By David Mayne
Starring: Adelaide Clemens, Kit Harington, Deborah Kara Unger, Martin Donovan, Malcolm McDowell, Carrie-Anne Moss, Sean Bean
Films based on video games are a beast to review. What may be considered a brilliant game might falter and ultimately fail when translated to the silver screen. After all, video games are designed to unfold according to the player’s progression, with interweaving story lines, dialogue, and plot angles. Many times, gamers develop deeply held beliefs about a game’s back story, vivid ideas about what the game’s character should sound like, look like, and so on. It’s almost like reading a book; you create the look and feel of the characters and their surroundings based on the author’s descriptions, then cry foul when the movie arrives, feeling betrayed in your own mind because the film doesn’t live up to your preconceived notions of what it should be. Movies translated over from video games fall prey to many of the same pitfalls: not living up to the gamer’s expectations, getting some obscure (but crucial) plot element wrong, and/or playing host to terrible writing, acting, and directing. You’ll often get two distinctly different audiences who watch movies based on games, and their reactions and opinions are usually polar opposites. There has never been a better time than now to use the old adage: One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. So here you are Amigos….a fair review, with one glaring question to start it off with:
Is Silent Hill: Revelation trash or treasure?
The night started off innocently enough. A few really strong IPA’s at the local BJ’s brewery, some chips and salsa, and some decently spiced, boneless buffalo wings courtesy of Jeremy’s love for all things wings. As we made our way to the theater, flask of Glenlivet in hand, the idea started to sink in that we were going to see a sequel to a film that was universally panned by critics, and this one was not expected to be any better. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the first Silent Hill movie (in fact I own it and still watch it on occasion), but something was nagging at the back of my brain on this one, warning me not to get prematurely invested into a film that might let me down. I didn’t expect Silent Hill: Revelation to be an Oscar worthy second-coming of Christ or anything, but hell, I did want it to be somewhat good…or at least on par with the first film.
Trying to summarize the Silent Hill mythos in a few sentences is next to impossible, so for a run-down on the first film, check out my review here. The basic premise of the first film goes like so: A town called Silent Hill is a place where nightmares, fears, and feeble minds manifest outwardly, seemingly making the town a “living hell” for those that go there, complete with a twisted cult and a long history of torture, burnings, a pain. When the film’s main characters, Rose and her adopted daughter Sharon, get trapped in Silent Hill, they must fight they’re way through hordes of disturbing visions and unrelenting evil, in an attempt to escape a place that simply doesn’t want to let them go. Along the way they encounter a morbid cult with a terrible past who believe that Sharon embodies the spirit of a long-dead child named Alessa, whom they killed years earlier during a twisted sacrificial ritual.
While the first film used the first game of the same name for its overall plot, Silent Hill: Revelation skips to the events of the Silent Hill 3 game, telling the story of Christopher DaSilva (Bean) and his daughter Heather Mason (Clemens). After running from “demons” for most of her life, Heather soon realizes that her terrible visions are linked to the town of Silent Hill. Plot A leads to plot B….and she goes to Silent Hill. It wouldn’t make sense not to, right?
Once in Silent Hill (and not the nice, foggy Silent Hill) Heather realizes that her entire reality is helplessly enveloped within the town, and it’s “curse”.
To put it lightly folks, Silent Hill: Revelation is a fun, but ultimately sloppy mess. Before the flaming starts: I LOVE the Silent Hill franchise, its games, it’s characters, its mind-numbing themes, and its endless possibilities. While the first film succeeded in a small way, offering fans a real-life glimpse of Silent Hill and its bizzare nature, Revelation seems to take a bunch of backwards steps, devolving it into a series of well-crafted action sequences, but with no real glue to hold it together. The ultimate lack of any true character development meant not caring in the slightest whether any of them lived, died, exploded, or ate spaghetti. The writing and presented dialogue was Phantom Menace bad, and while A-list actors did indeed embody these roles, it’s almost as if the scenes were shot in one take, called “good”, and shipped off to post production.
Look Amigos, to call Silent Hill: Revelation bad isn’t easy, but it’s surely not difficult. I wanted to like this movie, I really did…but I knew I wouldn’t. An hour into it, I knew that the train had run way off the tracks, and any attempt to get it back on was an effort in futility. Here’s the thing, 99% of the cast have thick accents in real life, whether they be Australian or English. Silent Hill is a fictional American town. I’m not saying that actors can’t emulate accents, but when you have the almost entirely British cast trying to pull of midwestern American po-dunk with a script that’s already dodgier than a Ford Pinto’s fuel tank placement, there are bound to be problems…and there are. Sean Bean sounds alright, with his accent slipping often, but it actually works. The rest of the cast, minus Adelaide Clemens (Heather Mason) sounds off, and it really cheapens the entire production. Like I said, I’m not against actors using different accents, as long as they can be at least 85% convincing. Thing is, with Silent Hill: Revelation, “convincing” seems like it was an afterthought. Combine that with, as I said, a shotty script, and your brewing a batch of cloudy beer that’s probably going to taste south of cheese.
Silent Hill: Revelation will appeal to a certain branch of franchise faithful, who will take whatever they can get in the form of Silent Hill films. Having already name dropped the infamous Episode I in this review, I’ll use it once again. Revelation is one of those odd birds that, while mostly forgettable, serves to pad the already legendary franchise as a whole. I’m not a huge fan of Star Wars Episode I, but it IS Star Wars, and sure, I’ll throw it in every few years. Silent Hill movies are pretty much the same and they have their unique place inside their respective franchise. Try as you may, you won’t convert a true believer into crying foul. Religion, politics…Silent Hill movies. All that being said, Silent Hill: Revelation is a cinematic mess, and not much more than a overly-heavy dollop of semi-interesting, stylistically mindless, Friday night action cool-whip. The 3D was useless, and aside from a scene or two, it wasn’t necessary. Save yourself a few bucks and see it on a normal screen, you won’t be missing anything monumental.
The verdict? If you love Silent Hill and it can do no wrong in your eyes: see it! It features franchise-heavy themes and visuals, with enough Pyramid Head to keep the fan boys salivating for weeks. On the other hand, if you liked the games but thought the first movie was a wet grilled cheese sandwich, avoid Silent Hill: Revelation altogether and play Silent Hill 3, you’ll thank me later. Fan boys will love it, most everyone else will hate it. I didn’t hate it, I just didn’t like it.