Sunday, April 23, 2006

Silent Hill


When a movie doesn't have a single test screening before it's relase, and the actual first showing of the film to any type of audience is 9:00 the night before it's release date, and no press is invited (Makes you wonder how Roger Ebert snuck into that one) it's usually not a good sign. After seeing the film, I can understand why Sony wasn't showing it. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when the execs screened this; I bet they were shitting their pants not knowing what to make of it. Director Christopher Gans has gone out of his way to make an non-Hollywood big budget studio film. And this will either be the first of many Gans directed Hollywood movies, or possibly his last.

The movie stars the always engaging Radha Mitchell as Rose. Rose has a seriously messed up adopted daughter, Sharon (Jodelle Ferland), who likes to sleepwalk onto cliffs overlooking the ocean and screams out "Silent Hill!" in her sleep as well. Rose does a little investigating on the internet and finds out that Silent Hill in in fact a ghost town around where the adoption agency was that they found Sharon. She decides to take Sharon there to find out what draws her to this place and ends up going through a portal in reality and is now stuck in the town and must figure out what the hell is going on and to get her and her daughter out of this creepy place.

That's as simple as I can get with the plot without giving too much away. I have to say this film is going to have a cult of fans. I can see this movie being talked about for the next ten or twenty years; retrospective screenings, the whole shebang. I don't know what your childhood was like, and what you were allowed to see and not see, but I have to say mine was pretty lax. My mom loves to go to the movies, and she loves horror films, so I got to see quite a few of them growing up. I can remember going to school on that following Monday and telling everyone about the latest Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street sequel, The Fly, Day of the Dead, Child's Play, Psycho II, etc. And I remember how it made me feel kind of cool because these were movies that my fellow students would have to sneak a viewing late at night when the films appeared on cable tv later in the year. The 13 year old in me was telling me the whole way through this that this was that type of film. This is the type of film that some lucky young teenagers are going to go to school on Monday and brag about seeing. However, the 29 year old in me for the most part didn't get it on the whole. At 29 I need a little more in the story and structure department than I was given here, but I can see where this movie's appeal is going to take it into some kind of cult stratosphere and that's with our younger generation.

Christopher Gans, who invaded America with Brotherhood of the Wolf a few years back, which is a pretty cool film, as set out along with screenwriter Roger Avary to be the first to truly adapt a video game to film. I've never played Silent Hill; I'm really not much of a gamer, but I can tell you right now that this movie is as close to the source material as any video game adaptation is ever going to get. This movie at times feels like you're playing a video game. There are even narrators dropping clues and giving Rose puzzles to solve so she can make it further into the story and come closer to solving all of Silent Hill's mysteries and finding her daughter and getting them out of there. There's an air raid siren that goes off in different intervals in the film that I feel can have no other purpose than to let us know our heroine has made it to the next level and some more monsters and shit are going to be challenging her yet again.

This is both the movie's saving grace and absolute downfall all rolled up into one fucked up package. I applaud Gans and Avery for being this bold with the film, and not just giving us antoher Doom or heaven's forbid, Super Mario Bros. However, at the same time, these are two completely seperate mediums and you have to find some sort of middle ground to where this actually becomes a film and not just...well what it is, a video game on screen. There's a lot of strange and cool hellspawn type creatures in this film (Which with the exception of some fast moving bugs were all costumes and not cheesy CG), but in the end they have served no purpose except to show fans of the game, hey there's Pyramid Head (A fellow friend and fan of the game threw that name out to me so I wouldn't look like a complete fool writing this review).

It would be easy to throw movie out there has being pretentious, and I think that's unjustified. I think if anything this movie would be best described as a noble failure. And even though it didn't work for me, I reccomend this movie for people that are willing to take a chance on it because it might just work for you. For gore hounds there is a lot of disturbing imagery in here. If you like crazy religious cult members being displayed on screen then you have those in abundance. If you are a fan of a game then I think this film will excite you on many levels. And if you just like strange, fucked up cinema this will serve it's purpose. My problem is that all of it didn't add up to much. The ending is a subtle thing of beauty though. I still can't figure out why Roger Ebert made the comment that the ending made him even more confused. I don't think there's much to be confused about the end; it is what it is.

Sometimes even movies that don't work can be appreciated in their own light. I'm looking forward to what Gans gives us in the future, and I hope more studios take a chance on him. If this tells us anything it's that Gans is willing to take some chances with his material. And hopefully that will soon all come together to make one hell of a film. I look forward to seeing that one. As for Silent Hill, check it out and see what you make of it; it's better than going to see the same trite, predictable garbage that we get every year from the studios.


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