Director Michael J. Bassett Talks Silent Hill: Revelation; Read the Review!
It’s been many years since our last visit to Silent Hill on the big screen, but I find myself returning to the original film often in the comfort of my own home when I’m looking for a moody, atmospheric creepfest… and I know I’m not alone.
With legions of fans of the first film and millions more fans of the video games, there was more than enough reason to unleash Pyramid Head and those odd sexy, stabby nurses once more. Dread Central sat down with Michael J. Bassett, director of Silent Hill: Revelation (review), to find out what’s on tap... in 3D!!
In Silent Hill: Revelation, Heather Mason (Adelaide Clemens) and her father (Sean Bean) have been on the run, always one step ahead of dangerous forces that she doesn't fully understand. On the eve of her 18th birthday, plagued by horrific nightmares and the disappearance of her father, Heather discovers she's not who she thinks she is. The revelation leads her deeper into a demonic world that threatens to trap her forever.
So speaks the synopsis of doom, but knowing they had some sizable shoes to fill, Bassett sought to delve deeper into the mythology. As an avid gamer (and already a Silent Hill fan before the first film), it became obvious that the best way to continue little Sharon’s story was to jump to game 3.
“Silent Hill 3 is a great framework for that. You have vomiting gods, which is a tricky character to do in a movie, but the foundation of that, making it the story of a child looking for her parent, as opposed to a parent looking for a child, which is what the first movie was... my challenge as the writer and director was to say, 'Okay, I’ve got to make a sequel to the first movie that makes sense and... with a little bit of baggage to figure out... with them being trapped in that other world.' Chris/Harry Da Silva (Sean Bean) can’t see her... so how does she get back? I have to explain that. Then I have to take the story from game 3 and adapt that in a way that makes sense for the sequel to the movie AND I have to write a story that makes sense to people who have NEVER seen Silent Hill, never played the game and do not give a shot about the mythology of Silent Hill. They just want to pay their money and see an entertaining horror movie.”
Knowing full well there will still be fans of the franchise that will immediately say, “You’ve fucked it up,” the crew pressed on and did their damndest to remain true to the source material. Bassett went on to say Silent Hill was one of the first games he really got into when he was younger, becoming emotionally invested in the story and characters. With that respect for what Konami created and a fond memory of the shit being scared out of him, Bassett hopes he has done the games justice.
Being that hardcore gamer, Bassett laughs, saying his gamer brethren will immediately take him to task for bringing Pyramid Head back into play, as the character did not appear in the third game. You can’t very well leave out such a striking character and, arguably, the most recognizable from the first film… so we’ll give that a pass. “We hope we’ve used Pyramid in a way that was appropriate to Heather’s psychological situation. In the game world Pyramid is a corruption of the executioner. In the new film that is used. He has a purpose. Heather is turning 18 in the movie, her father is still very important to her, so Pyramid represents masculinity and the power of masculinity and what it can do to protect and oppress at the same time. And I have another creature in this movie which is a very feminine monster who is a counterpoint to that masculinity.”
When asked about familiar visuals a gamer may drink in while watching, Bassett says there are a handful of places where they strove to make your heart bubbles pop. A lakeside amusement park, the carousel with fire burning around it as they descend into hell, combat between Heather and Dark Alessa all mirror in-game beats. I wondered how a fan of the games charged with juggling all those elements to make an easy to follow, killer horror film for the average person would go about mining that rich mythology for the perfect creatures. Basset said a lot of it had to do with what they could actually deliver. At the end of the day, there really aren’t a lot of monsters from game 3 in the movie, though it wasn’t for lack of testing those waters. Scenes were shot and abandoned.
“You try and select the monsters that are appropriate for the moment in the story. When Heather goes to the asylum to see Leonard, in the game you only see the monster. I really wanted to see the human personification so I called on Malcolm McDowell. He becomes the Leonard monster later on. In an asylum you are doing surgery on brains; it’s all about that kind of viscera so I thought let’s create what I call the Brain Monster, which is a guy who has had a lobotomy and his entire cranium has been opened up and you see all the skin resected, and that’s a PRACTICAL creature that Paul Jones and his team had created and it’s absolutely brilliant. This guy in this costume with his gangly limbs and all these pustules and open sores and his whole brain is exposed, no face, this sort of open broken mouth with all these teeth all over the place... That’s awesome!”
I asked if he had input in fleshing out the original monsters for this film. Basset said he did whip up some sketches and have a degree of input, though Paul Jones and Patrick Tatopoulos did the heavy lifting on creation. Bassett would say, “I want a mannequin monster, a spider-like creature made of mannequins.” The creatives would then take that concept and through discussion over what happens in the story and some old fashion brainstorming, a new adorable, flesh-ripping beast is born. It is worth mentioning that the mannequin monster is the only totally CGI creature in the film.
I asked if Basset prefers practical over CGI and was told yes, but almost totally from a point of being able to keep control over everything. An actor in a monster suit can be directed. “When we go into the digital world, I have to turn to my actors and say, 'Okay, this is a tennis ball and this will be reeeeally scary eventually... please treat it accordingly. When you see Red Pyramid, he is 8'2" with a huge fucking sword in his hand, and if you do not get away from him, something bad is going to happen.' That’s much easier to do. The choice is driven by I want the best movie I can get. I’m an old school guy! I like men in suits! It’s about making the right choices. The Silent Hill movie has a very polished aesthetic. It’s got the real world, the fog world with all the ash coming down, the darkness, and the transformation from these three worlds... the darkness falling with the world peeling around them, and it’s great in the first movie... we use it in the second movie, and in 3D it’s rockin!”
Bassett was asked the inevitable question of further sequels and remarked that one would expect with all those games out there (2 especially), there is plenty to mine for film. That may well be the case, but Bassett would rather start telling his own stories in Silent Hill, just as the graphic novels have been doing. “Come play in Silent Hill! What would your take on it be?”
Look for more throughout the weekend.
Open Road releases Silent Hill: Revelation 3D wide on October 26th. Sean Bean, Deborah Kara Unger, and Radha Mitchell return from the original film.
In the sequel, directed by Michael J. Bassett, Heather Mason (Clemens) and her father (Bean) have been on the run from mysterious and dangerous forces. She discovers she isn't who she thinks she is, leading her deeper into a demonic world.
For years, Heather Mason and her father have been on the run, always one step ahead of dangerous forces that she doesn’t fully understand. Now on the eve of her 18th birthday, plagued by terrifying nightmares and the disappearance of her father, Heather discovers she's not who she thinks she is. The revelation leads her deeper into a demonic world that threatens to trap her in Silent Hill forever.
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