Horror films either work, or they don’t. Seldom can a horror film get away with simply being creepy and maybe a little bit of fun. If horror fans wanted that they could just watch some mediocre TV movie or series that has a lot of horror elements. For everyone else, it’s either downright scary or nothing at all. There are just too many let downs every year.
The TriStar Pictures film “Silent Hill” is still a pretty creepy and visually atmospheric movie, but one that still makes no damn sense as a whole, and is pretty much a letdown.
This horror thriller stars Radha Mitchell (upcoming films “Sacrifice”, “The Darkness”), Sean Bean (“The Young Messiah”, “Legends”), Laurie Holden (“Chicago Fire”, “Major Crimes”),Deborah Kara Unger (“The Hollow”, “Samuel Bleak”), Kim Coates (“Pirate’s Passage”, “Sons of Anarchy”), Tanya Allen (“The Strain”, “Dose of Reality”), Alice Krige (“Tyrant”, “Partners in Crime”), and Jodelle Ferland (“Dark Matter”, “Motive”).
The film was directed by Christophe Gans (“Beauty and the Beast (2014)”, “Brotherhood of the Wolf”) and written by Roger Avary (“XIII: The Series”, “Beowulf”). It is based on the video game series of the same name by Konami.
The film originally opened on April 21, 2006.
I have a strange fascination with this film, and it’s sequel, which shan’t be discussed beyond this sentence. I enjoy this film, for the little that can be enjoyed. I’m not exactly sure why that is. I’ve never played the video games, which I’d never even heard of prior to this film coming out. Granted, the fact that I was only 16 when this film came out, so that might explain a few things. Like then, I’m still not a big video game player, but that’s a conversation for another time. Anyway, I was excited for this film, I believe, mainly because of Mitchell, and maybe a bit Bean, but more Mitchell. Now, which I was surprised by, it’s Holden too, which I can’t believe I never remembered she was in the film. If only the cast was enough, or had enough to do to make this film really worth it.
Okay, so at the beginning I talked about this film being a letdown, which it is, but in this case, I’m not going to hold that against it too much. I still managed, for the most part, to enjoy this film and actually be scared a time or two. It’s these elements, and a few others, which I’ll get to, that make this film enjoyable, even if it still sucks overall.
Of all the things that succeeded in this film, I’d say they’re the horror elements, and the majority of the scenes and sequences that featured these elements. You get all the creatures and frightening moments, the times where you’re unsure of what’s going on and at first reaction, you’re probably disturbed and disgusted by them. I was. It’s partly what allowed me to enjoy them and not completely tune out this film. For me, this time around, it was these little moments that added up enough to an enjoyable film.
What made this possible was the incredible work done with all the sets and the various creature designs and effects needed to bring this creepy and frightening world to life. The effects looked really good. I actually marveled at how detailed they were. There was so much effort put in that I believed what I was looking at. I was scared and disgusted, and rightly fascinated all at once. And after having watched the DVD special features, I’m even more amazed at what work went into these creature designs and effects. It was a good thing that the various creatives went with practical effects and makeup, whatever could be tangible for the actors, as it simply brought a different level to the film. It makes me wonder, if more of it had been done with CG, what the outcome would look like. Mind you, some CG was probably used to add finishing touches and because they needed it, but I couldn’t tell. I feel that even in the use of CGI, they pulled it off and delivered one hell of a scary world. Again, I was afraid of these creatures. While all the creatures were effective, I’ve gotta say that my favorites are the Dark Nurses. Everything about their look and movement just works. It’s scary, fascinating and makes them just as unique as all the others.
The two characters I enjoyed the most are Mitchell’s and Holden’s. They are hands down the best characters in the film. No, the creatures don’t count. They’re creatures, even if they are just as amazing. There’s something about these two women that’s exciting to see. In their own ways, they’re both very tough and can kick some demonic creature ass. Granted, Mitchell is doing so purely out of survival, and a need to find her daughter, whereas Holden is a cop, and has some sort of training, even if it’s not to fight malevolent creatures. Still, it’s exciting to see two women largely lead us through this twisted world. After the way they start they find each other out of a mutual need to discover what Silent Hill is, and get out alive. It’s worth following, as is the fact that not many horror films are like this. These are actually two quite capable women. Yes the situations they find themselves in are dangerous, and fun to watch, but they do so pretty well.
While these characters are pretty awesome, there’s still something lacking. This film doesn’t really focus much on the characters. Sure there’s the obligatory character backstory that’s needed, but past that, there’s not much else. Nothing that truly provides any meaningful insight. It’s because of this that I find there’s a lot of room left that could’ve been used for these characters. I feel these two women could’ve been so much more. The writer stopped short of really making them memorable. I’m not sure what it is, but I feel there’s something that should’ve been done differently, or maybe it’s just the fact that it’s been 10 years, and we really do see a lot more female characters with deeper character building. I can phrase this, but we do, so maybe I’m just projecting this present day wish, onto the past.
Bean is okay, but the film could’ve done without him. He just dragged the story, and while he had a purpose, he didn’t have a purpose. Just pad the run time. For me it was bit more than that too. His scenes, and thus presence, were just distracting. It seemed fine at first, but as the film really started to move along, and momentum was picked up, it was almost jarring. Tense and exciting sequences involving Mitchell or Mitchell and Holden were going on, and the next thing you know you’re looking at Bean. At some point, I completely stopped caring about what it was he was doing, which come to think of it, I don’t remember what that was. Oh well. It’s too late now.
Worst of all, which pretty much doomed the entire movie, like “Doom” is that the overall story began to make no sense. There was barely a plot to begin with, and then, somehow, everything just got so confusing. By the end I wasn’t even sure what the hell I was watching. It was just some gruesome climax that seemed to come out of nowhere, which ultimately saw Mitchell (the heroine) come out successful. I think anyone could’ve told you that this was the expected outcome.
In conclusion (ha!) some horror films just have to sort of deliver in order to be considered worth it. Create enough spooky, scary, or down right frightening sequences, complete with amazing visuals and set design and you’ve got yourself a pretty good time! When in it comes to watching films and being in the moment, sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference. You may not come away as amazed as you’d hope, or finding that the film did anything to further the genre, but you can enjoy a lot of what was offered. In horror, it’s rare to find a film that can deliver on so many other levels, but not the ones you want, and still be worth it. Let’s call this one, a partial win. I can settle for that.
Slightly more frightening trailer: