**1/2 (out of 5)
April 21, 2006
Radha Mitchell as ROSE DA SILVA
Sean Bean as CHRISTOPHER DA SILVA
Laurie Holden as CYBIL BENNETT
Deborah Kara Unger as DAHLIA GILLESPIE
Kim Coates as HENRY TOWNSHEND
Alice Krige as VALTIEL
Jodelle Ferland as SHARON DA SILVA
Directed by: Christophe Gans
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Sometimes critics have to make executive decisions. For this past week, there were overlapping screenings of the new horror film “Silent Hill” and the presidential assassin thriller “The Sentinel.” Well, I’ve always been a horror movie fan, so I opted to miss part of the screening of “The Sentinel” to watch “Silent Hill” in its entirety.
I should have stayed with “The Sentinel.”
I can’t say that I hated “Silent Hill,” but I wouldn’t call it a great movie, either. I will give it credit that while it’s not so great, it makes a much better moviegoing experience than some of the horror garbage that came out last year.
“Silent Hill” is based on a series of Japanese video games. These origins make sense, considering that it has remnants of each. With shades of “The Ring” and “The Grudge,” “Silent Hill” has that overbearing depression of evil children found in many of the Japanese horror films of late.
It also has the feel of many video-games-turned-movies. Uwe Boll had nothing to do with this movie, but it has his general feeling of murkiness and poor plot structure. Maybe this is something that’s gonna happen to all – or at least most – video game adaptations.
“Silent Hill” tells the story of Rose and Christopher Da Silva (Radha Mitchell and Sean Bean), who have adopted a young girl named Sharon (Jodelle Ferland). Sharon is plagued with nightmares, often giving rise to bouts of sleepwalking which often put her in grave danger.
Going against her husband’s wishes, Rose attempts to take Sharon to West Virginia to find the town of Silent Hill, which Sharon constantly talks about in her sleep. They arrive in the middle of the night to find the town closed off. Apparently a massive fire happened there thirty years ago, and the coal mines below the town are still burning.
However, when they show up in town, Sharon disappears, and Rose starts searching the ghost town for her. Instead of finding her adoptive daughter, she runs into a series of some of the freakiest ghosts you’ll see on screen. Every couple hours, a darkness falls over the town of Silent Hill, and all hell breaks lose – literally. Rose knows it was a bad idea to come there, but now her daughter is missing, and she has to find her.
I will admit that there are elements of horror that are exceedingly well done. The ghostly apparitions (reportedly mostly shot with live actors in costume rather than CGI) are very well done. From a production design angle and creature design, you don’t get much better than “Silent Hill.”
However, the film breaks down when it comes to the story. It’s clear that Rose and Sharon disappear into a ghostly dimension where they fight against hellish demons, but the point of the film is lost in the first half. When the mystery is finally revealed in the end, it is told in a series of over-explanatory (and often convoluted) flashbacks.
The real evil behind the town of Silent Hill isn’t just the demons of hell, but the overzealous religious fanatics who lived there. This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, considering the town burned down in the 1970s, not the 1870s. It’s not that these religious fanatics don’t exist, but it seems really far-fetched in the movie.
The film should please fans of the genre. I’ve seen a lot worse when it comes to horror movies. However, the film seems a bit too murky and unclear for mainstream tastes.