Film Reviews

SILENT HILL

By • Apr 21st, 2006 •

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TriStar Pictures / A Silent Hill DCP/Davis Films production in association with Konami Corp.
MPAA rating R / Running time — 120 minutes

QUOTE: It’s based on a video game, not Shakespeare. Enough said. Either stay away due to its provenance or enjoy, as I did.

Director Christophe Gans (BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF) and screenwriter Roger Avary have tried to take a popular video game and make a cinematically interesting movie out of it. Obviously, game-players are not interested in back stories, character arcs or a plot-driven, three-act structure. Gans and Avary give their dedicated audience what they want and what we do not want. The rest of the country could easily go see THE SENTINEL this weekend. I saw both back-to-back on Thursday night.

I have not played the video game and know nothing about it. There is no need to be a student of the game to be fascinated by the visual art of SILENT HILL. The story is simple: Rose (Radha Mitchell) and Chris (Sean Bean) are grappling with the fact that their adopted daughter Sharon (Jodelle Ferland) is suffering from some malady that prescription drugs and therapy cannot fix. Since Sharon’s DNA and parents are not known to Rose and Chris, the only information they have is that while in trance she keeps saying “Silent Hill.”

Googling “Silent Hill,” they find out that it is an abandoned old mining town in West Virginia. As if West Virginia is not creepy enough with snake handlers. We don’t want to be dragged down with philosophy or answers – it’s based on a violent video game. Impetuously arriving at Silent Hill without food, a husband, or even a baseball bat, Rose is stopped by a [lesbian] cop, Cybil (Laurie Holden), who is wearing a skin-tight rubber motorcycle cop outfit. Rose escapes and crashes. When she wakes up, Sharon is gone.

Apparently Sharon has been called to Silent Hill. It is an ash-torn town drenched is decay. Rose wanders around and confronts monsters with shock, but she is tough. Nothing really scares her enough to turn back and leave her adopted daughter to fend for herself among her people.

Yes, people. There is a group here, led by Cristabella (the scariest woman in horror movies without makeup, Alice Krige), who are hell-bent on sacrificing witches to cleanse their town. How come only Cristabella has clean hair? Anyhow, there is an S&M monster they have to appease and a crucifixion – that gets it another star rating.

An air raid siren alerts the townspeople to head to the de-sanctified Church. The siren means Silent Hill is going to descend into Hell. And what a Hell it is. Dante’s Inferno had to be Gans’ inspiration. If only the helmet-headed demon with a gigantic sword was swallowing people whole.

The imagery is really the star here and Gans and his team, director of photography Dan Laustsen and production designer Carol Spier, do a good job making SILENT HILL really creepy.

(Just asking: Was this the same location that HOUSE OF WAX used?)

There is not much dialogue and it is a movie that relies on Mitchell’s expressive performance. What the Hell was Deborah Kara Unger doing here? By the way, we could have spent more time chatting up that cropped-haired cop.


Credits:
Director: Christophe Gans
Screenwriter: Roger Avary
Producers: Samuel Hadida, Don Carmody
Executive producers: Andrew Mason, Victor Hadida, Akira Yamaoka
Director of photography: Dan Laustsen
Production designer: Carol Spier
Editor: Sebastien Prangere
Music: Jeff Danna, Akira Yamaoka

Cast:
Rose DaSilva: Radha Mitchell
Chris DaSilva: Sean Bean
Cybil Bennett: Laurie Holden
Dahlia: Deborah Kara Unger
Officer Thomas Gucci: Kim Coates
Anna: Tanya Allen
Cristabella: Alice Krige
Sharon/Alessa: Jodelle Ferland

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