Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Silent Hill (2006)

"A mother is God in a child's eyes."

Little Sharon DaSilva (Jodelle Ferland, who could easily pass for a young Kristin Kreuk) has developed a sleepwalking problem. One night after being narrowly rescued from a shear cliff by her mother Rose, Sharon mutters the words "Silent Hill." This is only one in a long line of similar incidents, and Rose is determined to get to the root of her adopted daughter's troubles. Against the wishes of her husband Chris, Rose takes Sharon to Silent Hill, a town that was abandoned in the early 1970's because of a massive subterranean coal fire, a fire which still continues to burn.

Upon reaching the town, Rose sees a child in the road and, swerving to avoid her, crashes the car, knocking herself unconscious. When she wakes up Sharon is missing and the air is filled with a haunting blizzard of ashes. Rose sets out on foot into Silent Hill to find her daughter. The town seems deserted at first, but Rose soon crosses paths with an old crone who has also lost a daughter, a motorcycle cop named Laurie, and several nightmarish beasties of varying description. Periodically a siren will sound, signalingng the coming of both the darkness and the hellspawn that lurks within that darkness.

The track record for films based on video games is not an impressive one. When we see Rose memorizing a map or collecting a clue that she inexplicably knows will lead her to Sharon, I feel like I'm being clubbed with a baseball bat that has "based on a video game" etched into the wood. Is it necessary for films of this type to duplicate the structure of gameplay? I recall having similar issues with Resident Evil: Apocalypse, and I just find the practice distracting.

Given Silent Hill's video game roots, I was not surprised that this is a visually striking film. Unlike a lot of CGIed to death movies (the remake of The Haunting springs to mind), Silent Hill's computer generated effects work very well. The creatures are horrific and the town is ominous and forbidding. The atmosphere is the film's biggest star.

What ultimately damages the film is the one dimensional characters. Rose is a determined mother, Sharon is an angelic innocent, and Laurie is a dedicated officer of the law, but none of them have any depth beyond their basic definitions. The atmosphere and monsters are top notch, but without worthwhile characters it's hard to care about the film as a whole. Gaming and horror buffs will enjoy it, but I can't see it having mass appeal.

Silent Hill's official website
Silent Hill's entry at the Internet Movie Database

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