Monday, 21 September 2020
Silent Hill
Written by Sandra Fitzpatrick   
Wednesday, 26 April 2006 17:57

Silent Hill is a beautiful mess

Much like the town of Silent Hill itself, this movie seems to exist in two alternate dimensions. In one it is a visually spectacular horror film directly from your darkest nightmares. In the other it is a stilted, poorly scripted mess.

The story introduces us to Rose Da Silva (Radha Mitchell) whose daughter Sharon (Jodelle Ferland) is a sleepwalker. One night, after her mother rescues her from jumping into a ferocious waterfall, Sharon cries out the words “Silent Hill”. Confused and frightened, Rose decides the only way to solve this problem is to take Sharon to the town of Silent Hill and find out why this is happening.

Along the way, they fall under the suspicious eye of a tough cop named Cybil (Laurie Holden), whose sprayed on uniform looks more like a strippers costume. (She looks exactly like the cop from the first game though!) She tries to pull Rose over on the road, which results in a ridiculous high-speed chase into the town. If I were a concerned mother I certainly wouldn’t be risking my child’s life driving through chain link fences!

Anyway, there’s an accident and Rose awakens to a fog obscured landscape where ash falls from the sky like snow. Sharon is missing and it is up to Rose to find her.

Believe it or not all of that takes place within the first 15 minutes of the movie. Needless to say, character development is lacking! But luckily things really hit their stride once we enter the town. It is quickly established that the town exists in three different dimensions. One is a sun-drenched reality where Rose’s husband searches for them. Another is the ash-covered landscape after the accident. And the third is a hellish realm that takes over when the air-raid sirens go off.

This third dimension is by far the most interesting and introduces us to nightmares worthy of HR Giger. Flaming childlike creatures toddle about and bugs with screaming human faces swarm. These tortured souls inspire sympathy as much as repulsion. In a bold move, the filmmakers relied more on actors with prosthetics than on computer effects! The payoff is big resulting in the freakiest creatures I’ve seen in years. Some highlights are a contortionist who scuttles out of the bathrooms wrapped in barbed wire; zombie nurses whose soft sighs and jerky movements bring to mind deformed marionettes; and Pyramid Head who sports an unwieldy metal cage over his head and a gigantic blade.

Silent Hill is probably the most credible videogame adaptation to come along in a long time. If you’re a fan you’ll find all sorts of nods to the game, bringing back memories of many sleepless nights staying up to play. My heart would start pounding every time I heard the air-raid siren or had to walk down a pitch-black stairwell. The movie does well at capturing those feelings of dread.

It is unfortunate that as much time and effort wasn’t spent on the story and script as on the atmosphere and effects. If I had to hear someone shouting the name “Sharon” again I think I would have gone nuts! This isn’t The Osbournes! Also, the parts where Rose’s husband (Sean Bean) searches for them are pointless and only detract from the film.

Oddly enough I’m hearing that a lot of people were confused by the story. If anything I thought it was over-explained. Religious fanatics and burning witches? Give me a break! That stuff has its place, but here it just serves to dull down the creepiness factor. Insanity is a lot scarier than revenge.

How can a film be two such completely different things at once? Silent Hill is artful meets cheesy, co-existing in one big beautiful mess. Oh, and by the way, it is extremely gory. Even I had to look away a couple of times! This is a tough one to rate but horror fans will find it worth seeing for the special effects. I will give it 6 stars out of 10.