Silent Hill, Second Look

By Shamus Posted Thursday Oct 5, 2006

Filed under: Movies 16 comments

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.

Silent Hill – The Hospital
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.)

Silent Hill – The School
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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16 thoughts on “Silent Hill, Second Look

  1. Bogan the Mighty says:

    The problem is that although we enjoyed the game and therefore the movie became almost like silent hill 5 for us, everyone else in the world saw it as a sub par horror flick that couldn’t deliver the horror…very disappointing really. Looks like we have to wait for the Halo movie to come out now. I don’t know if I should run around screaming and pulling the hair from my skull, or else wait calmly to see since Peter Jackson is producing it.

  2. Shamus says:

    The Halo movie would just be two hours of a guy walking down identical hallways shooting the same couple of mosters over and over and over. You don’t need Peter Jackson. You need a cardboard set and actors who don’t get easily bored.

  3. Shamus says:

    If I had the screenshots, I’d make the following comic – but I can’t bear the thought of going through that game again.

    COMPUTER LADY: Oh oh my! Master Chief! You must go to that base right now! I have learned something SO amazing and mind boggling that threatens us all! But I’m like too busy to tell you what it is or what I need you to do. Just go to the base.

    MASTER CHIEF: Um. The dropship ride is like an hour. We have radios. You can tell me on the way.

    COMPUTER LADY: Nope. Too busy!

    MASTER CHIEF: Busy? It takes ten seconds. Just tell me what I’m supposed to do.

    COMPUTER LADY: Hurry! Get going! I don’t want to ruin this threadbare plot by revealing any of it!

    MASTER CHIEF: How about a hint?

    COMPUTER LADY: No hints. Just rush over there right now with no infomation, no goals, and no purpose.


    COMPUTER LADY: I’ll be back later to berate you for not knowing what you’re supposed to do.

    MASTER CHIEF: This game sucks.

  4. Alex says:

    Super Mario Bros is still the best video game movie ever, and will never be topped. They should stop trying.

  5. Bogan the Mighty says:

    Oh they can’t stop trying. Silent Hill was still a good one. And yes I know it was stupid as all hell can be, but I still got a sense of enjoyment out of Street Fighter. Its crazy, but crappy movies can still be good to watch.

  6. No, the best movie ever based on a video game was “Mortal Kombat”. (And the worst one was “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation”. Gad, what a train wreck.)

  7. taylor says:

    i loved the movie when i first saw silent hill i got thinking to myself when rose and sharon got into the car accident and died why were they still apart of the movie? were they in hell if they were why what did they do to diserve that ok but anyways the movie was great good job to the director.

  8. hendrake says:

    Interesting, as I’ve never played any of the Silent Hill games, perhaps when the library finally coughs it up, I’ll let you know what this particular non-fan thought about it.

    All I know is what I’ve seen in the trailers and that I’m a fan of Sean Bean, which apparently doesn’t count for much as the, “subplot with the husband…never really goes anywhere.”

  9. hendrake says:

    Oops, guess I shouldn’t have read Taylor’s post. Darn…

  10. lonnie says:

    i like the movie but i didn’t get it

  11. lonnie says:

    silent hill was a piece of shit that they sould of never made

  12. Scott says:

    I saw Silent Hill available the other day and I was curious about it after all the posts here so I gave it a watch. I haven’t played the video games but I enjoyed the movie. Thanks for the recommendation. Luckily I remembered just enough of your posts to have a clearer idea what was going on but hadn’t read them recently enough to have anything spoiled (maybe that’s why it was enjoyable to a non-Silent Hill gamer). I sure can’t think of any better video game adapted movies at the moment so I’m going to have agree with you on the best video game movie ever (although that’s not really saying much) and it’s a decent horror flick in it’s own right. Thanks again.

  13. Sean says:

    You know… rumor had it, Sean Bean’s character was only in the movie because the studio wanted more male characters…

  14. Lysander says:

    I wish there was the monster-detecting radio in the movie, but that’s just a minor quibble.

    I wonder if a direct movie adaptation of Silent Hill 2 would have worked? I know the movie lifts elements from each of the games, but would it have been a better movie if it stuck with just the first or second game? Or would it have been better to have a completely different story?

  15. I really hated at the end the mother character suddenly gets this burst of courage from no where. Maybe if the movie had more time for her to develop it woulda been better.

    This is why my favorite movie ever created is Aliens.

  16. Ben says:

    Sean Bean’s American accent was just awful.

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