‘Silent Hill’ continues trend of good games turned into bad movies

Andrew Gaug

Silent Hill

Starring Radha Mitchell, Sean Bean, Laurie Holden.

Rated R for strong horror, violence and gore, disturbing images and some language.

Stater rating (out of five): ? 1/2

One transition that movies can’t seem to get right is the video-game-to-movie adaptation. From this category some of the cheesiest and horrible movies in cinematic history have been released – ranging from guilty pleasures (Mortal Kombat) to the “how did this get made?” (House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark).

These types of movies either bore viewers as if they were watching someone else play a video game because the source material couldn’t translate well onto film, or the film got stuck with some of the worst directors to ever take on such a project (i.e. Uwe Boll).

The video game version of Silent Hill played like a thinking man’s Resident Evil, replacing cheap jump scares and zombies with an atmospheric sense of dread and tortured, visceral creatures as the villains. The overall game was frightening and cinematic, and seems like prime material for a good scary film.

Surprisingly, the scary aspects of the game translate incredibly well onto the big screen, but the same can’t be said for most of the story.

A mentally tortured girl named Sharon is haunted by visions of a place called Silent Hill. As her torment grows, her adoptive mother Rose discovers Silent Hill – a ghost town in West Virginia. She decides that the only way to figure out what is wrong with Sharon is to take her there.

While attempting to outrun a policewoman who thinks Sharon might be kidnapped, Rose runs her SUV off of the road after seeing a mysterious girl crossing the road. When Rose awakens, she finds herself in Silent Hill – but Sharon is missing.

As she searches through Silent Hill, sirens go off as an evil force known as “the darkness” consumes the town, and normal places, such as schools and hotels, turn into hellacious areas covered with fences and chains.

Screaming children and nurses wrapped in bandages make some of the creepiest characters to hit horror films in a long time because their appearances are brief and subtle.

The film loses its scope as it tries to balance a useless subplot involving the adoptive father, played by Lord of the Ring‘s Sean Bean, who is searching for his wife and child while a cult that resembles something taken out of a bad “X-Files” episode tries to burn Sharon and Rose at stake because members of the cult believe both of them are evil. Both take away a large portion of the abstract horror the first half of the film built up and neither works to the film’s advantage.

Radha Mitchell (Finding Neverland) and Sean Bean do the best they can with their roles, given that a majority of their dialogue involves screaming out another character’s name in terror. Jodelle Ferland forces her performance as the tortured little Sharon too much, but the movie is forgiving and keeps her screen time to a minimum.

While director Christophe Gans (Brotherhood of the Wolf) does a fine job of transferring the same chilling atmosphere of the game, writer Roger Avary (Pulp Fiction) drops the ball by trying to capture too many intricate things about the game as if to not fall into the same traps as previous video game films have. Hill overexplains itself by detailing the history of the town and the characters halfway through the movie to cheesy dialogue (i.e. when Rose sees a place charred to cinders, she says “There must’ve been a fire here.” No kidding.)

Somewhere in Silent Hill, there’s a great movie dying to get out. Maybe they’re saving it for the sequel.

Contact ALL correspondent Andrew Gaug at [email protected].