Silent Hill: Revelation Director Opens Up On Movie’s Failings; “It Was a Nightmare Dance”
Silent Hill: Revelation director MJ Bassett has spoken in-depth about the failings of the sequel. Silent Hill is one of the most iconic video game horror franchises, but fans have had a rough time the last five years. 2012’s Silent Hill: Downpour is currently the last entry in the main series, and while it added some interesting mechanics it was nowhere near as terrifying as earlier entries.
Fans later had their hearts broken by the cancellation of Silent Hills, a sequel that would have teamed Metal Gear Solid director Hideo Kojima, Guillermo del Toro and Norman Reedus. A terrifying demo dubbed P.T. was released for the game and became an instant classic, but a falling out between Kojima and publisher Konami caused the game’s cancellation in 2015. On the bright side, all three men have reunited for Kojima’s next game Death Stranding.
The final disappointment was Silent Hill: Revelation. The movie is a direct sequel to Christophe Gans Silent Hill, which is cited as one of the best video game adaptations to date. Gans recreated the look and feel of the games and the movie featured beautiful sets, cinematography and camerawork, with some memorable scenes of horror too. That said, it was hampered by clunky dialogue, a needlessly complicated story and a worthless Sean Bean subplot.
When Gans opted not to return, MJ Bassett (previously credited as Michael) was hired to write and direct. In addition to being a fan of the games, her previous work on Deathwatch and Solomon Kane showed a flair for both psychological horror and working with monsters, so it seemed like a natural fit. Unfortunately being tasked with making a direct sequel, an adaptation of the third game, a movie that would satisfy gamers AND something accessible to a wider audience proved too much of a balancing act.
Trying to merge the conflicting storylines of the original movie and the third game made the story even messier. It retconned huge chunks of the first movie and even created an icky plothole whereby the main characters – played by Adelaide Clemens and Kit Harrington – are love interests who don’t appear to realize they’re actually cousins. Outside of a handful of positives – such as Clemens lead performance and an unnerving mannequin creature – the movie is pretty poor. While Silent Hill: Revelation just about turned a profit, it was critically lambasted and roundly hated by the fanbase.
Bassett got honest about Revelation on a recent episode of The Movie Crypt, admitting to the film’s faults and describing the type of movie she wishes she’d made. When asked by Adam Green if there was any project she knew wasn’t working, one movie leapt instantly to mind.
Well it’s Silent Hill for me, isn’t it? You know I went into it trying to make a certain kind of film and it just didn’t work. It didn’t fall together, pieces didn’t fall together, and that was partly me trying to second guess what my producer wanted. We’d made Solomon Kane together. You know, so I really loved this guy and I wanted to make a movie he liked. With Kane, it was like that’s my movie, it was like “Fuck you I know how to make this movie,” and I’m going to argue with you and I’m going to get what I wanted.
With Silent Hill I felt it was much more a collaboration, and by the way, I wrote it and directed it, so its failings are my failings. But in hindsight, I should have fought for a more personal kind of vision for it. But I couldn’t satisfy the gamers, I couldn’t satisfy the audience, it was one or the other.
Silent Hill: Revelation came smack dab in the middle of the whole 3D fad, and she wasn’t a fan of working in the format.
And then they made me shoot it in 3D, which is a horrifying format, I despise it! Two cameras, the whole thing. You couldn’t move the damn camera; you couldn’t put it in interesting places.
Bassett also admits she went into the project knowing it didn’t feel right and should have fought to make a darker, less audience-friendly movie.
I can claim all these things now, I mean at the time you have to go “This is a great movie,” and you do all the press and you say how great it is. There’s a point where you feel your heart sinking a little bit. You go “I’ve just not got it right,” and I kind of know where it went wrong, but it went wrong so far back up the road. When I should have been saying these things, and fighting for this thing, and making it this more personal, tense, sexual, less accessible movie.
Later on in the podcast, she also answered a fan question about the difficulties involved with adapting a well-known game.
With Silent Hill the mistake I made, I think, was trying to be too true to the game plots. You know, it’s a valuable piece of material, the game owners own it, if you start fucking around with their canon they’ll come and get you. Game fans will come and get you.
I like the games. So I wanted to make a game story, but that’s the mistake, it should have been the games are the games and the movies are the movies.
So with Silent Hill I had to make a sequel to the movie, so I had to take all Christophe’s story that he baked into it, but he deviated from the game, [so I] try and get back to the game and then make it accessible for a mainstream audience. It was just a nightmare dance and I couldn’t do it, so I’m very sorry to everyone who didn’t like the movie.
It’s clear watching Silent Hill: Revelation that Bassett had a lot of love for the property, but she never seemed to get a handle on the type of movie she wanted to make. If she’d been allowed to make something that deviated from the previous movie and games, it may have turned out to be a cool little horror movie. That said, her honestly on the movie’s faults and the impact it had on her career is refreshing. The whole MJ Bassett Movie Crypt interview with is great, so be sure to check it out.