This film proves silence isn’t golden

by Glen Baity

This is the actual premise of Silent Hill, which I have not embellished to make it seem stupider than it is ‘— really, it’s just this stupid.

Rose’s daughter is a sleepwalker. The girl, Sharon, goes on dangerous midnight strolls into traffic, toward the edges of cliffs, because, as she says while she’s still sleeping, she has to get back to Silent Hill.

Rose (Radha Mitchell), who obviously doesn’t own a PS2, has never heard of Silent Hill, and has no idea why her daughter feels tied to it. So she Googles the town (I know ‘— bear with me), and what she finds is chilling: a fire started years ago that still burns in the coal mines under the sleepy West Virginia ghost town. Its former inhabitants who weren’t burned alive, asphyxiated, or swallowed up in sinkholes fled for their lives, and the town these days is permeated by a creepy quiet.

For reasons unknown, the mother decides that taking Sharon to Silent Hill ‘— at night, no less ‘— will help her in some way, so the two set out toward mining country. Predictably, the two are separated, and Rose tracks Sharon into the menacing underworld beneath the town, where she is accosted by thousands of herky-jerky monsters who, anticlimactically, can be killed by conventional bullets.

The film rushes through the expository nonsense quickly, banking on the hope that by the end of Silent Hill, which doesn’t come until a punishing two hours later, the audience will have forgotten what a ludicrous premise the whole thing was predicated upon.

Not me, Jack ‘— I carry a notebook.

Which is fortunate, because otherwise, by the end of this protracted dud, it’d be easy to forget a lot of things from your life before Silent Hill became a part of it: that you had friends once, or that your parents loved you, or that there’s such a thing as sunshine, or that you ever did anything besides sit in a theater and watch this awful movie.

What I mean to say is: it’s long. Dreadfully so.

And it’s bad. It’s one of those that’s so bad I don’t quite know where to begin, so in the spirit of the movie, I’ll pick something arbitrary for a starting point.

The script, which may or may not have been directly lifted from the video game on which the film is based, is full of mysterious half-statements which do a poor job hiding the considerable plot holes. It also contains no fewer than three characters who serve absolutely no purpose at all, most noticeably Sharon’s father Christopher (Sean Bean).

Christopher makes an angry call to his wife demanding she bring Sharon home from this boneheaded field trip. When this tack proves unsuccessful he hops in a car and heads for Silent Hill himself, but for one stupid reason or another he can’t get in. Unfazed, he breaks into the records office of a nearby town to learn about the tragic history of Silent Hill, but he isn’t very successful. And then he goes home and waits.

And that’s all. He quite literally serves no purpose whatsoever in the film. Bean proved his mettle as Boromir in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but why he’s skating around the periphery of this D-level fiasco, I have no idea.

As the film lumbers forward, we learn that the town was brought to its knees years ago by a religious cult, and there’s some heeeeelllfire and damnation thrown into the mix, along with some fake-looking demons and assorted ghoulies, none of which add anything to the nonexistent suspense factor. But if you’ve been itching to see someone ripped apart by barbed wire tendrils, this is your movie.

I’m not averse to films based on video games in theory ‘— if Pirates of the Caribbean taught us anything, it’s that the idea for a great movie can come from anywhere. But so far, every film adaptation of a video game has been so slavishly faithful to its source material that I ended up reaching for my controller the whole time. Silent Hill is no exception ‘— the plot progression feels like a video game, ditto for the camera angles, the CG monster effects and the dialogue.

In fact, a lot of the more popular video games these days feel like movies, which is what makes them cool. But what most adapters of these properties have thus far failed to realize is that when you take the ‘“gaming’” aspect out, all you’re left with is another movie, and usually a pretty crappy one. It’d be nice, if we’re going to continue this trend (and if Doom didn’t kill it, there’s no reason to think this one will), to take a cue from Pirates: start with a single grain of an idea from a much older property and go from there.

Maybe that approach would work, and maybe it wouldn’t, but after enduring Silent Hill, the prospect of watching a film based on Dig Dug or Marble Madness seems attractive by comparison.

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