Starring: Radha Mitchell, Sean Bean, Laurie Holden
“Mother is God in the eyes of a child.” (Cybil Bennett, Silent Hill)
Most movies based on video games are, to put it bluntly, a pile of shite. Super Mario Bros, Double Dragon, Dead Or Alive… all horrible. It’s probably for this reason that I’ve somehow managed to go five years without checking out the Silent Hill film, but having finally watched it yesterday I was reasonably happy.
Silent Hill‘s plot is loosely based on that of the first game in the series. The game started with a chap called Harry Mason going on holiday with his daughter. When a girl steps in front of the car, he swerves to avoid her and crashes. When he comes to, he realises his daughter is missing, leading him to explore the nearby town of Silent Hill to see if he can find her. Cue lots of fucked-up monsters.
The movie, meanwhile, replaces Harry with a female character, Rose. Her adopted daughter has been sleepwalking and talking about a place called Silent Hill, so Rose takes her to Silent Hill to see if it triggers any memories about her past. Then, as in the game, they crash on the outskirts of the town and the daughter goes missing. It’s a small difference but an important one, as it makes it harder to sympathise with Rose when you know she deliberately chose to go to Silent Hill rather than ending up there by accident.
Silent Hill is a beautiful movie. Obviously when I say that I’m not referring to the horrible, mutated monsters that sometimes look like wriggling human-sized acid-apitting condoms, I mean the way it’s shot. The town of Silent Hill almost feels like a character itself, such is the detail with which everything’s been designed. The moody, empty streets look like they haven’t been updated since the 1950s and the constant fall of ash from the skies gives everything a surreal, otherworldly feeling.
Combine this with Akira Yamaoka’s stunning music (the vast majority of the movie’s score consists of music from the games) and you’ve got a movie that’s a treat for the eyes and ears when there aren’t freaky monster things shuffling about.
For a film based on such a grim series of games there are only a couple of visually shocking moments in the film, the most notable being someone having their skin ripped off and flung against the wall of a church. A normal occurrence on a Thursday night in Liverpool, sure, but something rarely seen in the world of cinema.
Silent Hill is enjoyable until the final 30 minutes, when everything starts to go a bit mental (well, moreso than usual). The plot starts getting needlessly complex and confusing, and it all gets a bit silly. This of course is nothing new for those familiar with the Silent Hill games, but at least there the plot took a back seat to the whole ‘shooting things and trying not to die’ challenge the player faced. Since most movies are very much plot-focused, there’s nothing for the convoluted story to hide behind.
As a video game movie, Silent Hill is one of the better ones out there. It perfectly captures the tone of the games, right down to the silly plot. As a movie judged on its own merits though, it’s a gorgeous film that unfortunately runs out of steam when its story becomes as messy as the habits of its monsters.