Silent Hill is one of the favorite video game franchises of all time. Sure, the last couple installments haven't lived up to their predecessors, and destructible weaponry is super dumb, but every installment of the game series (at least of the main series) has cultivated that atmosphere of creeping terror that wraps its inky, black tendrils around your insides and squeezes. Aside from the Dead Space games, nothing, in any medium, creates that sense of fear so well.
That said, any non-video game installment in the franchise is held under a microscope. The comics have been quite good, especially the ones with Ben Templesmith on art duty. With the first Silent Hill film, you had to set a few guidelines. You knew it was a video game adaptation, so you couldn't judge its badness too harshly. All it needed then to enjoy it was: 1.) fog, 2.) the nurses, and 3.) Pyramid Head. If nothing else, it delivered in spades on those things, and was half-way decent in its own right.
What feels like a thousand years later, we're finally continuing the story that the first film began. How did it turn out? Well, you'll just have to read on to find out.
Silent Hill: Revelation 3D
We open much like the third game did (which makes sense, as Revelations is based on Silent Hill 3), with Heather Mason (Adelaide Clemens) having a bad dream that takes place in an amusement park full of horrors. Upon waking, she's consoled by her father, Harry (Sean Bean, returning to his role from the first film). They have spent the last half-decade running from the Order, who wants to bring Heather back to vacation destination Silent Hill. Y'see, Heather is really Sharon from the first film. That's really no surprise, since her dad is Sean Bean's character. ANYWAYS, she starts at her new school and things very quickly go bad. Her father is kidnapped and a message telling her to come to Silent Hill is scrawled in blood on her wall. I doubt they'll be getting their deposit back. With fellow new student Vincent (Kit Harington) in tow, Heather begins her descent into the horrors that await her in the little mining town of Silent Hill.
First off, Adelaide Clemens makes a goddamn excellent Heather. She looks just like the character from the game and pulls off her character great. She's full of piss and vinegar and no amount of walking fleshbags or zombie nurses are going to stop her from saving her dad. Kit Harington makes for a great conflicted love interest, but I wish he'd had a little more to do than serve as a plot device. Sean Bean's Harry is wonderful -- full of loss and regret. He's obviously doing all he can to give his daughter the best life she can have, given the circumstances. Aside from those three, everyone else is more or less a bit part. Carrie-Anne Moss's Claudia is wonderfully evil, Malcolm McDowell is unsurprisingly terrific as the super-crazy Leonard, and Martin Donovan's Douglas looks a heck of a lot like his videogame counterpart, pulling off the character wonderfully. I wish that all these characters had a little more to do in the film, but it's Heather's story, and they wisely kept the focus on her.
One of the best parts of this film is all the references they crammed in. The lead pipe, the classic series maps, and even a character or two from the other games make an appearance in one form or another. When Heather rattles off her list of assumed names, one of them was 'Mary,' I nearly squealed with glee. Even a mediocre movie adaptation becomes much more enjoyable with the right use of references and Easter eggs. Fortunately for all involved, this film is far from mediocre.
Returning to the town of Silent Hill felt like coming home again. It was certainly the same town we left back in 2006. Every now and then things just melt away and you find yourself in the mirror universe, the few townspeople stuck there look absolutely miserable, and Pyramid Head spends his days operating the amusement park's merry-go-round. Okay, so not everything is the same. And speaking of homecomings, using Akira Yamaoka on the score was smart. He's scored almost every Silent Hill game and his music, full of sadness and horror and things grinding together, gets to me almost as much as the visuals it's accompanying. It's just not Silent Hill without him.
The story itself sticks pretty closely to the source material, making obvious concessions to fit into the movie universe. If you look too hard, you'll see the cracks, but taken at face value it's more than enjoyable. A large part of this is certainly the creatures and locations. The mannequin warehouse and its monstrous resident, the trip to the mall (another staple of the third game) and the waking nightmare Heather endures there, the mental asylum (which felt like an amalgamation of the prison from the second game and series mainstay, the hospital) and its staff of zombie nurses, all of them are sick and twisted and I loved every second spent in each place.
My big problem was the climax. It lasts about two minutes. There's a pretty cool fight, but the main characters are on the sidelines for it. I mean, shooting something to death certainly isn't any better of a climax but I'm sure Michael J. Bassett could've figured something out.
The 3D in this film was actually some of the more enjoyable 3D I've seen in recent history. I'm sure that's in large part due to the fact that it was shot in 3D instead of post-conversion. Man, do I hate post-conversion. The 3D still used in tacky ways, but I feel that Silent Hill sort of lends itself to that tacky, coming-at-you style of 3D. The very first thing you see is ash falling down and it was glorious in 3D. Will you miss out seeing it in 2D? Not really. Will you feel like you wasted your money if you see it in 3D? I don't think so.
At the end of the day, Silent Hill: Revelation is awesome. I enjoyed it about twenty times more than the first film. It didn't get under my skin like the games, but I can see how less jaded movie-goers would be wetting their Pyramid Head underoos. This film had fog, nurses, and Pyramid Head, but it had so much more than that. By no means a perfect adaptation, but absolutely an excellent installment to the film franchise, as well as to the world of videogame adaptations. Bassett says he'd love to return to the series and also to tell wholly original stories set in the Silent Hill world, and I'm perfectly fine with that.