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Silent Hill

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.


( 4 comments — Have your say! )
Apr. 29th, 2006 05:17 am (UTC)
Indeed. The soundtrack was wonderful, but what really made the film for me was the visuals. You'd be amazed at how much Silent Hill looks like any town from southwestern PA. It was like watching ash and darkness fall on nearby Masontown.

I was also impressed by the fact that the film is so matriarchal in its storytelling. Not a single "weak" woman character in the film--which is something, sadly, that is almost expected from horror films these days. The only real throw-away character in the film, in fact, was the goofy youngster whom Pyramid Head skinned alive. She was so goddamned annoying--and reminded me so much of an unbearable girl that went to highschool with me--that I actually laughed when she was flensed.
Apr. 29th, 2006 05:37 am (UTC)
This entry pretty much sums up my feelings on Silent Hill. I was especially pleased with the soundtrack, myself.

Apr. 29th, 2006 10:54 am (UTC)
'Radha Mitchell, who I loved in Pitch Black but haven't seen in anything else'

She first got noticed in the lesbian indie film High Art, wherein she falls in love with Ally Sheedy.

Relevant as it may be to our times, I didn't dig the whole 'religious wacko cult' explanation, because (A) I'd seen it before and (B) it demystified a heretofore mystifying film.
May. 2nd, 2006 02:09 pm (UTC)
And yet, the religious wacko cult explanation is actually fairly close to the games, though Dahlia was the cult leader in the games.

I was shocked that this was so (almost to the point of ridiculousness at times) true to the feel of the games. I actually really enjoyed it...

I wish they hadn't used that awkward rephrase of a great line from The Crow, though.
( 4 comments — Have your say! )