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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Silent Hill: Revelation (3D)

I hope to have my other full length review up as soon as Channel 24 posts it, but for now, here is my review of yet another terrible video game movie.

Also up at Channel 24  

What it's about

Heather and her father have spent most of her young life on the run, but on the eve of her 18th birthday, her father goes missing but to find him she first has to come to terms with who she really is, what her horrific dreams mean and why she needs to stay away from the place called Silent Hill.

What we thought

Before tackling this second film in what will undoubtedly now be a franchise, I felt it probably behoved me to track down the first film, released way back in 2006, to try and get some context in which to judge Silent Hill: Revelation. Much to my surprise, though it is noticeably flawed, I actually thought the first Silent Hill film wasn't just easily the best video game adaptation I've seen to date, it's actually a very solid horror film that made brilliant use of the video game's visual style and creepy soundtrack to make a chiller that was actually quite chilling. Sadly though, after seeing Silent Hill, I've now gone from merely disliking Silent Hill: Revelation to actively despising it.

Aside from Adelaide Clemens who did a good job as both the film's plucky heroin and its Japanese-horror-inspired villain, Silent Hill: Revelation shares all of its predecessors weak points, with virtually none of its strengths and even when it does occasionally hit on something good, it's almost always just a direct lift from the first film and, presumably, the games.

Yes, once again I have to point out that I've never played the games on which these films are based (what can I say, I'm a 1990s gamer at heart) but, while the first film made me want to give the video games a look, the second makes me wish they never even existed in the first place. Still, this is a film review so before all you gaming fanboys decide to burn me in effigy for having the audacity to give a Silent Hill product a bad review, might I suggest actually watching the film before doing so. I find it hard to believe that even the most apologetic of Silent Hill fans won't be disappointed by Revelation, especially after such a relatively good job was done the first time it was adapted to film.

Michael J Bassett takes over as both writer and director from the first film's Roger Avary and Christophe Gans respectively and, boy, is the creative change noticeable. While I'm glad that physical effects are once again used whenever possible and that once again the creature designs are pretty impressive, the creepy atmosphere and mounting dread of the first two thirds of the first film are entirely absent. What we get instead is a visual pallet that is pretty ugly, made all the worse by the darkening effects of those pesky 3D glasses, and a horror aesthetic that basically entirely misunderstands what makes good horror work.

The entirety of the film is essentially pitched at exactly the same level as the final act of the first film, in which all the tension that Silent Hill had been ratcheting up explodes into a hysterical, wildly over-the-top finale. Silent Hill's final sections were by far my least favourite, but at least they felt earned. In Silent Hill: Revelation however, by turning everything up to eleven from the get go means that there is absolutely no tension in any part of the film, no real sense of mystery and certainly none of that all important “things are quiet but something isn't quite right here” dynamic that makes horror films scary in the first place. Silent Hill: Revelation is gory, it's violent and it's very, very tiresome but it isn't scary, creepy or chilling in the slightest.

With the stuff that worked about the first film out of the way then, all we're left with is a film that magnifies its predecessors faults a thousand fold. Putting aside typically weak characterization and its thematic laziness (really, by this point, is there a squishier soft target out there than fanatical blind faith?), the Silent Hill films suffer from an incredibly convoluted, impenetrable plot that is made all the worse by how it is delivered.

The main problem with video game to film conversions is that films and video games deal with their plots in completely different ways. Video games not only require stories that are interactive, they also need to ensure that the plot never gets in the way of the gameplay, which is why they tend to use huge information dumps to drive the plot along whenever they allow the gamer a moment or two to catch his or her breath after a particularly troubling level, mission or section. Films, of course, if they're even remotely good at all, deliver their story more organically. Both Silent Hill films though - and it is even worse in the second film – tell their stories with these ponderous, distracting info dumps that grinds the film to a complete stop every time it happens.

The only great “revelation” of Silent Hill 2 is that even good video game adaptations can have truly lousy sequels. But then, that's not really much of a revelation, now is it?

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