I rarely use swear words in my reviews for the sake of a family entertainment, but every once in a while a movie comes along that warrants such sinful words. "Silent Hill," a video game-adapted horror movie, easily fits into the genuinely fucked-up genre. Whether you love it or hate it, you'll have to admit that not only is its atmosphere consistently creepy from beginning to end, but that it is one fucked-up movie in premise and conclusion.
"Silent Hill," though I had never heard of the video game before seeing the movie, is based on the lowest of mediums, and despite some creepy trailers and a decent cast, the very fact that it was based on a video game had me nervous going into theaters. Amidst poor reviews and the slight suspicion that Christophe Gans could be an alias for Uwe Boll, I didn't know what to expect from "Silent Hill" - would it be as weird and twisted as it looks in the previews, or would it suck to all ends of the earth?
Thankfully, it doesn't suck, but several hours after watching the movie I don't know whether I loved it, hated it, liked it or disliked it. Definitely not cheery, and twisted in more ways than one, I don't know whether to congratulate Gans for delivering something that made me uneasy or hate him for just throwing one weird thing at the audience after another without any real sense of an even mildly-understandable plot. The movie is a bit confusing in that it never really explains anything about the purpose of everything, or at least not about certain things - like where the fuck did this darkness comes that has cursed every human being in the town? I get the girl's story, but... what the fuck?
Regardless of your understanding, acceptance or confusion of the plot, one thing is for certain - Gans places the audience into a hellish nightmare to an extent that few movies have offered. The settings are indeed creepy, even when the darkness hasn't consumed everything - the deserted town, blanketed in a snow-like white only it is ash of a fire that has been raging for 30 years, is eerie to say the least. Throw in some unique monsters that aren't at all cheesy (okay, so the demon nurses who moved in a sexy fashion were a bit strange) and a vision of Hell and revenge that you have to see to believe, "Silent Hill" reminds me a lot of Hellraiser only out of control.
If you're in to that kind of thing - and even if you are, like me, that doesn't mean you'll like "Silent Hill" - the two things that really do mess up the movie are the acting and the screenplay. The dialogue can probably be blamed more than the actors, but there are definitely some moments that are cringe-inducing. From a plot perspective, why does Rose (Radha Mitchell) speed away from the cop for no apparent reason? Why is Sean Bean so useless in the story? And who the hell approved the dialogue? After a couple of the characters have survived an onslaught from a knife-wielding demon from Hell, Mitchell tries her best to make the following dialogue convincing: "It's fine. Everything will be fine." Are you fucking kidding me? Did you just see the knife-wielding demon from Hell attack you? Did you notice that the road out of town had collapsed into a bottomless pit? Do you realize that the smartest thing you could do is put a bullet into your own head? Mitchell, actually, handles herself quite well, but even she struggles with the dialogue in a few places, and her whole speech near the end is just farfetched. But what really kills the casting is the acting from Laurie Holden. She seems completely out-of-place and uncomfortable in her role as tough cop, and not a single word that came out of her mouth was convincing. Again, perhaps the screenplay is to blame, but she stood out like a sore thumb - dipped into the pits of Hell! I just wanted to say that.
So... did I like the movie or not? I don't know. From a purely visual standpoint, the movie is amazing. Its sets are complex and terrifying, and the sound effects and music that associate the visuals make the movie all the creepier, even if you can't tell what sounds are supposed to be real and what are supposed to be part of the soundtrack. From a scariness factor, there was nothing very physically frightening - there is no single moment that really jumps out at you. It definitely ranks up there in the fucked-up category, and the ending will probably make it or break it for you. All in all, it is a movie that made me spellbound for good or for bad, but one that I would have no interest in seeing again.
So, what did I think? You haven't figured it out? Well, neither have I...
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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