Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Silent Hill (2006)

I'm not a big gamer. I've never been that talented when it came to playing videogames so I never threw myself into them as some of my friends did. In fact, playing FIFA was just like reliving a miserable childhood at high school in which I was always picked last for the football team, because of my innate inability to actually play all that well. But there were some games that managed to get me hooked. Games like Destruction Derby and Gran Turismo on the Playstation. Games like Resident Evil and Tomb Raider. And, yes, even Silent Hill, which was a nerve-jangling blend of images culled from the nightmares of the most fevered brain. A number of videogames from that generation have been made into movies, with varying degrees of success. I never thought that Silent Hill would lend itself particularly well to the medium of film, but I was happily proven wrong when I saw the final result.

The film begins with two parents (Sean Bean and Radha Mitchell) worried about their adopted young daughter (Jodelle Ferland). She's prone to sleepwalking and has been muttering about a place called Silent Hill. At her wit's end, the mother takes off with her daughter to visit Silent Hill and find out just where their little girl came from. As she approaches the town she is a suspicious police officer (Laurie Holden) attempts to stop her, which leads to a bit of a driving malfunction. Moments later, the mother is looking for her daughter in Silent Hill, the police officer is pursuing the mother and the father is setting off to find his family, having not been informed of the plan. It's not long until the sirens wail in Silent Hill and The Darkness descends.

Written by Roger Avary, with some creative input from director Christophe Gans and Nicolas Boukhrief, Silent Hill may not be the most densely plotted horror movie ever, but that's not a problem when the visuals and atmosphere are so impressive. Everything is in line with the game, or at least my memories of the game, and there are plenty of nice touches here and there for fans to spot and enjoy (the radio crackling static when danger is nearby being one of the most obvious).

The cast is solid for a film of this type. Radha Mitchell and Sean Bean are pretty bland in their roles, as is Laurie Holden, but Jodelle Ferland outshines her adult co-stars, and support from Deborah Kara Unger, Kim Coates and Alice Krige helps a lot. Krige, especially, revels in a role that feels as if it was written with her in mind. And then there are the many physical performers who managed to bring alive the stranger inhabitants of Silent Hill, the creatures and humanoids who can raise goosebumps just in the way they move around. Fans of cenobites will love the bizarre and horrifying menagerie of monsters on display here.

With a decent backstory teased out en route to a grand finale, Silent Hill manages to be more than just a bunch of impressive visuals (unlike the sequel, THAT review is coming soon). It's respectful to the games that it sprang from, and it's also respectful to horror fans in the way that it keeps creating the chills while also never skimping on some great, gory moments.

I understand people being hesitant to check out any movie based on a videogame - we've all been burned at least one time too many - but this is one well worth checking out.


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