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Overall Rating

Awesome: 20.45%
Worth A Look: 23.86%
Average: 23.3%
Pretty Bad25%
Total Crap: 7.39%

11 reviews, 110 user ratings

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Silent Hill
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by William Goss

"You'll Never Lurk In This Town Again"
3 stars

Director Christophe Gans decides to follow up 2001’s delicious genre stew 'Brotherhood of the Wolf' with a big-budget video-game adaptation. However, despite the relatively nightmarish imagery stemming from its source, 'Silent Hill' isn’t all that scary, creepy, freaky, disturbing, or unnerving until its final act. As A video game movie, it takes a few steps in the right direction. As THIS video game movie, it could use some work.

After an opening that requires the main characters to live unreasonably close to Ohio’s steepest waterfall and its adjacent cliffs, Rose (Radha Mitchell) decides that the best thing to do for her detached sleepwalker of an adopted daughter is to take her to the very place she frequently screams about, the abandoned town of Silent Hill, West Virginia. A car accident knocks Rose unconscious and, upon awaking, she finds her daughter (Jodelle Ferland) missing. She begins to search the ghost town, where sirens signify the periodic arrival of a dark force and several bizarre creatures. It would appear that Silent Hill exists on parallel planes, distinctly alternating environments of ash and dust with rain and rust whenever danger looms. Rose is pursued immediately by a cop (Laurie Holden) and eventually by her husband, Chris (Sean Bean), who remains in the real world as he investigates the disappearance of his wife and daughter.

For the first act, Rose is essentially wandering around, searching for her brat while still adjusting to the frequent transformation of her surroundings from an eerie ghost town to a musty industrial wasteland worthy of a tetanus shot, armed only with a flashlight that emits a whine that increases in pitch and nuisance when aimed towards the screen. The second act partners Rose with the officer, and they do more of the same together, although they do meet Silent Hill’s human population, a gaggle of religious zealots with a penchant for biblical banter and ceremonial burning, they may not be in any less danger. Along with a handful of motifs (even down to a cross-shaped playground hopscotch that begins at Hell and ends in Heaven), the third act has our heroine journeying into the very inferno that engulfed the town in flames decades before in an effort to find the answers she needs and the thrills Silent Hill lacks.

Gans, although armed with quite an accomplished atmosphere, creates a slightly awkward mesh of mystery and horror; however, the story does make sense, if only courtesy of a lengthy chunk of exposition that fills in all of the blanks and renders Bean’s role redundant. A deliberate narrative vagueness plagues the majority of the film, only to have every single thread tidied up too much. Such faithfulness to the game somewhat backfires on the film, making the first half something of an endurance test and the second half less fulfilling than select omissions may have made it. The story’s cohesion is one thing, but the storyteller’s competence is another.

Mitchell, a fine actress with just enough chops to withstand work like this, doesn’t particularly lend her character any sincere motivation in the early segments, and before you can ask, “What’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?,” the scream routine commences and she proves adequate for the task. Meanwhile, Bean finds himself relegated to the realm of Expositionville, where his scenes could easily have been excised (and make the film not only shorter, but leaner as a result). Ferland actually improves on her screwy, whiny, and ultimately grating first impression when she goes into evil territory without overdoing it. Thankfully, Holden manages to not only contribute several keen observations, but also repeat them at increasing volume. For example, the first hour brings “What the fuck is going on?!?,” while the second offers “What the fuck is wrong with you people?!?,” both rather succinct and insightful summaries for those equally baffled at the moment. Who better to ask the tough questions than a gun-toting chick with quite the fondness for leather and utter lack of character development?

The fun, though, doesn’t stop there. Personal favorites include the immortal remarks “It looks like there was a fire” (when addressing a burnt building in a town devastated by fire) and “Look, I’m burning!” (a comment made by a young girl when her arms do, in fact, catch ablaze). Don’t worry: there’s more where that came from, courtesy of Roger Avery, a screenwriter whose previous works include The Rules of Attraction and Pulp Fiction (!). It’s not that the story calls for witty banter or anything especially constructive, but the middle third in particular is chock full of zingers like these. Sigh.

Just when it seems that all hope is lost, the film suddenly shifts from a stubbornly stagnant supernatural mystery to harsh horror, much to its own benefit. Despite spending additional time with those blabbering religionistas, this is when Silent Hill decides to get down and dirty, kicking things off with a healthy helping of seamless skinning and faceless-freak-nurse-on-faceless-freak-nurse action, and although it seems superficial to say that the going gets good once the going gets gory, Gans and Avery tap into a newfound confidence for disturbing his viewers instead of perturbing them. It seems somewhat surprising that an American studio would bother with a film so muddled, then with a film so messy. I don’t want to oversell it, but it seems that perhaps the filmmakers were merely sandbagging in an effort to elevate their finale to some shade of delightful dementia. Whatever they pull, it works like gangbusters compared to the rest.

The entire affair does remind one of why people trouble themselves to play such games in the first place: to participate and accomplish objectives while embracing a sense of psychological tension that only the player can provide for themselves. This adaptation cannot quite reach that, nor can any movie really ever. (Otherwise, why would we bother having video games?) That key variable, the capacity of the individual, is something that cinema cannot dictate or convey. Although the scenes take on an episodic nature, several of which resemble actual in-game cinematic sequences, the ultimate menace is diluted because, within two hours, the viewer is aware that the story will be finished, plain and simple; your character simply cannot die at any point.

While a vague threat can work wonders virtually, asking the audience to understand these characters and comprehend their situation with equal significance in a condensed period of time puts the entire scenario at a disadvantage. I'm all for a cinematic depiction of a living nightmare, horror that defies logic and reason. The atmosphere, mood, and creatures are there, but the risk is not. Instead, the atmosphere, mood, and creatures are just... there, failing to create a true sensation, spine-chilling or otherwise. Silent Hill cannot quite pull that off in a movie as much as it can in a game.

Most game-to-film adaptations are poorly received because they resemble bad movies more than anything else. As a translation of the actual video game experience, 'Silent Hill' makes an honest effort at bleak and abstract horror with a straight face, yet falls short of striking that crucial balance between story and scares to provide the narrative with a smooth momentum and genuine sense of progress. If the studios and filmmakers wish to stay true to form, they might do best to pause, save their progress, and see if they can’t improve their score the next time around.

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originally posted: 04/22/06 15:02:55
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User Comments

3/13/17 morris campbell beautiful but boring 1 stars
10/07/11 Kevin Breece beautiful movie. probably the best game-to-movie adaptation i have seen. 5 stars
6/15/11 Allen Stays true to the franchise, right down to the "What the HELL just happened?" at the end. 5 stars
5/15/11 stephen nettles Awesome 5 stars
10/02/10 bored mom This film lacks the first two games' truly subtle, carefully thought-out sensibilities. 3 stars
8/20/09 Jo Not played the games but movie was good. Especially now i get the ending! roll on movie 2!! 4 stars
12/02/08 Jojo i thought it was bad ass, but i love the games 4 stars
11/28/08 Jon C. My Full Review (fix spaces) /review/mvie_mu-1156476/content_228082421380 4 stars
10/09/08 Andyyyy its ok as a movie, nothing to the game, the plot is %$#!ed up, explains nothin 3 stars
8/27/08 Shaun Wallner Bloody Awesome!!! 5 stars
7/13/08 Pyrix An interesting horror piece, certainly better than most game-to-movie adaptations 4 stars
5/11/08 Ryan If you don't understand the ending use common sense, the haze outside her house, 4 stars
4/25/08 Karrie Millheim Scared me big time! Horror lovers are gonna love this one 5 stars
3/17/08 Tosh its quite good as an horror movie, more amusing than scary. loved the open end. 4 stars
4/17/07 shyguy Great casting of Dahlia and Cybil, but a REALLY stupid plot 2 stars
3/20/07 Anthony G Best video game to movie adaptation ever made, still not THAT great overall. 4 stars
3/09/07 cokehead wasn't scarry, just weird. what a piece of shit. 2 stars
3/09/07 johnnyfog I liked Cybil. But otherwise, pointless 2 stars
2/28/07 Beau Greatly made, superb performances but a dull plot and it got silly towards the end 3 stars
2/05/07 Mark Helling not great, but its so extremely well made u wont care. not very scary, but has its moments 4 stars
2/02/07 Abs Preety good movie.Music set the scary tone for the whole film,but last 20min was a letdown 4 stars
1/11/07 Jake This movie pretty much just didn't do anything but such 2 stars
1/10/07 del Roger Avary fucked this up BAD. 3 stars
10/24/06 Indrid Cold Good screen translation, but still the movie doesn't even approach the game's brilliance. 3 stars
10/24/06 AJ Muller mood and visuals make it work; operates on 'nightmare logic' and is quite effective at it 5 stars
10/22/06 nie nie it so reflect the game. better than resident evil. i love it (wit some exception) 4 stars
10/18/06 GC Watch it for the visuals..nothing more..and not scary...plot dumb/characters lame 3 stars
10/17/06 Marvin Schulte It's a punch in the face of every single fan of the games. 1 stars
10/17/06 John Best game to movie ever! But you should play the game before seeing the movie. it helps. 5 stars
10/10/06 Homuncolos U shouldnt judge a movie on if its scary, since who would get scared just from a movie? 5 stars
10/09/06 Jim If you play the games, you'll love it; if not, you'll be just as baffled as my wife was. 5 stars
10/06/06 Clive Was A Good Film But I Havent Played The Game...This May Be Why I was Confused At The Ending 4 stars
10/05/06 pete.chesworth great game but glad I did not pay to see the movie. 2 stars
10/01/06 Randy if you didnt understand the movie your an idiot. get some common sence and watch it again. 4 stars
9/30/06 Bob Smith T 4 stars
9/24/06 Nicole This movie was exellent , but I did'nt understand the ending. 4 stars
9/18/06 daveyt I enjoyed it, liked the ending, visuals were great. Not exactly a classic, but not that bad 4 stars
9/17/06 hector if you didnt PLAY THE GAME you wont UNDERSTAND IT so you wont like 5 stars
9/15/06 Sophie Beats most Hollywood horrors! 5 stars
9/13/06 Ian pickering Mint film but the cop is a dick 5 stars
9/11/06 Cindy Brown didn't make much sense, yet I couldn't stop watching it 3 stars
9/07/06 Albert not true to the game, and about one tenth as scary,save your money,buy the game`s. 1 stars
9/06/06 HGTV fanatic great scary monsters, ending sucked, is they dead or just in a different dimesnion? 4 stars
9/02/06 HILARY I wasn't impressed. i got bored. i was confused at the end. it didnt scare me. lol.. 3 stars
9/02/06 ES Boring, gets interesting, gets retarded and then leaves you wondering what the ending means 2 stars
8/29/06 Casper I liked it - creatures were creepy, town was well-conceived, Rahda made this film work 4 stars
8/28/06 cindy interesting movie 4 stars
8/27/06 dorena ware whew, glad it was over. 3 stars
8/26/06 wanda mahoney it was very good movie, i like the eneding 5 stars
8/25/06 Richard Jojola This movie was awesome 5 stars
8/25/06 purplerose decent if you have played the games! 4 stars
8/25/06 Charles bundy I thought the film was teriffic, non-staop horror! 5 stars
8/25/06 Phillip Akers Very Grat movie best transofor mation of a game into a movie and most of all the gore 5 stars
8/24/06 LP The movie is suck but I even sucker wasting $4.90 at a local video store 1 stars
8/24/06 matt twisted, grotesque and sick as fuck 5 stars
8/17/06 Ian K. The best game-movie adaption known with brill visuals and sounds to draw you in 5 stars
8/02/06 dan a strange but rather good film 4 stars
7/28/06 Daniel This is one of the best movies I have seen in months. Play the game if you wanna enjoy it! 5 stars
6/29/06 Gretchen Seitz Starts off promisingly, but turns into psychobabble. 1 stars
6/24/06 Elix ONLY and ONLY for anyone who have played Silent hill 1,2 or 3 4 stars
6/12/06 Mike First movie I've EVER walked out on! So ridiculous and STUPID. TOTAL WASTE OF TIME!!! 1 stars
6/04/06 Huismijt Nice little movie! Go see it if you're a fan of the series. Don't take it so seriously!! 3 stars
5/29/06 Anthony G As a video game to movie adaptation it was great! As a normal movie? Not so much... 5 stars
5/20/06 rosebud cybill is the new lesbian icon 5 stars
5/18/06 Alfred Guy Good creatures, but uneven as a whole. 3 stars
5/16/06 Ashley I loved the movie, I just didn't like the end. It left too much open ended. 4 stars
5/15/06 allie most horrible movie i've seen since blair witch project! 1 stars
5/10/06 San Lamar go see it! 5 stars
5/09/06 Tranquil Made for fans of the series, good visuals and recreation of some aspects. 4 stars
5/09/06 ryan good movie tells how the girl and wife got to be lost there and the before to when the husf 5 stars
5/07/06 Charlene Javier A bummer for fans of the game... 2 stars
5/06/06 Chris Buchanan Fan of the games. Fan of the movie. It's not your typical game-based movie: It doesn't suck 5 stars
5/05/06 matthew flynn a little too ove explained in some areas and under in others 4 stars
5/04/06 mandisa robinson the movie was good 4 stars
5/03/06 David I've seen scarier things at a five year old's birthday party, what a waste of two hours.... 1 stars
5/02/06 Mase Like watchign someone else play a barely comprhensible video game. Avoid!! 1 stars
5/02/06 Brandi Robertson The movie is hard to follow, drawn out, weird, and too long. 3 stars
5/02/06 chris f very tense and scary movie exellent!!! 5 stars
5/01/06 Patrick B Hey Im from W. Va and we have very few towns that look like "close to hell" 3 stars
5/01/06 Josh Standlee Scary as Hell! I won't be able to sleep right for at least a week! 5 stars
4/29/06 Sergey Konyshev I was so lost at the end, please explain how the wife and husband are in different worlds? 2 stars
4/29/06 Laz Moreland Scary and awesome! 5 stars
4/28/06 jimmy saville the longest, most boring film ever. Id ask for a refund if I could 1 stars
4/28/06 Jen Wilson Not good- would never reccomend this movie to anyone 1 stars
4/27/06 Farron Watson Some of the most disturbing imagery I've ever seen. Agony as a visual art form. 4 stars
4/26/06 Jon A laudable addition to the Silent Hill name, but not without flaws. They should make SH2! 4 stars
4/26/06 Vikki Tries too hard, but appropriately frightening! 4 stars
4/25/06 Troy G Changed cult from the game from summoner of deamon to opposition of the deamon. 4 stars
4/25/06 Anthony G They did pyramid head very well, created a great vibe, ending was lacking. 4 stars
4/25/06 elliot comparing this stylish film to plan 9 proves some of the critics here are idiots. 5 stars
4/25/06 victoria schall answer a question on Silent Hill 3 stars
4/25/06 Josh Haberman A Silent Hill Fan must see! 4 stars
4/24/06 BrianWilly Scary and gory fun. 5 stars
4/24/06 :) FINALLY!..A game movie that doesn't suck! 5 stars
4/23/06 Greyjack Cool visuals, but needed more Pyramid Head. 3 stars
4/23/06 MorallySound The movie makes sense if you dig through all the layers of ploy. Use your brain. 5 stars
4/23/06 matt Not quite what I was expecting, but pretty cool 4 stars
4/23/06 Adrian It's pretty. Really pretty. But mindless as well. 4 stars
4/22/06 The Talking Elbow Appreciated quite well as art. 5 stars
4/22/06 mike awesome 5 stars
4/22/06 Eevil Wolfie Visuals are nightmarish when they are there but the story seems to drag unnessisarily. 3 stars
4/22/06 bizenya it blew my fucking mind. 5 stars
4/22/06 Ole Man Bourbon It was pretty fun, but also kind of like a film version of a run-on sentence. 3 stars
4/22/06 Toilet Bowl Well-made, intelligent, scary - might not be for everyone 5 stars
4/22/06 ducka The best videogame adaptation ever 5 stars
4/22/06 KingNeutron I enjoyed it, even tho I never played the game. Genuinely scary in parts. 4 stars
4/22/06 Bunuel People confused by surrealism need not apply. 4 stars
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  21-Apr-2006 (R)
  DVD: 22-Aug-2006



[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Christophe Gans

Written by
  Roger Avary

  Radha Mitchell
  Sean Bean
  Laurie Holden
  Deborah Kara Unger
  Kim Coates
  Tanya Allen

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