There is something to say about creating something that feels close to the game, yet also oddly unique to itself when one looks at adaptations. Looking back on the video game adaptations I have watched there is a surprising amount that have a sense of passion behind them, even if at times it’s misguided. There is a reason why we watch these films, we want to see the worlds come to life. We want to see the things we remember from our experiences in the game or even to show some people a taste of the game in the hopes of them trying it. Silent Hill is something that promises to be a recreation of the first game, yet also interesting in its own right by taking it from a different view point. It deviates just enough to not entirely be the same experience yet still feel like the world. In my mind that screams something worth watching from an adaptation stand point, it even has Sean Bean in a main role. It is even received as one of the better video game adaptations made so far. Yet does it still hold up years later or will its potentially dated CGI drag it down?
Silent Hill is something that marvels more in the atmosphere it creates through its still effective visual design, yet loses track of where it is at times. I say that because the story kind of goes everywhere. It didn’t have me convinced as to why the daughter and the mother needed to go to Silent Hill. Even though it’s connected to the daughter’s past, if there is potentially spooky phenomena then why attempt it? I mean she doesn’t stop for the police officer and gets her dragged into this nightmare as well. Yet all we know about the girl or even the setup is that she’s special and something something Silent Hill. It didn’t really sell me on the setup, and the more we go down this winding road the more confused one could get.
This is a plot based on the game, taking more the world than the same narrative except for similar narrative beats. What confuses me is, that I haven’t played the game and this movie confuses me from time to time. Everything looks cool warranting some excellent scenes of shambling spooks, yet why is most of this happening? They don’t give us enough of a reason to care for the mother, the father or the child to warrant us understanding why this is happening in the first place. At least establish characters before you throw us into it. As distressing as that is, the movie kind of sells you on its aesthetic design. Well it tries more or less to make you forget that. A lot of the CGI is used in this film and to its credit it still doesn’t look bad. The shambling spooks are still intimidating, the Pyramid Head is freakish, the nurse section, there are so many solid scenes of monsters that this world feels like it was ripped from the game. The snowy atmosphere, the church, the haunting theme song playing in the background, everything feels absolutely right. I quickly forgot why I was confused in the first place and lost myself in the world, until it brought me back to reality.
The cult unfortunately ruins the entirety of this film for me. When they were first introduced I was interested as they had like a Fallout/Metro type of design. It seemed like the movie was on the right track until we got a large bout of expositional storytelling that drove me mad. I mean I can at least buy the vague but simple premise of Silent Hill holds the answers to something because when you look at it, this type of mysticism can hold secrets. I mean a dual world is a cool idea and having the father check the real town while the mother checks the Silent Hill town is pretty cool. The problem comes when they try to explain it all as this is where everything gets absolutely messy. The cult is explained, the town is explained, the little girl the mother has been seeing is explained, yet it is so farfetched that I couldn’t grasp it during the runtime. Especially when it decides to not explain why some characters show up in flashbacks and others do, like that helpful detective with Sean Bean.
The story literally falls apart to spectacle, but that wouldn’t have mattered if it kept everything arguably simple. This was an effective movie up until it decides to shove in story and then it makes way for over the top CGI action scenes that don’t hold up today. People being stripped and torn apart, it feels awkward and just unwatchable in moments with how laughable it can become. That is mostly because of the acting, which mostly can be attributed to the lead star Radha Mitchell. I don’t understand why an actress who gives a good if not great performance in Finding Neverland could do this poorly. There is only one expression on her face, maybe she screams every once in a while but there is a distinct lack of emotion there. It upsets me because I think the cop, while the stereotypical butch cop, is played quite well by Laurie Holden. I also think that is because they actually made her more reactive as she feels like our entryway into the world reacting similarly to how we would. That is why I think Radha didn’t emote much, there wasn’t much to do in her role. A lot of her reasoning is I need to find my kid, yet why aren’t you showing the desperation on your face or make it heard in your voice.
This film is bogged down by its story, even if it ends on a somber note that I felt was fitting for the film overall it never made me feel like I could truly get lost in this world. It didn’t let me because it wanted to explain far too much in its second half. Oh and Sean Bean is in this movie. I think I mentioned him once in this entire thing? That is because Sean Bean does next to nothing and his parts of the film, while interesting visually, do nothing for us and in the end is kind of fruitless. There doesn’t exist so much a point of this but to lead up into a sequel…and oh my goodness there is a sequel isn’t there. Sean Bean is kind of there, nothing remotely engaging and kind of takes away time from the actually interesting parts to give us more detail on the plot as a sort of mystery aspect. I didn’t care, it was visually interesting, but by the end I forgot Sean Bean was a part of this movie.
Visually this film is great. The atmosphere is tense and haunting, the one song that I can remember from the soundtrack is fabulous and the entire mood and tone of the film was effective. Everything but the story and characters was there for me. The world was there, but it constantly reminded me that I still need to go back to detective Bean. I mean it didn’t matter how we got there, but I didn’t want to leave or find out the reason why we got there. It lost more of its magic that way and by the end of the movie I felt more average than anything else. Some points were great, some characters were good, some scenes were effectively scary, but then the reverse also happens. Silent Hill has a great design team, but at the end of the day it only can salvage parts of the film and not all of it.
Well it certainly was a better film than expected. I didn’t think I’d find myself having it at the same spot as something like Prince of Persia so I’m glad it was an entertaining time. If only it came together more smoothly then I think it could have been a really solid film. For every good element there was a negative creeping right behind it. It works to some degree, but I would only give this a recommendation to fans of the games or those who want a visually interesting horror as most horrors these days aren’t as visually appealing as this one.
So have you watched Silent Hill? What other films do you think were visually nice but didn’t hold together well? Feel free to leave a comment down below and don’t forget to have yourself a fantastic day!