Radha Mitchell as Rose Da Silva
Sean Bean as Christopher Da Silva
Laurie Holden as Cybil Bennet
Jodelle Ferland as Sharon DaSilva/Alessa
Alice Krige as Christabella
Deborah Kara Unger as Dahlia Gillespie
Kim Coates as Officer Thomas Gucci
Tanya Allen as Anna
Janet Land as Sister Margaret
Christopher Britton as Eddie Dombrowski
Directed by Christophe Gans
A genuinely creepy and deeply disturbing experience, as would be expected by fans of the games, but there’s too much talking to keep them interested for the whole movie.
Rose Da Silva (Radha Mitchell) and her daughter Sharon (Jodelle Ferland) travel to the ghost town, Silent Hill in West Virginia, in search of answers to her daughter’s mysterious sleepwalking. After an auto accident, Sharon disappears, sending Rose on a desperate chase through the deserted streets of the town on which ashes fall like snow.
I still remember the first time I played the video game “Silent Hill” and how shaken up I was by having to run through the thick fog in this stark deserted town, never knowing where to go or what was going to jump out at me next. The best thing about this movie version by director Christophe Gans (“Brotherhood of the Wolf”) is that it gives the viewer that exact same feeling, putting them on edge, unsure of what might happen next. In this case, there isn’t even the feeling of having control you would normally have with a controller in hand.
Although it’s based on a video game, you can’t really compare it to something like “Resident Evil” or “Doom” because it’s not an action movie based on an action-driven game, as much as being a horror movie. For the most part, it doesn’t stray too far from the template set by the game, and it doesn’t take long for you to notice similarities with horror movies like “The Ring.” (Classic case of chicken and egg: the original “Silent Hill,” a Japanese game, came out a year after the Japanese “Ringu,” but a few years before the American remake.)
The first half of the movie involves Rose running around in the fog trying to find clues to her daughter’s location while her husband, played by Sean Bean, tries to find both his wife and child, using clues found in the outside world. The second half gets more into the explanation about what happened with the town and the mysterious little girl that Rose keeps running into who looks a lot like her daughter.
Radha Mitchell is really good as the main heroine, because she’s able to hold your attention and have you rooting for her despite spending most of the movie running around, being chased or repeatedly crying out “Sharon!” Laurie Holden is also fun as a tough leather-clad motorcycle cop who helps Rose in her search and fight against creatures, playing it more like the heroines in the”Resident Evil” movies.
When “The Darkness” comes, the real fun begins, because that’s when we get all of the cool creatures and the goriest of kills. Pyramid Head is clearly the best of these, a giant carrying around a huge knife surrounded by scarab-like bugs that eat anything and everything in their path. Pyramid Head has one kill that is so unbelievably gory that you’ll really want to see more of him.
You can add Jodelle Ferland to the roster of creepy horror movie kids alongside Daveigh Chase, Cameron Bright and David Dorfman. Her character veers more towards the creepy fun of Chase’s Samara in “The Ring” than other creepy little girls from horror movies, and she does a decent job with what is essentially a dual role.
Technically, the film is amazing, really showing Gans’ vision as a director. The production design in creating this town and the various locations, in all their various aspects, is impressive and the camerawork is equally amazing, the camera often swooping down from high above, in a way that makes things seem even more precarious. The use of ambient sound effects with a “musique concrete” soundtrack really gets your blood boiling, and often the silence is even more effective at setting the mood. Kudos all around to Gans and his production team for making a film that stimulates all the senses.
There’s a strong spiritual undercurrent to the whole movie, but mostly from the church and its followers Rose encounters and their references to demons, faith, etc. This may come directly from the video games, but it’s quite surprising for a horror film to have this much depth, especially when it gets into the history of the town and the connection between the characters. This part also could compared to “The Ring” since obviously, a lot of thought was put into the backstory of this ghost town. It does keep your interest and make you curious to learn more as you watch.
After a bit of a lull as all of this history is explained, the last 15 to 20 minutes of the movie is excellent, from the revenge of the “Darkness entity” which should sate any gore fan, to a cliffhanger ending that almost guarantees a sequel. Now that we know the story, I’m certainly intrigued to know where it goes from there.
What Didn’t Work:
This movie is going to be much slower than most people might expect, not only from a movie based on a game, but also from a horror movie. Anyone expecting lots of action will surely be bored by the long moments of dialogue in between the times when “The Darkness” hits the town or Rose has to face some bizarre creatures.
Some of the CGI doesn’t look quite right, maybe because they used real people for the creatures and then manipulated them using computers. It makes them a bit odd, not necessarily in a good way, because they look like something out of Dave McKean’s “MirrorMask.” It’s kind of strange that they couldn’t look better, since the original creatures were done completely in the computer, but I think their odd appearances and movements were done on purpose to make the experience more jarring for Rose and the viewer.
Sean Bean is okay in his small role as Rose’s husband, but his scenes really take away from the creepy mood of the rest of the movie. You’re in a certain head while watching Rose making her way through Silent Hill, especially during the scenes where “The Darkness” hits, and then it cuts back to Bean and you’re taken out of the experience.
The worst parts of the movie involves a character played by Alice Krige, who looks and acts like Sigourney Weaver in “The Village.” The religious allegory is laid on so thick in the second half with a bit of bad writing and acting, turning a good 20 minutes of the film into a cross between “The Village” and “The Wicker Man.” Since the movie is already too long, some of this could easily have been cut out.
The Bottom Line:
“Silent Hill” effectively jars the audience and keeps them on edge, never being sure of what’s going on or what might happen next. For that alone, horror fans and those who like the games probably won’t be too disappointed, except during the abundant talking sections, because unlike the video game, you won’t be able to skip over them to get back to the good stuff.