Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Silent Hill

The Silent Hill video game series (there are 4 of them thus far) are some of the creepiest, most disturbing games on the market. They are all about mood, ambiance and totally messed up storylines. It was only a matter of time before someone figured out that these games would make for some great movies if done correctly. Well, Christophe Gans and Roger Avery did it correctly, and it turns out that this is one of the best movies of the year because of it.

The script borrows elements from the first three games in the series, but it mostly follows the plot of the original. Desperate mother Rose Da Silva (the very talented Radha Mitchell) and her husband Christopher (Sean Bean) are very worried about their adopted daughter Sharon (Jodelle Ferland); she sleepwalks constantly while shouting the words "Silent Hill" for no apparent reason. After nearly jumping off a precipice during one of her episodes Rose decides to find out what "Silent Hill" is, and discovers that it's a ghost town in the middle of nowhere. Against the wishes of her husband, Rose decides to take Sharon to Silent Hill to search for clues as to why she's so disturbed. Once they cross the threshold of the town things go wrong. Sharon disappears. The entire town is covered in a dense fog made up of ash. Fog horns blare at regular intervals followed by a darkness that engulfs the town. Horrific creatures appear out of nowhere and attack in the blink of an eye. And it all has something to do with Sharon. The mystery unfolds...
The first thing you'll notice about this movie is the mood it sets right from the beginning. A constant state of tension and dread is present in every frame just like in the games. It's dreary, dark and depressing. The filmmakers take the source material seriously, never turning it into camp, and use everything that made the games so cool to their advantage, crafting one surreal and entertaining movie experience out of it.

Christophe Gans (director of Brotherhood of the Wolf and Crying Freeman) and Roger Avery (co-writer of “Pulp Fiction”), who are both fans of the games (and it shows), had the daunting task of condensing what would take a player 12 hours to complete into a 2 hour movie and have it make sense and entertain the viewer as well. They pulled it off without a hitch. The first 45 minutes of the film is almost a shot for shot recreation of the first few minutes of the original game. Certain camera angles (the alley being the most obvious, and also being the most jaw droppingly cool shot in the flick), creatures (the abortion babies with the knives) and set designs (the limbo versions versus the darkness versions) are all kept EXACTLY the same and the film benefits greatly from it. For one it sure makes the job of the set designers, CGI supervisors and cinematographers a lot easier since they don't have to come up with anything new, but for fans of the game it's like having your dream come true. You're seeing your favorite game up there on the screen intact! And I have to say that seeing Red Pyramid skulking around on screen with a sword that would make Cloud from Final Fantasy VII jealous gave me goosebumps.
One part of the game that's wasn't all that welcome, but was translated just as well was the bad dialogue. That's the one part I would have changed if I were in Avery's shoes since some of the lines are real stinkers. Pretty much everything that Laurie Holden's policewomen Cybil Bennett (again, a perfect adaptation of the character from the game) says is nearly eye roll worthy. Radha Mitchell's character has a habit of walking into a totally fucked up situation followed by her saying something like "everything is going to be okay". It's a little silly and grated on the nerves more than once. For the most part it did retain that game feeling, albeit one I'm not too fond of.

The music is another cool part of the flick. Composer Jeff Danna (Resident Evil: Apocalypse) had to adapt all the music from the games, which was made completely on synthesizers, to a full sized orchestra. The end result is freaking fantastic! I've been replaying the games and the music is exactly the same, only loads better due to the real instruments. I want the soundtrack!
The movie does slow down in parts, but the games were the same way. You can't blow your load too early in the movie otherwise the climax would be a let down. Well, the buildup to the final moments of the film are handled masterfully, with some extremely icky gore (what Pyramid Head does to the poor girl is truly nasty as well as the barbed wire death) thrown in for good measure. And the last few moments of the movie, while not at all happy happy, feels just right for the story and could possibly lead into another film (which I hear is already in the planning stages). I can't wait to see a sequel if it ever comes to be.

I'll sum it all up for you - this is the most accurate and faithful game-to-movie adaptation (Mortal Kombat being a distant second), and the filmmakers had the balls to keep it that way. While it is a little arty at times (the director is French btw) and the story is a little muddled, this is a creepy, disturbing and wholly satisfying movie that every gamer out there should embrace, horror fan or not. I say that because if this film becomes a smash hit that could possibly mean that more filmmakers will try to keep their adaptations as true to the source material as they can. I can dream, can't I?

4.5 out of 5

*written 4/22/06

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