Late this afternoon, Spooky, Byron and I took in a matinee of Silent Hill. I must admit that I had lowish expectations, figuring it would be good eye candy, good enough that I wouldn't mind the general pointlessness which afflicts most videogame-to-film adaptations or having paid the matinee ticket price. So, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this is actually a very enjoyable film. I've seen a lot of the responses from critics, which seem, in the main, to be pretty negative and dismissive. Poor Ebert seemed utterly lost in the plot. All I can say is that the three of us had no trouble whatsoever following the story, and I don't think it was because we'd played the games. The art direction and cinematography are often breathtaking. The film wisely devotes a great deal of energy to establishing and maintaining mood and atmosphere. This isn't a "jump and scream" sort of horror film. At least, it didn't strike us that way. Rather, tension builds slowly and inevitably. And then it leaves you hanging, waiting for release that always seems just a few moments away. And yet it is an unrelentingly brutal film, and hardly ever shies away from explicit blood and gore. Radha Mitchell, who I loved in Pitch Black but haven't seen in anything else, generally handles her role here well, and Alice Krige is exquisite. Same for Deborah Kara Unger. Something I've not seen mentioned in any of the reviews I've read is that this is an unexpectedly matrifocal film. All the power, whether good and evil and pretty much anything in between, rests with female characters. Men are few and ultimately impotent in the face of the forces at work in the town of Silent Hill. And it's not that female characters were simply plugged into action film roles traditionally reserved for men. Anyway, yes, I liked it. I liked it a lot. There are some clunky moments of dialogue, and I thought the "blinding light" infodump towards the end, wherein the dark secret of Silent Hill is explained to Rose Da Silva, might have been handled with a little more subtlety. But, ultimately, these are minor complaints, and they don't detract from the film in any significant way. And speaking of pleasant surprises, the bleak ending, which entirely defeated my expectations for something more upbeat, more Hollywood, more test-audience sanctioned, was greatly appreciated and suited the story from which it followed. Great soundtrack, too.
It's not a great film, mind you. But it is a good horror film, decent dark fantasy, and as videogame films go, it's a frelling masterpiece.