Friday, May 26, 2006

Silent Hill (2006)

Note: This review was originally posted on Myspace. I am reposting it here for archival purposes. It has been backdated to the date of its original posting.

Okay, so I just came back from seeing the movie. I had wanted to see it since the day it came out, but because of a dick roommate whom I won't mention, I didn't get a chance until tonight, which happens to be the last night the movie's showing anywhere within reasonable distance from my home. Following is my review, and I'll try to warn about spoilers as necessary for those who haven't seen it.

First of all, overall impression: it was a good movie. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was a great movie-going experience. It was also a pretty creepy movie, as expected. It's not even close to being as scary as the video games, but that's also expected. As far as creep-out scenes, as far as monster design, as far as setting/environment, as far as storyline, I'm satisfied. One of the best parts of the movie was the kind of artistic way they would set the mood, with the right music, and scanning the scenery - I like that kind of stuff, it's classy.

Second: the all-important comparison to the video games and whether or not the movie lives up to the Silent Hill name. If you haven't seen the movie, or haven't played the games, and don't want them to be spoiled (and playing them unspoiled is the only way to play them), then I suggest you skip ahead to where it says "end of spoilers" below.


Now then, for those of you who know Silent Hill, and those of you who are either too curious for your own good or just don't have enough self-control, I shall continue. I was impressed by how much the movie lives up to the games, in terms of atmosphere, etc. The very way the camera angles were set up was very reminiscent of the video games. The creatures, although a few liberties were taken here and there, were immediately recognizable and suitably creepy, from the kids to the nurses to Pyramid Head himself. The environment looked copied straight out of the games in a lot of places. I did indeed recognize a lot of the locations, like the restroom in the elementary school, the bowling alley, and the gap from the apartment building to the next building, and the way the town was done outside with the snow/ash was perfect, especially with the gorges blocking off certain areas of the town.

I could go on and on about specific details, but hopefully you get the point - the movie payed expensive tribute to the games. Now for the flipside. There were some liberties taken, most notably in the storyline. The plot did very largely follow the plot of the first Silent Hill game, with the story of the cursed daughter, and the cult, and the source of the nightmares in SH, and there were some familiar characters, like the cop Cybil, Dahlia Gillespie, and the red nurse at the end (a tragic character and fan-favorite from the first game). As far as the ending is concerned, it parted a bit from the game, and it actually went so far as to get me cheering for the nightmares as opposed to the humans at the very end. But in that respect it worked well, at least it was a much more satisfying ending than the game offered.

As much as I enjoyed the movie, there are a number of things that I missed from the game that I would have liked to see on the silver screen. Some of these include: the clock tower in the elementary school, the lizard beast ('the monster lurks'), the mutant teddy bears, dogs and birds, the amusement park, etc., etc., etc. Plus, the presence of Pyramid Head, while utterly cool and frightening, seemed out of place, especially in the elementary school, since he's a character from the second game and not the first. Personally, I would have preferred if they had saved Pyramid Head for a second movie, and instead introduced the lizard beast and/or Samael - which brings me to another point, I was just waiting to see Samael at the very end, but instead it was this cotted (yes, cotted - not rotted) corpse with barbed chain tentacles, somewhat more like the final boss in the second game. It was still pretty cool, but I would have liked to see Samael.

As a final note, if I haven't already mentioned it, the music was very reminiscent of Silent Hill, although I didn't hear my favorite song during the credits which I was hoping for ('She' from the BAD plus ending of the first game).


Wow, okay, what else is there to say? Well, let's summarize. It was a very enjoyable movie. It was a creepy movie. There were tons of references to the games, so fans of the games will feel right at home, but at the same time, there were a number of changes to keep it fresh, so it's not exactly like you're just playing the same game over again. Final words: if you're a fan of scary movies, especially ones of the more demonology variety, or if you're a fan of the Silent Hill games, see this movie. You won't be disappointed.

Oh yeah, and my favorite scene? I'd have to say it's the one after Rose first enters Silent Hill, and she's looking for Sharon, and the sirens sound and it gets dark for the first time, and the following scene up til the point she wakes up to the sound of Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire on the jukebox (by the way, excellent choice of song there - not only does the music fit the scene in a hauntingly calm sort of way, but the lyrics are perfect "I fell into a burning ring of fire" - excellent choice!). Not only was this scene pretty much straight from the beginning of the first game, but it was also done very well.

Now then, there's one last thing I'd like to discuss, and actually it's really two things. First of all, what I would have changed had I done the movie. I'm not saying the movie necessarily should have been done this way, because you obviously want to make it enjoyable for as many people possible, but this is what I personally would have preferred to see.

I loved the monsters and the scary parts and the depiction of Alternate Silent Hill, but I want to see more of it. I would have even gone so far as to throw the story out completely...forget about trying to explain things, and just show more demons, and more environments. Like some of the creepier terrains from the second game (the prison comes to mind). And more monsters, did I mention that?

I also would have made it more personal/psychological, but this kind of gets into the second topic I wanted to discuss, since that's more the kind of direction the second Silent Hill game took with its storyline. If they make a second Silent Hill movie, I would love to see it follow the storyline of the second game, and consider the town from the perspective of that game.

Let me explain. With spoilers from the games (skip ahead to the next paragraph if you want to avoid them). In the first game, and too in the first movie, the explanation for the nightmares of Silent Hill are pretty much the result of the suffering of this one child, and the child's desire for revenge against the town that destroyed her. In the second game, the nightmares take on a much more personal nature, and the game seems to suggest that Silent Hill is not just this breeding ground for a scene of revenge, but also serves as a kind of judgement plain that draws in those who have sinned, and then forces them to face nightmares of their own devices (Pyramid Head seems to have much to do with this).

So I would really like to see a second movie that takes this direction, and makes the nightmares more psychological - so that you can make the suffering more distinct and terrifying without having to resort to a deus ex machina every time to explain the character's survival from a specific ordeal (in this case it would be a mental victory more than a physical victory). And then, you can just go crazy on the monster designs and make them really hideous. Am I messed up or what?

In any case, disclaimer: I've only played the first two games (absolutely loved 'em). Haven't touched any of the other ones yet (only because I haven't gotten around to it), but I am really looking forward to playing the rest and it might just happen soon (summer's good for scary games, anyway). But if my theories or ideas seem off or underdeveloped or something, you should consider that I haven't played those games yet.

Thanks, I guess this wasn't so much just a review of the movie, but also a chance for me to finally explain some of my ideas about the games that I've had for a while and never really expressed. I'm really glad I got to see the movie, though, and I really hope they make another one!