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"Silent Hill"

Directed by Christophe Gans.
Written by Roger Avary.  Based on the video game series by Konami.
Starring Radha Mitchell, Sean Bean, Laurie Holden and Jodelle Ferland.
Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  4/25/06


I'll give the filmmakers behind the new horror/thriller "Silent Hill" this much--they have absolutely, 100% nailed the feel of the stories, the monsters and the lead characters from the Konami game series.  I mean, NAILED IT.  From the jump, you feel like you are in Silent Hill's world, from the constant fog to the sick way that those mannequin-like dead things walk to Pyramid Head and his big-ass sword to the strange way that everything seems to change when nighttime arrives.  Even some of the bit characters from the game, like suicidal Anna or wacko Eddie Dombrowski, are here; the presence of a radio helps you feel out when monsters will attack, and without a flashlight, you are REALLY not going to like Silent Hill after dark.  And the soundtrack is truly a complete translation of the game's soundtrack, right down to how annoying it is to hear the same song over and over and over again.  Clearly, somebody played the games a number of times to get that part just right.  (Yes, I know that Konami is a co-producer of the movie.  Still, most game crossover movies fail at the start because they don't get the game feel right; not the case here at all.)

But over the course of a whopping 125 minutes--sorry, but you can't hold a mood in a horror movie for that long!!--"Silent Hill" loses steam not because its world isn't interesting or that its kills aren't eye-opening, but because instead of setting a tense atmosphere with occasional scary moments, we really ARE waiting long, long stretches to learn anything about what's going on here.  The film follows Rose De Silva (Radha Mitchell) as she decides to take her 9-year-old daughter Sharon (Jodelle Ferland) to a small town in West Virginia known as Silent Hill, which is strangely on no maps and makes locals cringe when asked about the spooky ghost town.  Why does Rose need to take Sharon there?  Because Sharon's having bad dreams about this town, and to combat this...Mommy will just take her daughter there!


Once in Silent Hill, Rose loses her daughter following a car accident, and along her journey to recover Sharon she meets a motorcycle cop (Laurie Holden, who I thought was dead), a crazed witch-hunting zealot (Alice Kruge) and her surviving followers, as well as Anna (Tanya Allen), who seems to enjoy working her forearms with a knife when she's not being totally crazed-like.  Oh, and Rose meets a ton of undead zombies, but that's for your own consumption later.  Meanwhile, in what seems like an alternate reality, Rose's husband (Sean Bean) meets up with a West Virginia detective (Kim Coates) to locate his missing wife and daughter.

"Silent Hill" the movie is a bit bloodier than "Silent Hill" the game, and that works well, but the story leaves much to be desired, in both formats.  In the movie, I was downright lost in the last 20 minutes, and I had already beaten the game before.  My being lost was due to the decision of Roger Avary ("Pulp Fiction", "Killing Zoe", "The Rules of Attraction") to give us a plot that was conveniently summarized in the last act by glazing over a few too many details of how Sharon got to be in Silent Hill in the first place.  That, and once Rose gets to Silent Hill, the movie's action almost comes to a complete halt.  Wow, is this thing slow at times!  Holden is wooden throughout; she looks like someone that has appeared in only a couple of major films over the last five years, because she was plain awful.  The direction of the fanatics late in the film is also's almost like the first assistant director said something vague like "ON ACTION...ACT FANATICAL!!!" and what we get are silly moments where these clearly insane tunnel dwellers praise their Allah or shouting things to their leader like "Burn her!" or "She deserves to die!" with all of the gusto of a plain sheet of looseleaf paper.

Mitchell has never been more than a serviceable second-fiddle actress (you have to struggle a bit to remember her bigger parts, in films like "Man on Fire" or "Pitch Black") so my first guess is that someone else was originally picked to play Rose, because Mitchell just didn't feel right to me as the movie went along.  Maybe it was her acting while "scared"; maybe it was the lack of a true presence whenever she's onscreen.  Sure, she's pretty, but she doesn't blow it out of the water, which makes her a logical choice to play Rose on paper but in execution, she does not take her performance to the next level, elevating this out of flash-in-the-pan horror film moment and into cult-status-forever status.

But besides the acting, the film seems to run forever.  Lots of teens in my audience made this displeasure known by constantly yawning, loudly; director Christophe Gans (he hasn't directed a film since his French hit "Brotherhood of the Wolf" back in '01) does not cut scenes out with the best of them yet, so expect long stretches between excitement at Silent Hill.  This movie has about 20 minutes of footage that could easily have been lopped off with similar results, but what the fuck do I know???  Maybe test audiences freaking love sitting in a dark room waiting for somebody to get their skin pulled off.

"Silent Hill" fills my constant thirst for a decent horror film, but I can't honestly say you should run out and catch this unless you see it on the cheap.  In-between shitty PG-13 spookfests, at least "Silent Hill" plays for adults and fanboy freaks that love a good video-game translation

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09