Silent Hill (DVD)
Starring Radha Mitchell, Sean Bean, Laurie Holden, Deborah Kara Unger, Kim Coates, Alice Krige, and Jodelle Ferland
Directed by Christophe Gans
Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
I'll never forget getting my Sony Playstation. Why? Because I bought it for one reason: a little game named Resident Evil. It blew my mind, man. Finally a game was available on shelves that did thorough justice to the horror genre. I never thought it could get any better than this. Fast forward three years, and a company named Konami upped the ante. Silent Hill was unleashed on an unsuspecting public, and it offered something a bit different. Sure, there were the prerequisite action sequences pitting the player against hordes of creatures, but the storyline itself had something that no other video game at that time did -- emotion. You cared about the characters. They were more than just digital sprites. Like becoming engrossed in a good movie, you could sympathize with the folks you were investing time in. In fact, I'd venture to say that Silent Hill was the most cinematic game of its time.
Video games do not always make the best fodder for feature films. There have been a few good ones here and there, but usually we get Grade Z crap *cough* Boll *cough* made strictly for a quick tie-in sale. If ever there was a game that was rife with the opportunity to become a great movie, it was Silent Hill; and other than a few shortcomings like Rhadha's on-again/off-again accent and some goofy dialogue, Sony's big screen foray into the land of nightmares and ash totally delivers.
Meet the DaSilva family. They're just your ordinary folks, indistinguishable from the pack except for one small thing -- their daughter, Sharon (Ferland), has a tendency to wake up screaming about a town neither of them has ever visited or heard of: the sleepy little town of Silent Hill. Distraught over her daughter's condition, Rose (Mitchell) decides that it's time to take Sharon to the place that's been getting her ghost. Of course her husband, Christopher (Bean), thinks that this is an absurd notion and forbids it. After all, somebody has to remain rational in an irrational situation. There's an old saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and I'm sure you've guessed by now that Rose, thinking that she knows better, doesn't listen to her hubby. The stage is set, and she's off to Silent Hill with their daughter in tow.
Things go to shit for the duo straight away. For starters, Rose ends up in a high speed police chase in which she wrecks her car and is knocked out. Upon coming to her senses, she finds herself at her intended destination. After all of the turmoil they've finally arrived, but then Rose comes to the disturbing realization that Sharon is nowhere to be found. With no other choice, Rose begins her journey into town to look for her daughter. It's a journey that will bring her face to twisted face with her deepest fears. Can Christopher catch up with his family? Will Rose find Sharon, and if so, will they find the cure for her malady? Sounds like some kind of soap opera, doesn't it? Well, rest assured, dearest reader, nothing sappy occurs here. Just slimy. Silent Hill is a living, breathing, descent into Hell.
Silent Hill was described by one cast member as a mixture between Alice in Wonderland and Dante's Inferno. That's pretty damned accurate. This rabbit hole leads to a very familiar devil's den. Fans of the games are sure to find themselves in a state of nirvana. Everything they've loved about the series is here from the haunting music to the nail-biting nightmarish atmosphere. Some of the shots in Silent Hill were lifted directly from the games down to the last detail. Even the camera moves were mimicked with painstaking attention to the film's source material. The truest of fan-boys are bound to find themselves gushing. Speaking of gushing, Silent Hill happily makes with the red stuff. In the last third of the movie bodies are torn, burned, eviscerated, slashed, tortured, and then torn again. The gore gods will be pleased.
Viewers who are not fans of the game may find themselves in a bit of a different boat. While the monsters and the violence will do a lot to keep the uninitiated's attention, they may be kind of lost. Truth be told, the Silent Hill saga has never been known for its coherency. The main complaint I heard from folks after seeing this flick was that it didn't make any sense. Know what? I played and beat all four games, and while I knew what was going on for the most part, they didn't make a hell of a lot of sense either. The crux of Silent Hill's various storylines is left up to the user's interpretation. People are either going to dig on this or hate it. There's not much room for the in-between.
Another question that comes up all of the time is which game is this film's storyline based on? Here's your answer: All of them and none of them. Director Christophe Gans has not made a movie based on the events of a game. Instead he's crafted a film that takes place in said game's universe. Silent Hill the movie takes its place comfortably within the mythos and stands as just another instance of weird shit that goes on at the spookiest place on Earth.
Know what I find most spooky about this DVD? It's not the gratuitous nude ass shots of Pyramid Head (or Red Pyramid as some call him) contained within Silent Hill's supplemental material, but the lack of extras found on the DVD as a whole. Don't get me wrong; we get nearly an hour of extra material, but my Double Dip Senses™ are indeed tingling. I'm sure there are deleted scenes and alternate takes aplenty out there somewhere. Maybe even a commentary or two? Hell, how about a retrospective on the game itself and its creators? There's so much room for more, and maybe one day, let's just say next year or so, we'll get the edition fans will be no doubt yearning for. We shall see. In the meantime what we have here will have to suffice. Path of Darkness: Making Silent Hill is broken down into six small parts. Everything from the film's origins to the choreography of the creatures is gone into in brisk detail, and for the most part these featurettes do their job competently.
While watching, one thing becomes abundantly clear: Those involved with this project actually gave a shit about the fans. Unfortunately, that's a true rarity nowadays. I'd be remiss if I didn't offer a tip of the hat to Gans and company not only for their understanding of what this film needed to be in order for it to shine, but for the respect they have for its loyal following. Bravo.
The journey to Silent Hill is one that should be made several times. Having sat through it three times myself (twice in the theatre), I can honestly say it gets better with repeated viewing. The extras are a bit on the disappointing side, but I'd buy this disc even if it were bare bones. As a matter of fact, I'd . . .
Note to the readers: Unfortunately, UC was beamed aboard a UFO before he could finish this review. He has sent word that he is OK and in no way being probed by aliens. We hope for his speedy return.
- The Dread Central Staff
Path of Darkness: Making Silent Hill featurettes
4 out of 5