Movies based on video games have had a sketchy history, to say the least. They have ranged in quality anywhere from decent (Prince of Persia), to Horrible (Super Mario Brothers), to so bad they’re good (anything by Uwe Bowel). Somewhere in all of this was 2006’s Silent Hill which was the first film based on the long running survival-horror series. As a video game adaptation, it was one of the better efforts and was even able to stand on its own two feet as a standalone horror film. While not a world changer, it successfully captured the macabre tone of the games and was able to satisfy a certain portion of the fan base. Enter 2012 and the long awaited sequel, Silent Hill: Revelations drags its huge knife back into theaters to scare up another batch of Silent Hill fans. Armed with a new director and a more action orientated vibe, Silent Hill: Revelations gives theater goers an awful lot of cool things to look at while they eat their popcorn but unfortunately, not much more than that.
Let me preface this all by letting you know that I declined the opportunity to view this film in 3D. I have an unexplainable disdain for 3D films as I find their appeal fleeting and highly gimmicky. If you want a review on the 3D aspects of the film, you may want to look elsewhere as I will be focusing on the film itself.
The new tone of the film is immediately recognizable. The opening sequence is full of quick shots, strange close-ups, and plenty of spooky looking special effects. The filming style is a quick assurance that, if nothing else, you are in for a slickly produced viewing experience. Whereas the first film focused on a lot of small creepy imagery with the occasional action set-piece thrown in, Revelations goes for full-blown horror/action from the first frame and doesn’t let up until the credits roll, and even a bit after that. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as big action/horror titles in the past have managed to be enjoyable, the downside however, is that the one-hundred mile per hour tone of the film finds its way into the storytelling as well.
This is my biggest problem with the film. While never billed as a faithful adaptation of any of the games, the film is based in large part on the third game in the series, Silent Hill 3 which tells the story of Heather Mason and her adventures in the cursed town. Most of the elements from that game are present in this film; Heather’s search for her identity, the cult, Leonard, the Seal of Metatron, it’s all here. The problem is that there is no time taken at all by the filmmakers to let any of the convoluted storyline sink into the minds of the filmgoers and perhaps make some sort of sense. While the story in the game was no masterpiece, the makers of the game at least had the foresight to spread their yarn over a decent amount of time in the hopes that we could understand what was happening. While I understand that films don’t have the luxury of spreading their stories out over eight to ten hours like video games do, I got the feeling while watching the movie that the filmmakers couldn’t care less whether or not you know what’s happening as long as you watch long enough to see the next gruesome set-piece. I felt the entire time that had I not been so familiar with the game the movie was based on, I would have been one lost puppy.
Most of the characters from the game all make an appearance but some of them are dispatched so quickly that you barely have time get to know them while others have been changed so drastically from their original personalities that they are almost unrecognizable, save for their giant metal heads. This, however, is not such a problem for me as I understand that the films are their own entity and do not need to be hamstrung to the trappings of the games. Many fans disliked the manner in which Pyramid Head was portrayed in the original film whereas I had no problem with it (I was much more unsatisfied with his appearance in Silent Hill: Homecoming). This film has the distinction of being a sequel and like it or not, it has to tie up loose ends from the original, so if you didn’t like Pyramid Head’s role in the original, you will HATE his role in this one, but these are the films, and they are separate from the games so if you can continue to remind yourself of this fact, you will probably enjoy yourself better. A lot of fans also didn’t like the direction that the cult took in the original film but I give the filmmakers of Revelations credit for continuing this storyline and giving it a sense of closure by film’s end. Whatever your opinion is on the direction the film takes these well known characters, there’s still a decent amount of iconic story moments from the game that make their way into the movie to satisfy fans. The confrontation with dark Alessa on the merry-go-round was particularly cool, if not a bit hokey.
Acting is also uneven across the board. There are some definite bright spots, though. Sean Bean reprises his character from the original and he is as reliable as he’s always been, even if he’s not given a lot to work with. Another high note is Malcolm McDowell’s portrayal of Leonard Wolf. He’s probably on screen for every bit of five minutes but his brief screen time is easily one of the best parts of the film. As far as everyone else goes, it’s pretty hit-and-miss. Newcomer Adelaide Clemens displays some real moments of greatness in her portrayal of Heather but other times she speaks her lines as if she’s reading them off the cue cards. She also doesn’t do as good a job of portraying fear as I would have liked. There are moments when she looks truly terrified but there are others in which it looks like she’s just annoyed by all the horrific goings on. She does have all the makings of a future star though, and I think under a little tighter direction, she could have given a real memorable performance. Kit Harrington is also a somewhat known name from his role in HBO’s A Game of Thrones. I’ve never watched that particular show but I keep hearing people talk about it so I guess somebody’s watching it. Again, I think it may be properly attributed to lazy direction but Kit Harrington was pretty unconvincing as Vincent. His lines were all delivered far too quickly and he didn’t look as if he even believed what he was saying. The love story between him and Heather felt shoehorned in to begin with and their, at times, high school play caliber performances didn’t help matters much. Everybody else is just average. There’s nothing real memorable offered from anyone and it all seems pretty standard for a Hollywood horror film.
On the plus side, the villain models are all fantastic. Pyramid Head still looks awesome and menacing, although it looks as if he’s been pumping some serious iron since the last film. The nurses also make a welcome return and are still gruesome and terrifying in one of the cooler scenes in the film. There are also some new creatures that have been conceived just for the film but they would not look out of place in any one of the video games. The mannequin spider is particularly cool looking and I would love to see this creature make its way into one of the games in the future. Kudos to the design team for sticking with the well-established Silent Hill aesthetic and bringing us some truly interesting and horrifying visuals. On the flip side though, the visuals are the only real terror you’re likely to experience as the film does not try in any capacity to be scary. Sure, it follows all the horror movie tropes with the slamming doors and lots of ‘BOO’ moments but it almost feels as if these were included because someone thought they had to be. This is an action movie in a horror movie’s skin to be sure, make no mistake of that.
Now, with all that being said it may seem as if I didn’t like this movie but that’s not true at all. I enjoyed my viewing experience quite a bit, actually. The reason being is that regardless of my complaints with this movie, or any movie for that matter, the main purpose of any film should be to entertain the viewer and I found myself quite entertained for the brief hour-and-a-half that I was in the theater. Going in, I was hoping for a creepy, cerebral adaptation of the game but after the first ten minutes I realized what direction the filmmakers were taking and I let my pre-conceived notions fall like the ash on screen and let myself enjoy the fireworks show in front of me.
The entire affair is over the top and silly but I find myself a big enough fan of the source material to appreciate the fan service offered in this film and I think that ultimately, this lead to my enjoyment more than anything. There are all sorts of inclusions of things throughout the entire film that only fans of the game will recognize, the most apparent of which is the score which is comprised entirely of reworked music from the games. It’s a real treat to hear these iconic songs on the big screen. Add to that an impressive amount of cool little visual cues and fans of the games will have plenty to be excited about. There’s even a nod to Silent Hill: Origins, and even Silent Hill: Downpour in the final few minutes which made me smile and left me hopeful for a future Silent Hill film that could tread new ground now that this story seems to be (hopefully) wrapped up.