Silent Hill

By Shamus
on Apr 23, 2006
Filed under:
Nerd Culture

A few of us got together and went to see Silent Hill tonight. Very interesting experience. The movie is quite true to the games, which means its very unlike your typical horror movies. We liked it, but the average fan of the Freddy / Jason / Scream type movies is probably not going to like this. It’s long (2 hours) and it isn’t the sort of movie that takes a group of dysfunctional idiots, drives them into danger, and then picks them off one at a time. Like the last few Silent Hill games, it’s more of a very violent mystery.

The ending was nearly perfect, but then the last 30 seconds sort of broke several established rules and really irritated me. Usually they do this sort of thing as a set-up for a sequel, but in this case it seemed more like weirdness for its own sake. When the mother and daughter came home, they should have really COME HOME. Instead, they and the father could not see each other and were stuck in seperate realities. This suggests that they didn’t really escape the madness of Silent Hill, which is a rotten and downer ending. It also doesn’t make a lot of sense. The “aternate world” stuff was a function of Silent Hill, and leaving the town should have ended it.

I don’t like traditional horror movies or slasher flicks. I don’t mind violence, but many of those movies are slasher porn: the plot is a paper-thin excuse to string together a bunch of gruesome murders. This movie did indeed have some nasty and disturbing images, but they served the plot, instead of the other way around.

There are many, many visual nods to the games, many of which were quite obscure. I’m sure I didn’t catch them all.

A BIT LATER: The thing about the big fire happening 30 years earlier just totally screws up the movie. The leader of the cult and the policeman with the buned hands hadn’t aged a day?!? If they had said the disaster happened TEN years ago the whole thing would have made much more sense, and the little girl would have been about the right age. As it is, you can’t put the movie on a timeline in such a way that it makes sense.

STILL LATER: Looking at the plot, I don’t think this movie would make sense for people not familiar with the game. Or at least, they wouldn’t know it was supposed to make sense. I bet the non SH fan is going to leave the theater thinking they just saw two hours of random bloody nonsense.

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1414 comments. (Fourteen is the sum of the first three squares.)

From the Archives:

  1. mark says:

    Would it be worth seeing if you haven’t played the games? As an avid horror fan, I considered seeing it this weekend, but opted not to (for various reasons, one of which was that I’d never played the game).

  2. mark says:

    Woops, duh, didn’t see the update:P Looks like a wait for DVD for me then…

  3. James says:

    I have to say I thought the film was really good. I haven’t played the game, although I am a regular games player and the film really had a cool game like atmosphere about it. If you liked “Event horizon” you’ll love silent hill, and if you like a horror film that isn’t the usual Hollywood tripe then defiantly go and see this. So what if its not the deepest and complex film in the world, and perhaps the plot has a few loose bits here and there – its a horror film so who cares. Go see it, its really good disturbing film :)

  4. Shamus says:

    I would add that this movie is a bit like The Cell, which I’m sure you remember. The visuals are incredible, and the whole thing is a sort of disturbing imagry art project.

    The plot is quite interesting: Things that I thought were plot holes were just things which I hadn’t fully processed. Things which seemed ok at first glance are seeming more like plot holes on further reflection.

    Looking at rotten tomatoes, it looks like the movie is doing poorly. I’m looking forward to reading some reviews of people who see the movie without knowing much about the games. It’s hard for me to examine the movie without looking through my established Silent Hill prisim, and I’m curious which parts of the movie make sense to newcomers. The movie draws heavily from the games, and it’s possible that we’ll end up watching two entirely different movies.

  5. Bogan says:

    You know I’ve finally read some reviews for this movie and what we thought was true. None of them have played the games and so all of them thought that there was hardly a plot and just random creepy violence even for a horror movie. And here four of us went to see the movie and we all understood it. By the way I didn’t think the two hours it took was that bad. I personally thought they made the pace too quick.

  6. Bogan says:

    Oh and by the way, describing Pyramid Head as “a muscular giant in a dark hood who tries to stab you with an oversized kitchen knife” is just the understatement of the year in my personal opinion.

  7. Shamus says:

    describing Pyramid Head as “a muscular giant in a dark hood who tries to stab you with an oversized kitchen knife” is just the understatement of the year in my personal opinion.

    Yeah. It’s like saying the hospital wasn’t HMO approved.

  8. AndrewNZachsDad says:

    I know I’m logging nearly a year later than the original post, but I felt it necessary to toss in my 2 cents here, if that’s alright.
    I have not played any Silent Hill games. For some reason this movie made it onto my radar, probably through some random happenstance. I watched it and enjoyed almost every minute of it. I was able to fairly quickly glean some of the salient points (like the alternate dimension/reality thing) then sit back and watch the icky visuals. The movie had plenty of those, and the reptile part of my brain loved every single one of them. The enlightened son of Adam part of me hated them and was sickened in many ways, but I think this simply heightened my reptile brain’s enjoyment.
    Shamus, I agreed with your assessment of the ending. Yes, this is a horror movie, but I feel that the end of a movie should in some way be an actual ending. Movies that end in this manner simply leave me feeling unsatisfied, even morose at the lack of hope.
    All in all, a thinking man’s thriller with phenomenal visuals which didn’t seem to “generated”. Highly polished effects often leave me wondering how they did it instead of enjoying the story. Silent Hill did not do that. The effects were very nearly perfect.

  9. Meya5678 says:

    I found the movie ending rather sad, but suitable considering the game endings.
    Usually when I manage to finish a Silent Hill game I get the worst possible ending, and I don’t have the energy to start all over again to get the better ones. At least not right away.
    And even though the leading character “survives” the last boss fight, most of the people around that character die, so to me it means that even though the character beat the evil, they didn’t really make it from the hellish “dark world” to the real world.
    So in a way it’s a happy ending, because the world is saved, but not a happy ending in the traditional way.

  10. freykin says:

    I know this is way old, but if you haven’t seen it yet, check out Brotherhood of the Wolf by the guy who directed this. It’s an amazing movie, if you enjoyed this one you’d like it.

  11. Arquinsiel says:

    Reading through old articles here, but I disagree with your “still later” point. The movie inspired me to go search out the games, since I’m normally dismissive of “scarey” gameplay but the series comes highly reccomended by all and the movie was awesome.

  12. RdS says:

    Hey, I know this is an old article, but I just wanted to comment on this part of your review:

    “When the mother and daughter came home, they should have really COME HOME. Instead, they and the father could not see each other and were stuck in separate realities.”

    That’s not how I read it at all – The mother and daughter were dead, and had been from the moment of the crash. Sixth Sense-esque, if you want to, although I prefer the way Silent Hill did/does it.

    Technically, Silent Hill probably should not have allowed them to leave the environs of the city, and if this had been one of the games, we would have had it explained to us as the game drew to a conclusion that our protagonist was dead, and her kid was dead, and there was naught by futility and despair in the world of Silent Hill!

    Uhh, I may have gotten a little overboard there.

    Anyway. Since this wasn’t a game, I can sort of understand why Hollywood had to let them leave the town, to hammer home the message that they were dead.

  13. serial_ says:

    OK, First-things first. I need to say that I’ve spent hours reading reviews for SH. I’ve attempted to get inside the mind of the person that did not like the movie, and I just can’t. I herald Silent Hill as the 2nd scariest movie I’ve ever seen, and it rides shotgun to none other than Event Horizon, which I saw for the first time as a 14yr old, home alone, at 2:00AM in a country home on a windy night. Had I seen Silent Hill in the same atmosphere and not my city apartment, I’d have wet myself. So that said, a very very close second.

    As a film, I loved it. Give me psychological horror and some religious fanatics and leave me alone with my bucket of popcorn. The art dept. of the film deserved an Oscar nomination, the fact that most of the creatures were guys in suits and not CGI won this film mega-points in my book. Now I’d like to address some of the issues I’ve seen voiced about the film.

    The dialogue. I do not share the opinion that the dialog was a minus for the movie. If you play the games, particularly the first one, the dialogue is amazingly cheeseball and terrible. I really feel that Cristophe Gans was trying to stay true to that part of the game, with things like shouting “Sharon!” a thousand times and chasing your kid through bloody chainlink. Replace “Sharon!” with “Cheryl!” and it’s plucked straight from the first 5 minutes of SH1.

    The plot. The movie had a solid plot that made a lot of sense, even the first time through. Even after seeing this 7 times I can say that I feel the same. To me alternate dimensions always have their own timelines. I would say that they shouldn’t have used the same actor for the male cop in the flashbacks, or at least tried to age him. But that’s continuity, not plot.

    As for the ‘explain-it-all’ scene, I LOVED that. The degraded look of old film that keeps melting and breaking, an the fact that it started with “congratulations on making it this far! you were very good at following all my clues.” was AWESOME. It’s the bloody cutscene! That is the moment that we love in video games, but apparently hate in films. Most games, and particularly Japanese developed games hinge on moments of exposition, whereas hollywood has trained us to want exposition in film in a steady-drip fashion throughout the length of a film. I applaud Silent Hill for giving us the cutscene where we get the bulk of the story. Now, you might not appreciate that approach, but it’s not ‘stupid’–it’s different. If it had been Alessa pacing delivering an evil monologue, that’s horribly cliche. This was watching an old film with a voice-over. It’s a cut-scene. I can’t stress that enough. I loved it.

    I also loved the constant nods to video games, let alone THE game(s). The moment where she finds the same map on the ground that Harry finds in the cafe, the “you found a flashlight!” moment. I also love the jumping game moment, the instructional dialogue like you would find in a game, and all of the content kept in tact. Static-spraying radios, creepy ass sirens, blood-drenched chain-link fences, rust rust and more rust, and contorted surreal horrors creeping and not lurching.

    The Red Pyramid was fabulous, and all of the creatures were spot-on. Skin rip/toss is epic :D

    However, despite my defense of the film, it did have its problems. I felt the problems were that they took away from the isolation of the games. Films like Quarantine show us that a small cast isn’t a bad thing, just don’t take it as far as Castaway did. I felt like much of the transition to the ‘real’ world was good, but I got agitated by the constant surprise that everyone seemed to have when they’d run from cops or break into buildings and then get arrested. That kind of crap was just lousy writing. I also have to agree that the ending was a bit lolwut? They needed to either stay in the town forever and ever as souls swallowed by Silent Hill or get to go home. Having the hell of Silent Hill extend to all the world was not in the film’s best interest.

    Finally, my biggest gripe with the film was simply that the little girl, when acting like Sharon, couldn’t have acted herself out of a wet paper bag. As Alessa she was downright terrifying, but ever single line delivered as Sharon sounded so rehearsed, and just like any other child actor. But she stole it away as Alessa. I still get flashes of an evil little girl dancing in the blood drizzling through the air of the freshly-severed body of the woman that caused her so much pain.

    At the end of the day, I give Silent Hill an 8/10. It’s a wonderfully done film, and is my go-to film whenever anyone declares they don’t get scared in movies. I have scared my wife shitless, her whole family, and several friends. After seeing it for the first time, my wife could not even hear the name “Alessa” at night without being scared, and she is NOT a weak person when it comes to scary, that movie just gets to her like none other.

    I loved it, and it’s the primary reason for my “f*cked up” movie section. ;)

  14. Innsmouth says:

    You’re right on the last account. My understanding of the movie Silent Hill:
    There was a cult. They killed somebody, but screwed it up and burnt down most of the town. Something about a coal fire. No one seems to have aged (I thought this was because they were in hell. Now I have no idea). Also, that ultimate icon of evil who has earned a status in nerd culture, similar to that of Medusa to the Greeks? He’s a seven year old girl. And then someone was “sexually harrassed” to death by barbed wire for no decernable reason. And then they were still stuck. As you said, this felt very Hollywood and arbitrary. They might as well have ended the move with the director in a dark room making spooky noises.

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