I caught this movie in the theaters, but it’s been on my mind lately so I took another look at it via Netflix. I was pleased to find that the movie is more impressive after a second viewing.
I still can’t believe it turned out as well as it did. The writer and director got a very clear bead on what makes Silent Hill tick, and they managed to capture it. This is hard enough for regular videogame-to-movie adaptations, and Silent Hill is a lot more difficult to nail down than most videogames.
The writer could have gone action movie on us. This would have been the worst. He could have done for Silent Hill what other writers did for Resident Evil and Doom: Make it big, loud, and stupid. This is really easy. Just lift names and locations from the original work, and throw everything else out. Then fill it with boilerplate dialog and action sequences. Just like that ridiculous hack, Uwe Boll.
They could easily have made Silent Hill about a group of teens that get stuck in this freaky town that picks them off one by one. That would have been the obvious “Hollywood” thing to do. Take a description of the game to a random writer / director, let them look at some of the concept art from the game, and a couple of years later this is exactly what you would get. Obvious. Derivative. Bland.
|The hospital. Yes. That is exactly right. Perfect.|
The writer could have played the game and concluded that it was about defeating monsters. You certainly do enough of that during the course of the game. They could have made the movie more “Aliens” style – with the main character(s) facing increasingly strange and powerful nightmarish monsters, and learning how to confront and defeat them. At the end, they face and kill Pyramid Head. Again, a non-fan could easily play though one of the games – the second one in particular – and come up with this movie. It might be strange and frightening, but it would still miss the mark. It is really amazing that they didn’t do this.
So they didn’t turn Silent Hill into a dumb action movie, they didn’t adapt it into a slasher flick, and they didn’t make it a monster movie. That much is an accomplishment in itself. Most videogame adaptations don’t even make it to the point where the writer and director are both on the same page and both committed to capturing the essence of the original. Very few adaptations get this far, and even on those rare occasions when they do there is still the chance that they will try to capture the original and simply fail.
And even if they pull that off, there is always the chance that the movie will fail on perfectly technical grounds. Once they come up with a good script they still need good special effects, good acting, good cinematography. It is possible to get everything else right and still make a movie that just plain sucks.
Very few things make this trip from PC to the big screen without getting snagged by one of these problems along the way. Silent Hill made it, and after my second viewing I’m even more impressed. I still stand by my initial take on it: This is the best VG adaptation ever (it was certainly the most difficult) and a fascinating movie as well. While it is difficult for me to step back and view it through the eyes of someone who hasn’t played any of the games, I suspect that it will be hard to understand for non-fans. The biggest flaw of the movie is the subplot with the husband. It eats up a lot of screen time and never really goes anywhere. (Or at least, the meager revelations it has don’t justify the screen time spent on it.)
|While Rose (Radha Mitchell) is trapped in the evil part of the movie, Christopher (the wonderful and talented Sean Bean) is trapped in the dull part of the movie. Unlike Rose, Christopher has no hope of escape.|
No movie is perfect, but the accomplishments of this one outweigh its flaws. Nicely done.
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