Movies that use videogames as their source material tend to have a bad rap, and while there are plenty of bad adaptations to help back those claims, the main reason has to do with just how much time gamers spend with characters they come to love in the first place. Much like those who read a deep, involving book with great character development and strong build-up, gamers invest hours and hours in another world as well, and while it’s a pixelated world, that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to connect with the characters like one does when reading – in fact, it may be even more likely that that’ll happen when gaming.
When a gamer spends 20+ hours taking their character on some sort of quest, they pretty much become one with the character during that time. Everything the character is setting out to achieve, the gamer is emotionally invested in as well (at least if the game is done right) and once the game is completed, well, what a journey it has been! So when a film adaptation comes out of the game you’ve invested so much into, it’s easy to wonder how they possibly think they can manage to evoke the same emotion and attachment to the film’s characters in just two hours or less.
This was likely the fear of many Silent Hill fans when the first film was released back in 2006; however, that film captured a giant piece of the atmosphere that made the original game so chilling. The visuals in the original Silent Hill were really well done, and the soundscape in most cases was downright scary. The acting left something to be desired at times, but overall it’s a film I still enjoy to this day after repeated viewings. The same, however, can’t be said for the recent sequel.
Silent Hill: Revelation is just a bad movie through and through. The plot is mainly taken from the third Silent Hill videogame, while also adding connections to the first film, and some of writer/director Michael J. Bassett’s own ideas as well, and it’s a mess. It’s just so convoluted for the 90 minutes the film runs at that nobody at all ever matters, and no atmosphere is ever allowed to settle in and encompass the viewer in any type of fearful state.
The film quickly introduces us to an almost 18 year-old Sharon (Adelaide Clemens), who is constantly having nightmares about Silent Hill – even though she doesn’t know it’s Silent Hill she’s thinking about. Sean Bean returns as her father, Harry, who has changed his name from the first film due to the pair being on the run. It’s explained in an interesting/odd flashback sequence, where Rose (Radha Mitchell) appears to Harry in a mirror, and explains that she’s trapped in Silent Hill, but she found a way for Sharon to escape and it’s now up to him to protect her from those who want to bring her back.
So Harry and Sharon – whose name has been changed to Heather for the same reason that her father changed his – are constantly on the go, trying to keep Sharon safe from the cultists that endlessly pursue her. Apparently there’s a rift where a few can escape Silent Hill, or be sent out into the real world in order to accomplish tasks, and the task now is to bring Heather back to Silent Hill so that the cultists can use her body as the vessel to bring forth their god who will cleanse the world.
The thing is, Heather knows nothing about this. During the flashback it’s explained that she lost her memory when she came back from Silent Hill, so Harry tells her that she was in a car accident and her mother died saving her. So Heather keeps having these nightmares, but doesn’t know why, and she believes they’re on the run due to a man Harry murdered years back…while they were already on the run. Either way, Harry killed the guy because he was from the order, and now we’re in the present day and Heather is starting her first day at her new school.
Before she gets to school Heather is confronted by a mysterious man who says she looks familiar and asks if they’ve met before. Heather, knowing nobody should know her, says no and gets on the bus. The thing is, a little later on the guy reveals himself as a private eye who was sent to find her, and that he recently found out who it was and what they wanted her for. We don’t know how he found out this information, but just that he wants her to know the truth about her life, that her father has been lying to her and that she’s in grave danger. This would be something you may bring up to someone instead of saying something stupid like, “Have we met before?” for no reason, and then having them run off while you look on ominously.
Then there’s Vincent (Kit Harington) who is just about the worst thing in this movie. His character is so bizarre and poorly written that he always comes off looking stupid, or nonsensical. The whole film pretty much takes place on Heather’s first day of school, so it’s more than laughable when Vincent – who has agreed to take her to Silent Hill after her father is kidnapped – proclaims that she shouldn’t go because he “doesn’t want anything to happen to her.” And it really does come off that bad, as the line is delivered like they’ve been lovers for ages when really they met just hours before and have had like, two conversations. And let’s not even get into the accent that Harington tries to hide, but breaks through almost every line. Really, just make Vincent British and leave it as is, or cast someone without an accent.
Now I’ve never played the third Silent Hill game, so I’m not sure if there’s a magical seal in the game that can be used to escape Silent Hill, or do whatever it is that it does in this film, but it’s around so I have to talk about it. So the seal was used by Rose to get Sharon/Heather out of Silent Hill when she was a kid, and now the cult wants to fuse the two halves of the seal together again, and use Heather’s body as an incubator for their god and what have you.
So the seal itself is part of that convoluted storyline I mentioned earlier, and it just complicates things and doesn’t really play into things in a necessary way. Things get really confusing if you start asking why the cult didn’t want to incubate Heather in the first film, and instead wanted to burn and kill her once and for all. When did their priorities change? Seems rather drastic. There’s also the question of how the cult is even back, or why Alessa (the evil half of Sharon/Heather) still wants revenge when she clearly got it in the first film.
Now, for those who don’t know, in the games of Silent Hill, apparently everyone experiences Silent Hill differently for their own reasons. Again, I’m no expert on the games, but I know that it wasn’t made clear that this was a different Silent Hill being experienced other than the brief line of, “Well which Silent Hill is your father being held? Are you sure it’s this one? There are many Silent Hills.” Okay, thanks for that. I mean, I don’t need to be handheld through things, but there are a lot better ways to get that point across. And how are those in one Silent Hill aware of other Silent Hills? Maybe I need to play the games, as I’m sure not getting any answers from this movie.
On the acting front, Clemens does a decent job with what she’s given, which isn’t much. The first film didn’t have overly great acting, but it still allowed for viewers to care about the characters somewhat, and at least cheer for Rose on her quest to find her daughter. Here, Clemens has to go through the motions of a horror movie without any of that atmospheric tension that made the first film actually creepy at times. She’s constantly going in and out of Silent Hill in her thoughts before she even arrives, and it just lacks any sense of tension.
Harington is just miscast completely here, as it sounds like he’s just learning English with how he delivers most of his lines. It’s just awful, and it’s like night and day in comparison to his actual strong work on Game of Thrones. Bean returning was something I was happy to hear when it was first announced, but the sloppy way everything was brought together just makes it a waste and ruins the beautifully haunting finale that the first film left us with.
An almost unrecognizable Carrie-Anne Moss plays the villain in the film, and the character is just bad. She’s incredibly unthreatening, and the entire cult threat in this film just feels like sloppy seconds from the cult in the first film. Even if the same overall ideas may be used in the games, here it just feels like been there, done that better the first time around.
Bassett’s script is just weak and messy all around, and his vision lacks any atmosphere at all. It’s not until 45 minutes into the film that the ashes start to fall and we’re back in Silent Hill, and even then they quickly disappear in order to bring on the darkness. The thing is, unlike the uneasiness and sense of tension the first film’s darkness brought with it, this time around it’s more like Bassett just wants to get back to the action. On the plus side, I was a fan of how Pyramid Head was used during the climactic scene, which was very cool.
And that’s really the major problem with Silent Hill: Revelation: it just lacks any true sense of suspense or scares that horror movies are supposed to provide. For those who were eager to return to Silent Hill, your best bet is to either go pick up the games or simply watch the first film again, because odds are you’re going to pretend this one doesn’t exist after you see it anyway.
The audio and video transfers for the Blu-ray were solid all around. While the audio mix wasn’t as strong or prominent as it was in the first film, it still does what it can here in terms of creating some sort of mood. Visually the film is really strong, with crisp effects allowing for what would have likely made some interesting 3D visuals.
A Look Inside Silent Hill: Revelation – This is a brief featurette that runs just over three minutes in length and sees Bassett, Clemens, Bean and Harington all talk about working on the film, or the characters.
Silent Hill: Revelation is a movie that just doesn’t deliver on any front. The scares are minimal to non-existent, the story is convoluted to make any particular aspect matter, the characters are weak and the acting is sub-par. While it’s not expected for a movie like this to hit the right notes across the board, stronger elements have to make up for the weaker elements and that’s what the first film did right. With no scary atmosphere, emotional connection or sensible plot, this is a trip to Silent Hill you’re going to want to sit out – though to most, that’s likely not a shocking revelation.
An Alliance Films Release. Samuel Hadida Presents Silent Hill: Revelation. Written and Directed by: Michael J. Bassett. Starring: Sean Bean, Adelaide Clemens, Kit Harington, Carrie-Anne Moss, Radha Mitchell, Malcolm McDowell. Running time: 95 minutes. Rating: 18A. Released: February 12, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.