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Oh no, I can hear you say, not another video-game-tie-in. So many have come over the last few years, from the good (Resident Evil), to the bad (Doom), to the just plain ugly (House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark). The formula from the original Resident Evil game has been copied several times, not just by franchise efforts, but also for other productions in the same genre. Silent Hill (both the game and the movie) adopts the same basic concept: a female protagonist takes on the unknown in an extremely scary house. The game, however, was globally renowned for being scary as hell. Often carrying nothing more than a lighter, the freaky things that go on in the house on the hill no doubt gave game-players more than a few nightmares. The question is, will the movie do the same?

Silent Hill

Movie


“Sometimes when you go to sleep you go on a little walk. And you talk about a place called Silent Hill.”

Rose Da Silva's daughter, Sharon, is ill. She sleepwalks, and quite dangerously too, often ending up poised atop a cliff, mumbling about a place called ‘Silent Hill’ whilst preparing to leap off. Deciding that enough is enough and that she has to do something about it, Rose goes against the wishes of her husband, Chris, and takes her daughter up to the place known as Silent Hill. It is a desperate decision and a foolish one too.

When she gets there, it is not long before strange things start happening. To begin with, the entire compound seems to be deserted, and showered by eternal snowflakes (although you learn later that it is not exactly snow). The 'deserted' aspect is also not exactly true, as the establishment is peppered with strange, freakish creatures that those who have played the video game will no doubt be familiar with. For those who haven’t played it, think Resident Evil crossed with Doom, with a little The Ring and Aphex Twin thrown into the mix. Rose’s journey through this place soon turns into a trip through hell as she discovers the truth about Silent Hill.

As a game, I can imagine how Silent Hill would be pretty damn scary. Piloting the lead character through the weirdly-changing almost-deserted environments, escaping and evading the scary, deformed creatures that inhabit the dark recesses of this place, it must have been very interesting and very involving. It must have made your heart-rate race. The movie follows exactly the same pattern, almost down to the skirt-and-boots outfit of the central protagonist, but in doing so I think it fails where other video-game-tie-ins succeeded. In holding so tightly to the original material, those behind this particular effort have forgotten that movies are not interactive and that watching a person walk around for the best part of an hour, with no explanation as to what is going on, is just a little bit boring.

Silent Hill
I say the best part of an hour because this is a two hour movie, and the second half certainly offers more insight into what is happened in this mysterious ‘Silent Hill’ to make it so hellish, but unfortunately by then the patience of most viewers will have no doubt run out. There’s only so much of it you can take—shouting, screaming walking, running, opening doors, discovering mutilated bodies, seeing deformed creatures that disappear, solving puzzles, finding clues, more running, more shouting and more screaming. For an hour, simply nothing significant happens. Nobody dies, nobody even talks a great deal and you are left feeling like a bored voyeur, watching somebody else play a video game and waiting feverishly for them to complete it.

Radha Mitchell’s heroic turn in the superb Pitch Black (possibly the only decent Vin Diesel movie) catapulted her away from her small-screen Australian TV origins and firmly established her as a next-generation heroine, but her subsequent movie choices have not been so action-orientated—until now. Unfortunately, however perfect a choice she is as the lead female, Rose, the final movie script simply does not give her enough meat to work with. Her character here is just another one-dimensional goodie-goodie heroine who runs and screams and occasionally fights, and has absolutely no depth.

Silent Hill
Sean Bean (Goldeneye, Patriot Games) desperately fails at pulling off a decent American accent and is also utterly wasted here, in the supporting role of the concerned husband, another limited supporting role (alongside Equilibrium and The Island) to add to the resume of a man who was once a contender for the role of James Bond himself. We also get Laurie Holden (X-Files)as a cop who partners up with Rose to escape the horrors and she too is given very little room to manoeuvre. We even have Deborah Kara Unger (Cronenberg’s Crash, The Game) and Alice Krige (Star Trek: First Contact) in brief cameo roles.

The cast aren’t really as important as the effects, however, and in this aspect the movie largely succeeds. I say largely because there are a few disappointing moments, particularly earlier on, which make it harder for the viewer to retain their suspension of disbelief. The effects do get better, however, and grander, with the weird mutants getting bigger and more numerous as the movie progresses. Here the plot takes too long to develop in much the same way as the effects, becoming both more intriguing and more convoluted, but still not substantial enough to make up for the dragging first half.

For a Christophe Gans film, I should not really be surprised by any of this. A French filmmaker, he has succeeded better at his French-language efforts (like the amazing Le Pacte des Loups/Brotherhood of the Wolf) than at his US alternatives (like the dumb but stylish Crying Freeman and Renegade). There are some great concepts in Silent Hill, a few nice sequences and a dark tone throughout, but overall the movie just does not hold together as anything much more than average.

Silent Hill

Video


Silent Hill is presented in a gritty but decent 2.35:1 aspect ratio anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer. Detail is reasonably good throughout, with good clarity and negligible softness. Grain is also kept to a minimum and there are no significant signs of edge enhancement. The colour scheme is quite broad and well represented, with the effects-laden set-pieces accurately recreating the same restricted, dimly-lit shadowy world as the game. Blacks are solid and allow these shadows to be pretty superb and overall it is a decent effort for this kind of production.

Audio


The accompanying Dolby Digital 5.1 track is perfectly suited to the subject-matter, with a freakish, ominous, occasionally Aphex-Twin-esque soundtrack (that utilises decent piano pieces in the calmer moments) that really gives the movie considerable atmosphere (and does its best to help the viewer overcome the disappointing effects). Dialogue is clear (mostly consisting of Rose shouting out the name of her daughter, Sharon) and comes largely from the frontal array, with effects and the score thrown across the surrounds, and even a little bass added in to spice things up. It’s a very good effort that probably marks the highlight of the disc.

Silent Hill

Extras


In the way of extras, the only significant addition is a making-of featurette. Luckily it is a fairly comprehensive one, split into sections: origins, casting, set-design, stars and stunts, and creatures unleashed, and running at forty-eight minutes in length. It features interviews with all the main cast members, including Radha Mitchell and Sean Bean, with expansive breakdowns of all the major set-pieces - looking at the special effects and the sets that were created in great detail. It is quite revealing stuff, sometimes too much so because you feel a little disappointed at how easy it was (the green-screen shots make some of the grander shots look breathlessly easy to construct). We get a little input from the Director and his crew as they instruct some of their cast during scene snippets, and overall it is a decent addition to the disc.

There is also a photo gallery with over a dozen shots both promotional and behind the scenes in nature. We get a series of TV spots and the theatrical trailer as well, but none of the above really makes up for the lack of a commentary.

Silent Hill

Overall


Silent Hill is a reasonable addition to the increasing number of video-game tie-ins that have spawned over the last few years. It lacks originality and has no sense of pace, but some of the effects are interesting for those who can tolerate the disadvantages. Presentation-wise, the video and audio are good (the soundtrack perfectly suits the material) and the documentary is fairly comprehensive, even if it is the only decent extra. Overall, fans of the original game will more than likely find this a must-see movie (if only to sate their curiosity) and it is probably worth a rental for those who want to see just how dark an imagination the creators had.


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