Review: Silent Hill

Posted by Peter Hall - April 22nd 2006 @ 1:11 am

Directed by Christophe Gans, 2006

I sit here staring at a picture of a beast of a man with a pyramid for a head, holding the biggest, rustiest knife in the world in one hand and a bloody corpse in the other and then I think back on what I saw tonight and wonder, “what the fuck went wrong?” But I don’t need to wonder what went wrong, I know exactly what went wrong. I’ve got a god damned list.

The film’s biggest problem is the script. Roger Avary, did you really do any work on Pulp Fiction? I think you’re full of shit, because there’s not a damned thing here that shows any kind of understanding of screenwriting. First off, the husband, just cut him out entirely. You never once established any reason why we should care about their relationship, so why bother having a relationship? Just make Rose a single mother and you’ve already redeemed dozens of flaws throughout the movie. I’m confident that the only reason Sean Bean’s role ever existed was just so they could have that final shot when Rose returns home.

Sean Bean isn’t a bad actor, but the man can not do an American accent so he shouldn’t bother trying. But dialect aside, his character was just a complete show stopper. Any time the film threatened to get truly scary it just cut to Sean Bean wandering around like a dofus. You can’t create this horrible fantasy world and then keep cutting back to safe reality to save the viewer from the fantasy world. That’s just dumb. Plus, it makes Christophe Gans’ a flat out liar:

In Silent Hill, you never stop being afraid. It’s a much more uncomfortable concept, because the game is about isolation and loneliness.”

Oh, really, then why in the hell did you keep cutting back to people that weren’t Rose, that weren’t isolated and that weren’t in any kind of danger? Isolation and loneliness, that means to surround the hero by the cities entire population at the end, right? Maybe I’m reading the words “never stop being afraid” all wrong. Or maybe Gans’ was right, because technically to stop being afraid you’d have to start at some point. Funny how that works…

Not to mention how every single character consistently acts out of character. Never before has a movie been a bigger offender of the “why the hell are you doing that?” factor. In its defense, this is exactly what survival horror games are like. You’re not given any other option that do whatever nonsensical thing it is the game asks you to do. But this is a movie. Movies have choice, they have thought, they have development. That is to say movies that aren’t Silent Hill have choice, thought and development.

The production design here was phenomenal, but the script never utilizes any of it other than to introduce things and then push them into the background. Red Pyramid was the single coolest thing about this movie. In fact, he was so cool that I’m actually not bitter about paying for a shitty movie just because I got to see him rip the skin off of a girl. But his scenes are so short that you risk missing them if you blink at the wrong time.

And it’s the same for all the other baddies in Silent Hill. They’re all amazing in their presentation and execution that when you first see them your jaw drops, but that’s all that ever happens. You see ‘em once, twice if we’re lucky, and then they’re done. You can’t keep hiding the scariest part of your movie and expect your movie to be scary? I’m starting to think Roger Avary has never actually seen a good horror movie…

The movie suffocates under its own exposition. Or in other words, it doesn’t know when to shut the fuck up! You’re in a fantasy world that makes no sense. We know you’re in a fantasy world that makes no sense. You don’t need to explain it to us. Rose went through the rabbit hole, that’s all you need to say and show. But noooooo…

The absolute rock bottom of the film is when Rose enters the room of “the beast”. I’ve experienced more fear on the toliet than from any aspect of “the beast”. Here’s the thought process behind this truly inspired piece of writing:

“Oh, what, the movie is threatening to get interesting again? We can’t cut to Sean Bean again to bring it back down a notch? Fuck, we may actually have to make this part scary..that’s no good. Wait! I’ve got it!! We’ll have the little girl narrate for as long as is humanly possible while we show contrived ‘stock footage’ explaining the story no one really gives half a damn about anyway! Nah, I think it’s a good idea to grind the movie to a screeching halt during the final act, don’t you?”

Ugh. So why haven’t I given the movie a worthless rating? Mainly because Pyramid Head was just that cool (even though his total screen time probably hovers around 4 minutes), but also because there are some things here that can be enjoyed. The creature design is remarkable and defiantly original, even if they’re given very little to do. The production design is fantastic, with Rose running through over a hundred different physical sets. The sound design is really, really great. The creature effects (both practical and computer) are truly impressive. But those qualities aren’t nearly enough to counter the rest of the film’s extreme shortcommings.

The saddest part is that I have even more that I could complain about. It was 127 minutes of wasted potential. Simply placing the characters in a demon infested fantasy world does more than half the job for you, so how do you mess that up? All you have to do is run with whatever the most haunting creature you can up with, and your movie is made. But Gans’ doesn’t run with it, he runs away from it. He constantly dodges scares and thrills, attempting to replace them with answers to questions no one really cared about.

Just show the monsters! That’s all you had to do. Show them, let us fear them. Deliver those goods and everything else can be forgiven. But no, Gans pulls out at the last minute every time. Hell, Rose falls asleep during the climax of the most graphic scene in the movie! COME ON!

Such a dissapointment. Such squandered potential. I really need to stop getting excited for movies and just take the stance that they’re all going to suck. I feel like horror movies just keep abusing my relationship with them. They make all these promises, then never deliver, but then plead with me that, “the band’s gonna make it!”

Shame on me.


rss 11 comments
  1. April 22nd, 2006 | 2:58 am | #1

    yeah, thank you, get RID of the husband. and yes, i agree – exposition, too much talking, not enough showing. flashback sequence was godawful. it was very much running away from true fear, and we didn’t get enough action with the monsters. i also put a longass post up on mofo about my issues with this flick, but they’re tied not to horror movie love but to survival horror love and the joy of seeing the two married – and the bitter disappointment.

    shame on me too.

  2. wildfire
    April 22nd, 2006 | 7:14 am | #2

    yah… when I got out of the movie I said I pretty much didn’t like it, and people were like … “what??” And I was so tired I fell asleep for the last 20 minutes; I just got bored. I also got tired of everyone laughing at the bad acting. The graphics were cool though.

  3. April 22nd, 2006 | 9:23 am | #3

    It’s sad but true, I must go back and retract my rating that I gave it.

  4. April 24th, 2006 | 9:55 am | #4

    I suppose this might ruin my credibility, but I didn’t hate it. I have a review up on my site. I guess the problem is that it wants to be two different movies. Silent Hill is really more of a mystery in a lot of ways, not straight horror. For instance, I’ve always wanted to know more about Silent Hill, so the exposition was fun for me. I see your point though. I really can’t say what it would be like for someone who isn’t familiar with the game though.
    Sorry you were so disappointed. Better luck next time. By the way, I think having the disposition that movies will always suck is a good one. It makes a lot of them better than they really are.

  5. pingback

    […] PS. Here’s a review from a horror fan’s perspective, if that’s your angle. […]

  6. pennywise
    October 27th, 2007 | 9:42 am | #6

    What is wrong with you?!

    Silent hill was the best movie ever made!!!

    You should look past the horror and see the theological aspects.

  7. October 27th, 2007 | 10:30 am | #7

    I’ll admit that Silent Hill has grown on me quite a bit since first seeing it in theaters, but theological aspects? Really?

  8. January 4th, 2008 | 3:00 pm | #8

    Great review. Frankly, I’m shocked to see that I’m *not* the only person on the face of the Earth who didn’t love this. At least, I don’t think I’ve met anyone yet who felt the same way I did, till I read your review.

    I sure *wanted* to like SILENT HILL — I thought there were some really creepy moments, great effects (at least toward the beginning of the movie), fantastic production design. But overall, when all was said and done, I thought the film was little more than a big load of wasted potential. I *hated* the last 20 minutes or so.

    One half of a very good movie, I guess, if that . . . .

    J.N.

  9. apeman
    June 2nd, 2008 | 5:39 pm | #9

    the evil nurses making the michael jackson thriller coreography, hillarius!!!!

  10. Herman
    October 28th, 2010 | 5:03 pm | #10

    This movie makes one long to see lawyer commercials.

  11. Carlos Diaz
    February 1st, 2011 | 4:50 pm | #11

    God, finally, someone speaks! This “horror” movie sucks. I’m a big fan of the games, and even though is better than all Resident Evil adaptations, it sucks. A lot.

    You are right about bout Rose falling asleep. WTF is wrong with these directors? Are they fuckin’ dope and watching unicorns? Fuck. I could not see it in theathers, so I bought the DVD. Sold it after the second watch. Though Piramid Head is awesome, is not worth it (anyway, I better make a .gif with the skinless scene).

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