Christophe Gans’ depiction of the “Silent Hill” video game is really above dreck like “Doom” and “Resident Evil”. It’s a very popular series of games that are basically just a woman looking for her daughter in the ghost infested abandoned town, as she battles demons and tries to decrypt a mystery. Instead of adhering to the game and letting its formulas trap it down, it instead attempts to break out. It sticks true to the source material and also delves deep into focusing on an actual story and deep characterization in spite of its failings. Though there’s yet to be an actual video game adaptation that’s been fantastic, “Silent Hill” works because it dares to challenge its conventions of the video game world.
Where as its predecessors like “Doom”, and “Tomb Raider” kept the stories campy and vapid, without trying to form its own mold. Gans’ direction is really nothing to sneeze at as he provides the story of “Silent Hill” with incredible visuals and set pieces that really give the film a cogent cohesive texture. His work here reminds us that this isn’t a typical video game adaptation. After her daughter Sarah begins having horrible nightmares that lead her to near death, Rose takes her back to Silent Hill, a phrase she constantly screams in her sleep, and there she discovers there’s something deep in the ruins.
The town of Silent Hill seems almost out of a nightmare like a mixture of Faustian set pieces, and a vision of Dante’s Inferno as the characters delve deeper and deeper into its structures and surprises. In it looms some of the most surreal monsters I’ve seen in years, and Gans’ direction and semi-gothic surroundings make this a film based on characterization and story and not on special effects; but while that’s the fact, there are some amazing special effects used with clever resource to add to the effect rather than cover the entire film with CGI for compensation of a lack of story. I was hoping “Silent Hill” would be a film that took its time telling the story and establishing the characters.
Now while there’s characterization only after the principles arrive in the town, there’s not much before. For a movie that’s a little over two hours, it really rushes the story, and seems to want to get to the meat of the movie without really caring about establishing a rapport with the people on-screen. Rose is a basic enigma from the get go. We know she loves her daughter, and we know she’s willing to go through hell and back to be with her again, but there’s not much else to it, while Sarah is basically non-existent. Sean Bean, worst of all, is relegated to a doting husband looking for his wife, yadda yadda. Beyond that, there’s not much of a story in the first ninety minutes, it’s really just Mitchell walking around and screaming for her daughter for two hours, while she comes across every other creature.
And since there’s not much to the plot beyond the simple fright and run, we’re taken along for a live action video game. Rose walks around, Rose experiences villains of all kinds, Rose shoots and fights, Rose beats bosses, Rose investigates rooms and corners picking up keys and trinkets, Rose reads signs knowing where to go, and she goes through doors to look for clues to her daughters whereabouts. It becomes very repetitive very quickly, and the writers seem to be stalling and anxiously searching for a way to break this routine. I enjoyed “Silent Hill” for its morbid score, great acting courtesy of Sean Bean, and Radha Mitchell, and its story that requires the audience follow along. It’s one of the best video game adaptations I’ve seen in years. With top notch acting, visuals, and direction, I would definitely recommend it.