Sunday, August 19, 2007

Silent Hill (2006)

Video game adaptations are a tricky lot. Not only do the filmmakers have to worry about pleasing the game's, most likely, rabid fan base, but they also have to appeal to the general audience as well. If you trace the history of video game films back to Super Mario Brothers (1993) it becomes pretty clear that there hasn't been a good one. Tron (1982), I'm surprised to learn was not based on a video game. Still, even if it was, Tron is not a picture that has really withstood the test of time. It's still somewhat entertaining, but it has become incredibly dated. Probably the best of the adaptations would be Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and yet I've been told the story was not taken from any of the games, so I suppose it doesn't count. I guess the cream of this particular crop would be the Tomb Raider films (I didn't enjoy them) or, perhaps Resident Evil (pretty bad). Uwe Boll made a few of these films and if you guys actually READ my review you will know that I did not think Alone in the Dark was, by any means, good. Just that it's not as bad as everyone says. I don't think "not as bad" is the same thing as good, but whatever. You guys still wanted to form a lynch party outside my Mexican villa and string me up just for calling Uwe Boll "not the worst fucking director in the history of the world" or whatever I said, I'm paraphrasing. As you may remember (from my Uwe Boll diatribe), I'm not a gamer. I don't know if I'd label myself a member of the "general audience" either. Still, I can go into these things not having to worry about things like; 1) Will the movie stay true to the game characters? 2) Will the movie have the same look as the game? 3) Will it stay true to the game's spirit? 4) What about the dynamic between Mario and Luigi? 5) Why are we a bunch of nerds? Since I'm not a gamer I only have to worry about such things as; 1) Will I enjoy it? 2) Will I see tits? I guess the "general audience" only has to worry about enjoyment.

Well, guess what folks? Silent Hill, I can tell you with conviction, is the best video game picture EVER made! Ok, that's not saying much and this isn't even really a great movie (merely pretty good). And there weren't any tits except for a brief shot when a young woman was stripped naked and had her skin twisted off her body by the giant guy with the pyramid head (long story). If you get off on that kind of thing, please kindly keep it to yourself. This one was not directed by Uwe Boll though, so maybe there's a chance you guys will actually like it. Then again, the 28% rating on the tomatoemeter doesn't bode well. I was encouraged to learn that the picture is directed by Christopher Gans (Brotherhood of the Wolf) and scripted by Roger Avary (Pulp Fiction). Brotherhood of the Wolf is a terrifically fun monster movie (for those of you that can tolerate subtitles). And Pulp Fiction should have won the best picture Oscar. Fucking Forrest Gump.

This is one of those films where plot is completely secondary to visuals and atmosphere. The story concerns a husband and wife and their adopted daughter Sharon, played by Jodelle Ferland (Tideland). Sharon isn't really right. She sleepwalks in the middle of the night and likes to wander around the edges of cliffs while repeating "silent hill" over and over. The husband, Chris, played by Sean Bean (Stormy Monday) is the sensible one. He suggests therapy and drugs. The wife, Rose, played by Radha Mitchell (Pitch Black) thinks taking her daughter to the ghost town of Silent Hill, West Virgina where a coal fire has been burning underground for decades is the smart move. I guess there are benefits to both courses of action. Anyway, without giving too much away the movie is about Rose losing her daughter when she gets to the town and spending the rest of the movie trying to find her, while her husband is trying to find the both of them. There's also a cop, Cybil, played by Laurie Holden. You may remember her as Marita, one of Mulder's shady informants in the X-files, or likely not. Anyway, Cybil pulled over Rose, on her way to the Hill, but Rose really had to get there, so she waited until Cybil walked up to her SUV and then gunned it. Cybil keeps on her though and the three of them end up trapped in the town.

The movie is extremely high on the creep factor. There is an underlying sense of dread throughout. The town seems empty, until those fucking awful sirens crank up and suddenly everyone is crawling out of the woodwork and sprinting for the church as if their lives depended on it (they do). Even the crows fly to the church, although it's unclear whether they are also afraid or simply pointing out the people's whereabouts to the unseen evil. See, the town is actually occupied, but the inhabitants mostly remain hidden. The scene where Rose first enters the town trying to find her daughter is handled extremely well. This is a gray world, of falling snow-like ash. The siren begins blaring. Each time this happens we know something terrible is about to happen. She enters a building and descends the darkened staircase with only a lighter to guide her, the darkness closing in. The siren still going off outside. It's in the basement of this labyrinthine building that she is accosted by little gray ash people. I was particulary startled by their movements, a herky jerky almost michael jackson-like coordinated display (think Thriller). Their faces are featureless, and yet embody a lifetime of torment. It's a great introduction to the rule-less word of Silent Hill.

This is certainly not a plot driven movie, most GOOD horror movies actually aren't. If you spend too much time thinking about the plot, you spend less time actually being scared, or, just generally creeped out. I guess the name I thought of after having seen this was Clive Barker. Barker specialized in writing about the horrors in the real world and the, well, OTHER world. This other world could refer to hell, I suppose, or just another realm where torture and hooks are the sexual norm. In Silent Hill, there is a character that seems ripped right out of the pages of Barker and that would be the demon with the giant pyramid on his head. I think this guy was actually kicked off the Cenobite team by Pinhead for being too bad ass. He's only in the film for a few scenes, but boy are they memorable. He walks around the buildings, after the Siren has gone off, stalking his prey with a sword about the width of his torso and the length of his body. Please, keep in mind that he's huge. Here's the best image I could find, but even this doesn't really do him justice.

Actually, this image looks sorta ridiculous now that I think about it. Forget I posted it. Anyway, I mentioned a scene involving him and a young woman earlier. The sirens have started and the remaining townspeople are fleeing for the sanctity of the church. The unfortunate young woman is one of the last ones to start up the steps when pyramid guy appears behind her. He picks her up with one hand and rips off her clothes with the other. As the stunned townspeople look on from the door, he twists the skin at her breasts and pulls it all off in the same motion he used to take off her clothing. He then flings her blood and skin upon the church doors as if to say, "yeah, god's ok, but can he do this?" It's actually a disgusting scene, worthy of making the pantheon of disgusting horror movie scenes, up there with the guy regenerating himself in the attic in Hellraiser. In fact, this picture has two such scenes, the second one involving barbed wire. I won't get into it here, you'll just have to see for yourself.

This movie is basically like a nightmare. Nothing really makes sense and that's the way it should be. Unfortunately, the film made a couple of mis-steps in trying to make sense out the senseless. They included scenes of Sean Bean, back in the real world, frantically trying to locate his wife and child. It's made pretty clear that they are not in the same realm. I'll leave it for you to decide what realm Rose, Sharon, and Cybil (the cop having a realy bad day) are in. I'm sure all you gamers out there can tell me definitively. The one element of these scenes that works is the color schemes used in the real world versus the world of Silent Hill. The scenes set in the real world are colorful and vibrant, while, in Silent Hill everything is drab and gray. This is important because there's a twist at the end which is easily ascertained when you understand this. The purpose of the Sean Bean scenes are to take you out of the movie. I guess they are similar to comic relief, of which, this movie has none. Feel free to get up and hit the bathroom whenever he appears, no need to hit pause. The other mis-step is the scene involving Alessa, who would seem to be Sharon's identical twin (why else would they have Jodelle Ferland play her as well?) She explains to Rose her story. I didn't really need to hear this. It reminded me of the end of The Matrix reloaded, the awful scene with the Architect. Now that I've mentioned the Matrix, has there ever been a picture that was shit on by its sequels as much as this one? The first movie was a stand alone masterpiece. Unfortunately, it made a ton of money. So, the Wachowski's had to force that story into a trilogy. It's no wonder that you can find copies of Reloaded and Revolutions for under 5 bucks. I've tried to forget about them, but the only time I tried to rewatch the Matrix after having seen the sequels was not a great experience. I didn't even make it halfway through. Hopefully, with the passage of more time, I'll be able to enjoy that one again. Anyway, in this film, Alessa explains to us who Sharon really is. It's a stupid scene, that only serves to undermine the film's horror, albeit only slightly.

I haven't even mentioned the creepily brilliant Alice Krige who plays Christobella. She's some kind of cult leader who believes every problem can be solved by burning someone. Krige had a brief, but effective scene, in the vastly underrated Reign of Fire, but is perhaps best known for playing the Borg queen in Star Trek; First Contact, the only good Next Generation film that ONLY features the crew of Next Generation. Here, Krige's character may be even less human that that. She's given a grand exit involving that barbed wire I talked about earlier. It's one of the most revolting scenes of this film and ANY film, for that matter.

This picture has, in part, been widely panned for featuring inane dialogue. Why someone would go into a movie of this ilk for the dialogue is beyond me. Yes, there are lines such as "in the eyes of a child, a mother is a god" and "sinners deserve to lose their spawn". Also, Krige's cult shouts "burn her" a lot. Big deal. This is not a reality based film. It's a dream-state film (see my review of Dead Silence). It's a fucking nightmare. How's the dialogue in YOUR nightmares Roger Ebert?? Yes, Ebert, I'm calling you out! Sorry, just had a flashback to when I watched the extra feature set in the morgue on the Chaos DVD. My recommendation for the day, besides Silent Hill, is to rent Chaos, skip the movie, and just watch the extras. Anywho, I thought the dialogue worked in this one, and actually helped support the film's gothic atmosphere. Clever, well written lines would actually feel out of place here. Sure, it is now evident that Avary probably didn't write any of the dialogue in Pulp Fiction. Still, it didn't bother me. If you can't stomach the movies dialogue then you are the wrong person for this picture. I did wonder if any of the lines were lifted from the game, but never having played, I can't really answer that question. Maybe some of you guys can help me out?

I liked this movie. It showed me some things I had never seen before, i.e. Pyramid head and another scene involving a mutant crawling out of a toilet. I think Ghoulies had a similar scene, just not as effective. Silent Hill is a disturbingly good time. If you're a fan of Hellbound; Hellraiser 2, then I highty recommend this one. If you're a fan of Terms of Endearment, it's possible you might still enjoy this, just don't expect any tears. Maybe vomit, but I don't think anyone has ever thrown up as the result of a movie. I think those stories regarding the Exorcist are urban legend. I saw this movie originally in the theatre and liked it enough to wait a year and a half to buy it for $5.99. If that's not a ringing endorsement, I don't know what is. The game is produced by Konami. I've got a suggestion for their next adaptation. Contra. Are you guys with me? Just don't sell it to that mother fucker Boll. (Just kidding Boll. I'm trying to appease my fan base, small as it is. You understand, I'm sure).

24 comments:

steve said...

'there hasn't been a good one'???

There hasn't been a good one???

Art thou MAD?

I've got two words for you, bub: 'Wing Commander.'

And as if that weren't refutation enough, I've got one word for you, bub: 'DOOM'

Geez ... there's just no pleasing some people! Not one but TWO minor sci-fi masterpieces, and still Moving Picture Trash isn't satisfied!

steve said...

Also: how the bloody Hell did you get a PICTURE to show up in the middle of your post? You're like the frickin Borg, adapting faster and faster to this new technology ...

brian said...

Steve,

I saw Wing Commander in the theatre. At the time, I thought it was one of the most godawful experiences of my life. You're telling me I should revisit it?

You're right, Doom was a glaring ommision on my part. I enjoyed it. Thanks for pointing out my folly.

Gianni said...

I actually liked Resident Evil (the first one. The second... not so much) as well as Wing Commander (don't see it in the theater) and Doom (Meh). Of all those, from your descriptions Silent Hill seems to most closely represent the atmosphere created by the game. It was always full of fog, and the sirens would serve quite well to scare the shit out of you. I wanted to see this when it first came out, now I realize I still haven't and after this posting I'm going to plug it into my Netflix list.

steve said...

Revisit 'Wing Commander'!! I contend that it's actually kind of good - not just in its special effects (which aren't at all bad), but in its plot and even its acting (except for the two male leads, who are, respectively, awful and gawd-awful) - David Suchet, Jurgen Prochnow, AND David Warner, and you're still asking if you should give it a second look? From when you were sprokking EIGHT???

Anonymous said...

When I saw the title of your review, I really was hoping this was a review of 'Silent Night, Deadly Night 2'. In my opinion it's the only horror movie worth reviewing. Well, that one and Jack Frost 2. Imagine my shock when you said that this movie was good, you fool.

And when I saw your review was based on a game (which I didn't know) then I was hoping you'd mention Street Fighter or the Sonic the Hedgehog movie. Alas, I was dissapointed. Oh well, maybe next week.

Hey, did you know that the LaPaglia brothers were from 'down under'?

brian said...

Steve,

After reading your comments regarding Wing Commander, claiming it to be a "minor sci-fi masterpiece", I've been doing some thinking. I may be in over my head. Perhaps I should hand you the keys to Moving Picture Trash?

I'll give it another shot.

"Also: how the bloody Hell did you get a PICTURE to show up in the middle of your post? You're like the frickin Borg, adapting faster and faster to this new technology ..."

It's simple. All you do is post a picture. It will always appear at the top of your posting. Click on the picture and then drag it down to the spot where you want it to appear. It actually took me a little while to figure this out.

brian said...

Ahhh, Jack Frost 2. The wonderful world of mutant killer snowmen. In the tropics!

I was saving Streetfighter for my Van Damme retrospective. Or maybe I'll post the review in 2014 in celebration of its 20th anniversary.

Sonic The Hedgehog is a great video game, but I haven't seen the movie. I like it because you can play and not think too much about it, so you're not labeled a "gamer". Anonymous, perhaps you can give us your review?

Anonymous said...

Silent Hill had my attention until the end when it becomes a CGI mess. All the work they did to build atmosphere and tension disappear in a flash of computer generated blood and barb wire. The movie should have been 90 mins of Pyramid Head tearing shit up.
-Dan-

brian said...

Eh, I loved the cgi blood and barbed wire. I built that scene up in my review only to have you tear it down. Sheesh, thanks Dan.

Of course it would have been cool to have Pyramidhead rip shit up at the end, but then his limited appearences wouldn't be as frightening. Save him for the inevitable sequel.

Anonymous said...

"Tron is not a picture that has really withstood the test of time. It's still somewhat entertaining, but it has become incredibly dated."

Yeah, a film that envisioned a cyberworld and advanced such outmoded concepts as networks and avatars. A movie that advanced the notion of a mutable reprogrammable reality decades before The Matrix. Conceptually and visually, the movie isn't outdated in the least. In fact, the world is still struggling to catch up with it.

brian said...

anonymous,

Conceptually, you are right. We haven't caught up to the world envisioned by Tron. I think we are years away from being materialized into a digital world and competing in such games as disc throwing and light cycle racing. Yeah, in that regard, it's ahead of it's time and will likely remain so....for the rest of our lives and beyond.

You cannot convince me that the movie has not dated itself visually, however. If they remake this with current technology, maybe then I'll agree with you, although I'm sure the remake would lose the subtle nuances that helped make the original good.

I can't compete with your technobabble, so I'm sure my argument isn't very convincing. I can only go by what I see.

A. Nonymous said...

Brian:

It's being dated visually is certainly a matter of opinion. I would disagree with your assessment. Contrary to what many people believe, there is very little CG in Tron. Most of the effects are either due to experimental photography or traditional animation. And what little CG there is (MCP, Light Cycles, a few other bits) look exactly like what they NEED to look like. How would those things really be improved by flashier animation? And seriously, you didn't have better graphics on your Atari 5200. It would have been great to have an Atari that could render a full light cycle game with the same detail that existed in the film. But it couldn't. Not even close.

Conceptually, in the sense that the film imagined aspects of our interaction with computers that is only now becoming commonplace. Computers performing tasks that are only now understood by the average film viewer. And yes, obviously, we are nowhere near performing the actions portrayed in the film literally. I don't think that bit of science fiction will ever become reality. But I was discussing the concept. Not the literal actions as portrayed.

A. Nonymous said...

I forgot to touch on this:

"although I'm sure the remake would lose the subtle nuances that helped make the original good."

I agree. Although, it would allow the opportunity for polishing up on some so-so dialog.

A. Nonymous said...

Brian:

Apparently I'm really wasted as I could swear I read something about the Atari 5200 previously. Now I see nothing. So disregard that bit.

That's about enough posting now, I think.

brian said...

Anon,

I hear what you are saying and see your point. I'm going to watch Tron again.

A. Nonymous said...

Just remember I didn't say it was all good.

steve said...

Um, 'Tron' stinks. Any mouth-breathing fanboy virgin who says otherwise is talking through his TARDIS.

A. Nonymous said...

"Um, 'Tron' stinks. Any mouth-breathing fanboy virgin who says otherwise is talking through his TARDIS."

Says' the "Wing Commander" fan. I mean... C'mon. Seriously.

brian said...

Steve,

Thanks for backing me up. Tron is certainly NOT as good as the next movie I'm about to review. Post will appear sometime this weekend. Stay tuned.

A. Nonymous said...

Brian:

Did you really just go from: "I hear what you are saying and see your point. I'm going to watch Tron again." to suggesting that the sentence "Tron' stinks. Any mouth-breathing fanboy virgin who says otherwise is talking through his TARDIS." backs up your opinions?

I mean, don't get me wrong. Tron is flawed in it's execution. Mainly due to some poor acting and dialog. But I think supporting the opinion that it "stinks" and that only "mouth-breathing fanboy virgins" would say otherwise is a bit of overkill.

Beepy said...

Can't wait!

brian said...

a.non.

You are right. What can I say? I tend to fly by the seat of my pants. My opinions are my own, even when they're changing.

I will likely see Tron again at some point though.

A. Nonymous said...

Fair enough.