girl cocooned in plastic. Heather frees the girl and asks her where she came from and how she got here. “We took a wrong turn,” the girl says. Again, let’s translate that to screenwriter-ese: “It’s been too long since someone got killed and this is a horror movie, so I exist to get caught and die.” Guess what happens to her. End spoiler.
3D horror: in your face
The horror in Silent Hill: Revelation is much more aggressive than it was in the first film. Creatures rush and leap at Heather and the camera, providing adequate scares and jumps. It’s not as creepy or unsettling as Christophe Gans’ vision for the first film, but it is more scary, which may be more important.
While this film is not as unsettling mentally as its predecessor, the film can still make you uncomfortable. There’s a wonderfully grotesque scene where Heather begins to hallucinate while at a mall food court, and the people around her transform into zombie-like monsters, ripping and tearing apart bloody meat. She stumbles her way through an employees only area, where we see a butcher cut a large slice of abdomen from a still-living man, hung upside down with a plastic bag over his head. It doesn’t feel all that “Silent Hill,” but it’s effective at turning your stomach.
Visuals are the film’s biggest success. You can catch it in 3D, which is the version I saw. The 3D effects were done very well and the image stayed crisp, with a nice sense of depth. The flakes of ash and creatures were particularly pleasing to watch, though these quality shots were tempered by far too many “pointy thing coming at your face!” moments.
The sets and monsters are also much more true to the Silent Hill universe than before. Pyramid Head and the nurses show up again, but so do a couple new creatures that match the tone and visual aesthetic of the franchise. Actors look like their video game counterparts, though they’re not exact copies. It all adds up to a film that’s fun to watch, but that’s the extent of the enjoyment to be found. The more you pay attention, the less it will make sense.
If you are paying attention however, you’ll notice a ton of references. Heather picks up a lead pipe to fend off an attacker, sorts through old maps that look like they were pulled from the games, one of her former aliases is discovered to be “Mary,” and characters from other Silent Hill games show up for nice cameos. The ending even leads, more or less, directly into the beginning of Silent Hill: Downpour. These little nods are nice if you’re a fan of the games; they make sitting through an otherwise unremarkable plot more bearable, as you can hunt for the next Easter egg.
When all’s said and done, this will be a good rental when it hits DVD shelves, and if you’ve got the tech at home, might even be worth showing off on a 3D TV. Until that time however, the cost outweighs the value. Characters are warned not to go to Silent Hill in the film. Maybe for once we should do what characters in horror movies never do: Listen.