Silent Hill (2006)
-Review by Nic Brown-
OK, video game movies often aren’t that good. Many times this is because the games have a thin plot that is simply there to facilitate the action of the game. This means that the film makers are often trapped into trying to flush out a weak story line in order to create a workable feature film.
This isn’t the case for Silent Hill. With, as of the last time I checked, four games in the series there is a lot of plot in the games themselves to work with. The movie, which follows the basic plot of the first game in the series, follows Rose Da Silva (Radha Mitchell) as she takes her adopted daughter Anna (Tanya Allen) to the abandoned town of Silent Hill to try and cure her of a dangerous sleepwalking problem. Anna repeatedly mentions the town’s name when she is sleepwalking and Rose believes that going there may cure her. Silent Hill is a ghost town in West Virginia that has been empty for over 30 years because of a huge coal fire burning under the town and making it unlivable. Rose’s husband Christopher (Sean Bean) thinks it is too dangerous for her to go, so Rose takes Anna without telling him.
As they enter the town, Rose sees a little girl in the road and swerves to avoid hitting her. This causes her to wreck and be knocked out. When she awakens Anna is missing from the car. The stage is now set, and it is in this ghostly grey and white back drop that director Christophe Gans (Brotherhood of the Wolf), begins weaving the complex story of what really happened to the town 30 years before and why Anna has been drawn to it. As Rose explores the town looking for Anna she finds clues that lead her where she needs to go. At the same time Christopher has come looking for her with the police from the next town over. You soon realize that something is wrong as you see Rose walk through streets covered in ash in a stark white sky and yet Christopher is in the town but there is no ash and rain is falling. As Rose finds clues to where Anna is, Christopher searches for the truth about Silent Hill and why the police are covering things up while looking for his wife and daughter.
The two stories run parallel for the rest of the film and Gans weaves them together wonderfully creating an air of fear and dread that flows off the screen and into the viewer creating tension you can almost feel in the air. The creatures that come out are straight from the game, but rather than coming across as “game monsters” they appear as nightmare beings that inspire fear as much from their strange, almost familiar shapes, as from the gruesome acts that they perpetrate. A game favorite, Pyramid Head, is most notable for his casual butchery and the huge kitchen knife he wields as a sword (straight from the game).
The ending may not be as neat and satisfying as some people would like, but fans of the game will recognize that it holds true to the nature of the games and leaves some questions for the imagination. If you have played any of the games you should find this movie to be one of the few good game-to-movie adaptations that have been released. If you haven’t played the games, the film will at first seem strange, but Christophe Gans’ paints a disturbing canvas in the town of Silent Hill and you will find that the story, though sometimes a bit drawn out and confusing, is ultimately worth watching. I give Silent Hill seven out of ten but you should “play-it” for yourself…