Reviewed by: Jonathan B.
Previously posted on 1.3.16 by twentyfourpagespersecond
Originally Posted: 5.20.12
Game or Movie First:
What we got into:
Well, Silent Hill is a popular video game series which became a movie which is definitely a thing. The first video game begins with Harry Mason (who’s in town on vacation) driving along a road with his young daughter Cheryl. A motorcycle cop passes them, and they soon drive by the dumped bike with no sign of the driver. Apparently unphased, Harry drives further on until a little girl walks in front of the speeding jeep – a young girl who looks suspiciously like Cheryl, mind you – he tries to avoid hitting her and ends up crashing over the embankment. He wakes up in his destination, Silent Hill, only his daughter is missing. He finds that the place is all sorts of fucked, darkness falling in a matter of moments and the city itself turning into a warped and bloody version of itself. Harry remains unphased, emotionlessly slaughtering faceless children demon things and lizard men (or something) in a quest to kill a god who was implanted in the womb of his daughter’s soul-doppelganger eight years ago. Harry wins (spoiler, I guess) and remains emotionless as he gets a brand new baby because his old one got fused and burned alive. Harry continues to be unphased until he is eventually murdered. Shit, spoiler, I guess. The movie is similar, in the fact that Silent Hill is a town and a daughter goes missing. While the girl’s adopted mother, Rose, is running around the empty town trying to find her daughter, monsters vaguely pose a threat in a shuffling, kinda-scary way. The emotional heart of the movie is actually Sean Bean’s character, as he’s the only person who is remotely concerned that his wife is clearly batshit insane and no one else really gives a fuck that she wandered into a town which should really be renamed “Stay Out, Seriously Guys, This Place is Fucking Nuts.” But that probably wouldn’t fit on maps too well. The video game is a treat for the nostalgia. What do I mean by that? Well, if you’ve never played the game, go do it now. It’s on PSN, and it shouldn’t take too long. I’ll wait.
A Look at the Game:
Did you enjoy the game? I mean, really enjoy the parts where you’re exploring and fighting monsters? Chances are, you thought it was a stiff, awkward mess – and that’s because it really was. Silent Hill’s biggest strength probably came from the unintentional tension that the awful controls created for the player. You got to experience horror through the eyes of everyman Harry Mason (who’s in town on vacation). He was slow, clumsy (he actually fell off shit, which was a nice touch) and a terrible shot. Most monsters, if you tried to fight them in a group, could very easily wreck your writer ass. The game emphasized running away versus destroying everything you came across. It was great for 1999, when it came out. The tragedy, however, is that games have gone far in eliminating the crappy controls which made Silent Hill scary. The result is a game which is more frustrating than fun to play – which is a shame, because the plot alone is worth playing for.
That isn’t to say that it’s an absolutely fabulous plot. Especially toward the end, it goes off the deep end. I think they had a lot of ideas and ran out of budget (Talisman of Metatron? Care to fucking explain concepts before bitching about them Dahlia “My Daughter Will Be The Mother Of Gawd” Gillespie?). Honestly, the game’s plot owes much more to the community which developed around it. The developers inadvertently (or possibly intentionally, but, I think Silent Hill 2 proves that by that time, the team knew what it was doing… only to drop the ball with every sequel thereafter) put in tons of symbolism in the game which was great fun to read about and discover, adding a lot of depth to the game. My younger self was thrilled when, moments before the final boss, I found myself in a little girl’s room and saw a scribbled picture of one of the monsters on the ground. On top of that, a display of pinned moths greeted the careful observer – one of the earlier bosses was a giant moth (THE TERROR).
This isn’t to say that it’s a bad game, I just think that a lot of my love for it is incidental. The iconic Silent Hill fog was originally meant to prevent graphics from ‘popping in’ – newer games are sleek and actively use the fog to create an atmosphere of foreboding, whereas its only real purpose was to stop the PlayStation from bursting into flames. The Cult which provided the villains for the plot worked for the first game because we didn’t know that Silent Hill could move away from that, and the first sequel and not-really-a-reboot-but-whatever Shattered Memories proved they can. Silent Hill was a product of its time, and it worked well as a function of it. Just like the sequel (which, if you can’t tell, I’m fantasizing about right now), however, it can be a frustrating mess of a game to play.
A Look at the Movie (2006):
The 2006 movie follows Rose, who takes her adopted daughter Sharon to Silent Hill. Why? Because the little girl sleep walks and shrieks about it. She takes off with her daughter, prompting her husband Chris (Sean Bean) to do the rational thing and chase after his wife and freshly-kidnapped his daughter. Rose seems intent to find a way into a place which sounds like a horror movie fucked Jacob’s Ladder and this was the result. Rose is pursued by a police officer (Cybil… but don’t get attached) and they get into a car crash. Daughter goes missing. Rose searches like a dumbass. Monsters appear and Rose does her damnedest to not emote, even when she saw beetles eat human beings in front of her. She learns that a little girl, who looks like her adopted daughter, was burned alive and made a deal with a demon to exact revenge by splitting her soul into two and luring someone’s mother into Silent Hill and… urgh, I’m done.
There are many problems with the movie, the first among them being that there’s never really a clear threat by most of the monsters. There are a sum total of three really intense scenes in the movie – in the alley, in the school, and briefly in the hospital. But other opportunities to develop some life-threatening monster attacks or something are squandered. Was anyone scared when the strait-jacket demon popped up and was shot by Cybil? Yeah, it spat acid, which would be scary if it moved faster or there was fucking thousands of them. The horror in Silent Hill was never the individual monster – it was being swarmed (which happened in the daylight, too, for those with shitty memories) by heavily damaging, slow chucklefucks that snuck up on you. And yeah, we see the monsters kill people, but I guess in the in-movie universe, Rose was never in any danger. If she died from the monsters (which was being controlled by her daughter-demon-thing, ah, fuck it), then the demon’s plan was ruined. It needed Rose to win, so there was never an actual threat. The monsters stood in the way of Harry because he was trying to stop the god from being born. See how this is kind of different and makes the main character vulnerable? And don’t give me any goddamn argument that the demon needed to test her or some shit – it doesn’t work that way. If anything, the demon should have been all like “Hey, Rose, I got your daughter in the basement of the hospital. See me. Ignore the huge titted nurses, they’re for the guy looking for his wife.” And when she got there, it could have been all like “Shit, the cult’s got the girl. I can save her, you know… but you gotta get me inside. And you’ll need to get stabbed. But don’t worry. Chicks before dicks, amiright?”
Movie compared to the game:
Other problems with the movie are really pale in comparison here. There are a couple of spots with wooden line delivery, but the same could be said of the games, only replace couple with EVERYWHERE and you’ll be accurate. The movie has a lot of references to the games, both in creature design (inappropriate and otherwise) and camera angles. It really does ‘feel’ like a Silent Hill movie should, with a sense of loneliness and isolation. If they just fix the whole ‘horror’ aspect, it would have been a good movie.
I think, in general, that what I just covered is the biggest problem – the film had a good property with an established audience. Why did they not trust the audience to ‘get it’? I get that concessions have to be made, but why was Harry looking for his daughter so difficult to agree with? Honestly, it would have made the relationship with the cop a lot more interesting and less awkward. Why did we need Silent Hill 2 monsters in a movie where their presence doesn’t make any fucking sense? Pyramid Head was punishing James, the protagonist of the second game.
The nurses with the huge racks were also a part of punishing James. Yes, there were fucked up doctors and nurses in Silent Hill, but they were covered in fleshy parasites and hunched over, not the dancing conga-line of sexualized professionals. Overall, the movie isn’t terrible or bad, it’s just disappointing. Just like playing Silent Hill for the first time today would make the dedicated player call out for a remake, the movie just makes viewers see the possibilities of what the franchise has for film.
Also, there’s a disgusting barbed-wire vivisection. So… if you’re into that sort of thing, it’s a plus, I guess.
And the Winner Is:
The game. And this isn’t saying the movie is bad, it’s just a bad tie-in. However, if you have no experience with the franchise and have no tolerance for older games’ hangups, then I don’t know what to tell you. The later games are certainly not indicative of the quality ground the series covered, so you may just have to stick it out and slog through a muddy-controlled, ugly game. You’ll be a better human being because of it! (Not a guarantee)
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