Friday, September 01, 2006

Silent Hill - The Movie

[Now Experiencing] [Film] [Computer Gaming]

A bunch of us saw the Silent Hill movie last night, finally arriving in Australia cinemas after an epic delay.

Was it a good movie? No. In fact, it was about as hideous a movie as you could ever hope to encounter. The script was childish and regularly cringeworthy, the plot was inane, and the acting was appalling (with the exception of a surprisingly good Deborah Kara Unger playing Dahlia Gillespie).

But was it a good Silent Hill movie? Hell yes!

For all its failings in the department of narrative, the set design, costuming, special effects and soundtrack for Silent Hill should win some sort of award. The movie recreates the majority of the first Silent Hill game with as loving an attention to detail as you could possibly imagine. The Silent Hill opening cutscene is recreated shot-for-shot, with Radha Mitchell playing the character of "Rose" (replacing Harry) accompanying her daughter Sharon (SH1's Cheryl) on a mysterious voyage to the West Virginia town of Silent Hill to find the source of Sharon's troubling nightmares.

On arrival in the town, Rose crashes the car, and while she's unconscious Sharon goes missing. It's left to Rose to enter the fog-haunted ghost town of Silent Hill in an attempt to find her daughter. She soon discovers that the town is stalked by strange monsters, and that when a wierd siren sounds, reality is eaten away, plunging her into a terrifying hell-world.

Over the course of Rose's journey she visits Midwich Elementary, the Grand Hotel, and Brookhaven Hospital, all of which will be familiar to players of Silent Hill. As I've said, the attention to detail in these environments is stunning. Notable sets include perfect reconstructions of the school office and classrooms from the game. The school layout is even identical to the school in the game (including creepy central courtyard).

If you're a fan, you'll love seeing that the street names retain their horror-author naming scheme (watch for Bachman Road), that many of the random shopfronts are identical to those seen in SH1 (complete with names), and that at the hospital Rose confronts a map of Brookhaven identical to that which appears in the game (down to the choice of font).

The soundtrack is by Akira Yamaoka, composer for the Silent Hill game series (and producer of SH3 and 4), and contains a mix of tracks from Silent Hill 1 and 2, plus some new compositions. The new work is particularly noteworthy - as nostalgic as the game music is, the original compositions are several cuts better.

The special effects are fantastic. It's a real treat watching the "real" world being transmuted into the hell world (something never explicitly depicted in the games). The movie also features a cast of new monsters. Alongside the nurse-beasts returning from the game, the movie features screaming children made out of embers and ash, the tortured and contorted "Colin", and misshapen acid-spewing abortion-monsters - all directly relevant to the film's plot and theme.

The height of the monster effects is definitely the grotesque Pyramid Head, demon of guilt and rape and High Executioner of the Silent Hill cult. In a lot of ways it's hard to justify his appearance in the movie, and he's never really very relevant to anything that's going on - but damn it, if Pyramid Head doesn't look good. The monstrous boss of Silent Hill 2 is iconic, terrifying, and highly memorable, to an extent that you'll be wishing they'd made more extensive use of him in the plot.

For all the problems with the script, if you've played the first Silent Hill game you'll be left in no doubt whatsoever that this IS Silent Hill. In visuals, in sounds, in atmosphere the movie nails the essence of the games perfectly.

You could also argue that the plot and dialogue hew very close to that of the games... but that's not really as mujch of a compliment.

If you're a Silent Hill fan, you absolutely must see this movie for two hours of very well-done fan service. But if you've never touched a Silent Hill game before, then avoid the movie, because you're unlikely to get a lot out of it.


Jey said...

Was it scary?

GregT said...

Not really. But since the Western versions of Ring and The Grudge my standards of scary have gone up a lot.

I mean, it's not unscary, like, say, the first Resident Evil game, and it has a bunch of good moments, but it's a little predictable and you don't really care about any of the characters much.

Jey said...

The Grudge was scary?
Haven't seen it.

Sometimes I'm scared easily, but usually not very.
It depends on my mood.
Usually if I'm scared easily, it's more a jumpiness due to being particular anxious rather than a true fear.