| The Red Right Hand
I'm going to start off slowly. I shall earnestly attempt not to get carried away with subplots or the film's origins, ie. the video game.... I promise. 1999 saw the release of a Japanese game on the Playstation, Silent Hill. With games like Resident Evil already available, Silent Hill brought something new to the survival horror genre - nausea, terror, repulsion and confusion. Not because it was a particularly bad game but due to the graphic content, the nature of Satanism and the occult. It spawned three sequels, each more confusing than its predecessor. So now you have a mental notion of the games; twisted scary horror about the occult that makes no sense. This is the sole reason why Silent Hill is the most accurate game-to-film adaptation. Like many others, I have spent years hoping and praying for a perfect on-screen game adaptation and now that I have it I realise what a fool I was! A damned fool, I tell you! The differences between the mediums clearly show why a successful transfer is impossible; one is designed to unfold before you while the other tests your reflexes. Granted, there are video games that unfold like movies (Metal Gear Solid is a good example) but these aren't getting movie treatment at the minute, the current trend favours monster-driven games. There are two key elements to the Silent Hill series, running through the eerie calm and screaming wildly as tiny child-like creatures claw at your legs - on reflection of all my time playing the games, the first two focus on the running, unfortunately, so does the film.
The story centres on a little sleepwalking girl, Sharon [Ferland]. During her episodes she screams out, 'Silent Hill.' Rose [Mitchell], Sharon's adopted Mother, does some quick research to find there's a town in West Virginia called Silent Hill. Leaving her sceptical husband behind, Rose drives out to Silent Hill; believing that Sharon's West Virginian origins and her nightly outbursts are more than just coincidence. Whilst stopping for petrol, Rose has a brief encounter with a local police woman, Cybil [Holden]. Further along the road, the policewoman appears again, this time sirens blaring. Rose breaks away into the night trying to outrun her - you may be asking yourself why Rose might speed away from the police, most would assume it's because she's a paranoid freak or because Cybil looks a little too Los Angeles for such a small town. The real reason is because her husband Christopher [Bean] is not one to reason with his wife, instead he cancelled her credit cards. As Cybil was writing down the license plate we could assume that Chris is so insane that he reported the car as stolen, who knows? Speeding through the winding country road, the radio screaming with static, Rose looks up from the steering wheel to see a girl crossing the road. Rose swerves, Sharon screams and everything goes black. Rose regains consciousness to find her daughter gone, a strange mist covering the ghost town and ash falling from the sky like snow.
Visually speaking, this film is perfect, it looks like the game in every sense; the rusting metal/flesh alternate Silent Hill acting as a stark contrast to the mist covered dimension clouding all vision. There are 3 dimensions to Silent Hill which I could go into but won't because it will destroy the end for you, so once again I'm about to get myself in immense trouble again [See - Revolver] by offering an explanation if you send me an e-mail [be warned, I am a HUGE fan of the games and this isn't just a 12 word answer, more like a full-blown five page essay] - please note, you don't have to beg or bribe me, asking is fine; last time I received threats, naked photos, money and all sorts, I assure you, it's not necessary. The two things I will mention are the monsters and Christopher's story. As a fan of the game, I felt they could have cashed-in on the various assortment of hideous deformities but the selection they went with kept me happy. Excluding the screeching fiery ash-babies at the start, all the monsters are latex. This is incredibly important as the game focused on beings that looked humanoid but distorted creations of the mind; the best way to imagine it is either a person trapped in a bag of thin, rubbery skin or twisted flesh (a la Hellraiser). Each one more disturbing than the last with no real explanation as to their purpose or origin (all explained in my geeky summary, mentioned above). As for Chris' story, it makes for a nice breather between horrific scenes in the alternate Silent Hill but casting Sean Bean was possibly the biggest mistake, his accent is atrocious and the acting is plastic. The only character he really interacts with is Thomas Gucci [Coates], a local law enforcer who knows more than he's letting on. With so little explained, certain explanatory, revealing scenes placed later in the film (in the style of a video game - the final FMV sequence) just cause more frustration and confusion. Pity really.
The dialogue is pretty cheesy with lines like, "Hey, it's gonna be ok" and Rose's blind determination to find her daughter even though she's blatantly either dead or abducted makes for annoying viewing, but as I said, accuracy is the killer and everything is taken from the game, even the "Have you seen my daughter?" glib. To be honest, it's a good combination, French Director (for artistic vision) Japanese concept (the masters of ghost stories) and an American screenplay writer (to simplify a plot that never makes sense) but the problem lies in the fact that you may enjoy it if you've never played the games but the real beneficiaries are the fans. Even the sight of something as simple as Bachman St. made me squeal like a little girl; stupid, I know. The biggest downfall is that it is the same as Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, perfect addition to the game if you are a fan, revealing more back story than you could shake a stick at, but irritating as hell if you're new to the series. I would like to score this film highly, but as a critic it would be wrong of me to let my opinion interfere with what I know in my heart to be true: 90% of the viewers will hate this one, definitely one for the fans.
21st April 2006
The Scene To Look Out For:
The transition between Rose crashing her car and waking in Silent Hill is done very well, showing the moment she loses consciousness to when she wakens from the exact same angle. Simple but effective.
I desperately want to say Pyramid Head - pictured in the poster above - for my geeky love of the game but it's going to have to be Sharon [Ferland]. There's just an odd eeriness about a small girl with that much acting talent. Oh! Oh! Or Colin, yeah, Colin!
"Mother is God in the eyes of a child"
In A Few Words:
"The perfect video game-based film, which is good if you're a gamer, not so if you've never played one"