Based on the anus puckering video game of the same name, Silent Hill is one of those video game adaptations that actually make sense.
Second only to Resident Evil as THE classic shit-your-pants-as-you-play-until-three-in-the-morning game playing experience (although I admit I’ve personally always preferred Hill to Evil) a cross over to cinema was inevitable but instead of hiring an auteur of questionably thought out blockbusters (yes Paul W.S. Anderson, I’m looking at you) the people behind this attempt went with a slightly more artistic choice with Christophe Gans, the French director behind stylish anime adap Crying Freeman and the utterly stonking French historical, martial arts, monster movie epic: Brotherhood Of The Wolf.
Worried about their adopted daughter’s increasingly upsetting nightmares and uncontrollable sleepwalking, well meaning parents Rose and Christopher argue about how to best treat her troubles. Sensible Chris (a dialled down Sean Bean) wants to continue with medication and therapy but Rose wants to take a more experimental approach and demands to take her little girl to Silent Hill, the name of a town called out during one of her nightmares.
However, upon arriving in town and promptly crashing her car, Rose awakes to find herself at the edge of town with her daughter missing and heads off into the oppressive fog that has shrouded this deserted ghost town.
Followed by Cybil, a suspicious traffic cop in insanely tight leather trousers, who is under the misapprehension that Rose has kidnapped her daughter, the two women soon discover that the town is not only home to various twisted, inhuman creatures but has the rather disconcerting habit of occasionally phasing into another dimension that suspiciously looks satan’s in the middle of getting some renovations done.
As if desperately trying to fight off otherworldly beings isn’t bad enough, Rose also has to contend with the town’s understandably dwindling and God fearing population in order to get back to her adopted child (when the survivors of a place ravaged by a supernatural force are led by Alice Krige, you know you’re in deep shit) and with every passing moment, escape from Silent Hill seems less and less possible.
What really benefits Silent Hill and makes it stand out a little more than other movies of it’s kind is that it actually follows large clumps of the game’s storyline to the absolute letter with even certain song choices and music cues feeling very much the product of japanese game design. However while many video game movies have the problem not utilising and existing storyline enough, Christophe Gans goes a bit too far in the other direction and faithfully recreates numerous scenes of people wandering around aimlessly in the mist while we wait for something fucked up to happen. Now, while this is very effective on a first and only viewing, if you were ever to sit down and watch it again you would openly wonder why they have chose to accurately replicate the feeling of watching someone play a horror/survival game who has no idea what the hell they’re supposed to be doing…
However, thankfully the aforementioned wanderings are frequently punctuated by stunning visuals and cool Clive Barker-esque creatures that skitter, undulate and stagger their way across the screen in a myriad of freaky ways, be it the screeching, melty faces toddlers; the bipedal, toxin spewing acid sacks; or the genuinely upsetting cleavage on the shapely, mush-faced nurses who lash out with scalples at a moments notice. However, all these creatures (pulled straight out of the various titles of the Silent Hill franchise) pale into insignificance in the presence of the legitimately impressive Red Pyramid, a towering figure with a sword the size of a fucking surfboard who’s triangular headgear and penchant for ripping the skin clean off people like a magician yanking off a tablecloth while leaving the plates and candlesticks still standing.
The cast is admirably female-centric (in the orginal game it was a father searching for his daughter) and Radha Mitchell – with Pitch Black, The Crazies remake and killer croc flick Rogue collectively under her belt – continues to be a solid presence. Although you’d think after Laurie Holden’s misadventures with foggy towns here, the former Walking Dead actress would know to stay away from places like this and yet a year later she pops up in top notch Stephen King flick The Mist. She’s only got herself to blame, I say…
A slavish attempt to realise a legitimate gaming phenomenon, Gans may have been a bit TOO slavish here (you can tell he’s a fan, right down to the original game theme making an early appearance) and there’s a definite sense of the film running out of steam thanks to it’s two hour and twelve minutes of runtime but as video game movies go it’s much better than most.
This is one Hill that’s worth climbing… but probably only once.