Silent Hill: The Movie (dvd)

Did you see the Silent Hill movie in the theater? If you did, did you feel like you got your money’s worth? For those who missed it the first time, it’s out on dvd now. If you have played the games (1 or 2, but especially 2) and enjoyed them, you really should check out the movie. And if you like a good, creepy horror flick… well, you can just stop watching when they get to the church and skip to the final confrontation.

It pains me to have to say that the Silent Hill movie probably isn’t worth adding to your collection. It pains me because they did a really good job recreating the look, sound, and mood of the game. I really want to support that type of effort in adapting video game licenses to the big screen. However, I don’t want to support mediocre acting and poor writing/storytelling. I don’t want them to think they can make another movie with the same mistakes.

The movie was inspired by the game. Based on what the “making of” featurette said, the director decided he wanted to make a Silent Hill movie after playing the game. The implication is that he then sought to do such a thing, though perhaps Konami was looking for a director already. Because of the director’s love of the experience of playing Silent Hill, the creatures, the camera work, the visuals, as much as possible, was crafted to recreate that emotional experience. As the protagonists come to Silent Hill, and begin exploring, it is so very much like the beginning of the first game. And having played the game seems to add an extra layer of unease, the film dredging up the feelings evoked while playing the game.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t a whole lot of exploration in the movie, because those scenes were excellent. It seems perhaps, they had to edit some of that out in order to fit the gigantic narrative in the second half that completely dispels any suspense and wonder that is usually important in suspense/thriller/horror movies, and instead, spells out every single little detail about the backstory. While it is necessary to have a fully developed backstory in order to tell a convincing story, it is not necessary that all of those details be presented to the audience directly. Just knowing those pieces of information will influence how the story is told, and what information is presented, and the audience will believe the story just the same. Ernest Hemingway said “If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.”

Unfortunately, Silent Hill rams itself fully on the whole of the iceberg. There are a few other aspects of the movie that scrape uncomfortably when viewed. One particularly horrific bit of dialogue that pulled me out of the movie occurs when the cop is trying to reach the dispatcher on her walkie-talkie. “Cybil to base. Come in base.” Who the hell says that? Base? What, are we playing tag or something? The other most unfortunate gaff occurs late in the movie where the Followers are being whipped into a zealous frenzy by their Matriarch, and they are all shouting “burn her!” If you close your eyes you would swear you are watching the witch burning scene in Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail. That should have been handled differently.

But it wasn’t a total loss. Jodelle Ferland, who portrays the little girl, is awesome. Sean Bean is good too, except his part is made almost meaningless by the tell-all mentioned above. And Roberto Campanella, a dancer and choreographer, plays Pyramid Head. Excellently. If you’ve played SH2, you should watch the movie just to see Pyramid Head. Again, the monsters were great (though the nurses, for about half a second, are a little too choreographed). The music was also nice, mostly coming straight off the Silent Hill 3 soundtrack (which I have grown to really enjoy – Hometown is awesome).

So, if you missed it in the theater, rent it – either now or wait until it’s a cheap rental. It’s worth at least that. And you certainly don’t want to take the chance of pissing off Pyramid Head…

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