Silent Hill (2006)
Director: Christopher Gans
Starring: Radha Mitchell, Sean Bean, Laurie Holden, Alice Krige, Debra Kara Unger, Jodelle Ferland
Ignore for a minute that this is a video game movie. I can’t help feeling that this fact gave many reviewers an excuse to watch this with their brain switched off. There have been a lot of duds in adapted from videogames, but this is different. Watch it as a great horror movie, and this is way ahead, way in front of many others. Much like the game itself, there is a lot more going on than in any typical survival horror.
It opens on a mother’s desperate scream – Rose De Silva (Rahda Mitchell), and her husband, Christopher (Sean Bean) are running around in the dark beyond their house, searching for their sleepwalking daughter, Sharon. Neatly showing the lengths that Rose will go to for her daughter, she performs a dizzying rescue above a steep waterfall. Her little girl gasps, “Silent Hill!” and Rose worries that she’s getting worse. Rose decides to take her to this mysterious place in the hope of curing her night terrors. Her husband objects and tries to stop her – Rose ignores him and drives to Silent Hill just in time to crash off the road during a chase with a suspicious cop. A little while later, she comes round and Sharon is gone.
Rose finds herself in an empty town that’s slowly being smothered in falling ash. Everything is hidden in thick white fog. It’s already very scary, and Rose does the sensible thing and heads straight into town, looking for Sharon. And this is when it starts to get really nasty.
Rose’s subsequent descent into the levels of Silent Hill hell is brilliantly realised. She moves through two different versions of the haunted town. One is the familiar foggy town. Weird shit still abounds, but it’s nothing compared to what happens when the siren wails and the lights all go out. The siren signals a beautifully grotesque decay of the surroundings. It also brings the monsters to life. These creatures are hideous and realistic – like most of the film they’re created with a minimum of CGI. You’ll be praying for Rose to survive their attacks long enough for these beasts to melt away, turning back into the ashes of the town. It’s pretty intense.
But not all monsters are made of ash. A sinister religious group has a church in the centre of Silent Hill. Rose is following clues to find her daughter, led by a creepy little girl who could be Sharon’s twin. Soon she uncovers the real evil in the town, and learns what they have unleashed through their righteousness.
Whilst Rose tries to survive, Christopher is trying to uncover the mystery of what happened in the ghost town. Heruns up against the local police (Kim Coates) who would prefer that no one went into Silent Hill again. There are fires burning beneath. We see the town in its current, real life state as Christopher searches – sometimes in the same place – for his missing family. Sean Bean gets little to do but look puzzled, but he’s important to show us how the little town appears to have slipped between earth, Heaven and Hell.
Watching this again, I really can’t understand the poor reception this received. It’s a solid horror film, a little more thoughtful than most. Anybody expecting the in-your-face splatter of Resident Evil or, god-forbid, the sequel to Resident evil, might find themselves in a new and much more frightening place. It’s downbeat and brilliant. It rewards repeat viewings, and it looks absolutely beautiful. Oh, and it’s based on a computer game. If you liked the game – and are prepared to be flexible on the plot – then it’s likely you’ll love it. If you’ve never played the game then you’re in for a great trip. Enjoy your visit. It’ll freak you out. Have fun.