I sort of missed the boat with the Silent Hill games. By the time they came out, I had pretty much given up on console gaming, as my gorilla-sized mitts were more suited to the relative comfort of a keyboard and mouse rather than the teeny controllers that the console systems afforded. I'm not a big fan of the fighting, flying, and adventure-type games those systems offered, anyway, but I did miss out on some gems, and the Silent Hill series is obviously one of them.
While I didn't exactly know much about the games, I did know that they were said to be, essentially, horror movies that you play, so the jump from console to screen seemed like a natural one. However, one of the great things about videogames (even ones as story-dependent as this) is that, as long as it's fun and entertaining, paper-thin characters, plot holes and lapses of logic can easily go unnoticed. Such is not the case for movies, however. Or so I thought.
Rose (Mitchell) and Christopher (Bean) have reached their wit's end with their adopted daughter, Sharon, who has been sleepwalking, hallucinating, and, lately, seemingly slipping into another world altogether. While Christopher thinks Sharon is beyond their help, Rose refuses to give up on her child, and decides to take Sharon to the place that haunts her dreams; an abandoned mining town called Silent Hill.
When Rose arrives, she loses her daughter, but soon discovers that this ghost town isn't abandoned at all. Now she must fight her way through nightmare creatures and human enemies whose souls are just as dark if she is to save Sharon from fate itself.
Silent Hill is a fantastic looking film, with imagery that is as gorgeous as it is grotesque. It seems, however, that so much emphasis was placed on the look of the film that things like plot, character development, and dialogue were given the short shrift. I was especially keen to see this film, as it was written by the usually competent Roger Avary, but, alas, the dialogue here is stilted and mired in horror/action clichés. While I truly believed that Rose was desperate to save her daughter, I didn't buy her character's sudden transformation from terrified mother to seasoned demon hunter. Sean Bean, meanwhile, does little more than walk around with a dour look on his face. The supporting cast, including genre veteran, Alice Krige, does a serviceable job, but, once again, they only do what the script affords them.
It's probably a good thing, then, that director Christophe Gans makes the most of the visual elements of Silent Hill, crafting a truly frightening and surreal nightmare world that makes this film work despite all of its structural flaws. Gans' vision of Silent Hill feels like a marriage of Jacob's Ladder and H.P. Lovecraft, spiced up with uniquely French sensibilities that make for a truly unique and immersive experience, which, I'm told, mirrors that of the source material. In the end, I enjoyed this film tremendously, in spite of the writing (something I'm always critical of), and let the movie's twisted imagery tell the story instead.
The DVD from Sony features a very comprehensive six-part documentary that covers everything from inception to completion. I especially enjoyed the segment on the creation of the film's magnificent monsters, and the attention to detail that went into not only making them, but orchestrating their movements and actions is indicative of the kind of film Gans set out to make.
With Silent Hill, Christophe Gans may have made the most faithful theatrical adaptation ever by letting the videogame be the movie. Maybe this is the answer to making a successful videogame-to-film translation? It seems as though filmmakers have been so concerned with making the plots of videogames conform to the rules of cinema that they've lost what it was that made those games so popular in the first place.
I just may dust off that old console, now, and give the game a go. After all, it was a heck of a movie.