I am going to stick my neck out here and say that I absolutely loved Christopher Gans' eerie ghost town mystery 'Silent Hill' (2006). I will even go as far as to say that it is one of my favourite modern horror films. I am no gamer just a very casual retro one who uses this limited time playing mostly 16-bit Sega Megadrive emulation games purely for nostalgic reasons. I have never played the Silent Hill video game series and I knew very little about it and its mythology when I saw the movie adaptation for the first time.
Judging it as a singular work I found myself totally immersed in this atmospheric world Gans had created. The atmosphere is greatly heightened by the original video games' composer Akira Yamaoka's beautiful score and along with its stunning visuals, innovative creature creations, gorgeous set designs, interesting characters and an emotional lending to the sorrowful story with its damning commentary on religious fundamentalism it all left a lump in my throat. Sure, it is not a perfect film by any means; it is overlong due to certain dialogue scenes that could have done with ending up on the cutting room floor to make for a much leaner pacing and some of that dialogue itself is a little clunky too. There is aso way too much exposition clustered in the second act. Overall though, I found it to be a severely underrated unpleasantly creepy rewarding experience despite knowing nothing of the source material beforehand.
Now finally we have the long promised sequel 'Silent Hill: Revelation'. Christopher Gans is absent as is screenwriter Roger Avary. Replacing both as writer and director is Michael Bassett who faithfully recreates the stylistic traits of the first movie and strives for continuity in following it up, and with a around about 30-minutes less running time the pace has much improved. For a belated sequel with neither the original director and writer returning it makes for a sturdy companion piece albeit with a fair amount of flaws along the way. While not on par with Gans' movie it is quite a decent entertaining time if you can get over the groan inducing moments.
As with the duration of time between the release dates of 'Silent Hill' and this follow-up the story picks up six years later. Sharon De Silva (Adelaide Clemens) who is about to have her 18th birthday is now living with her father Christopher (Sean Bean) under the identities of Heather and Harry Mason respectively. We find this out along with how Sharon was returned to Harry with spoonfed exposition in two separate scenes. The first is detailed to us lazily over breakfast between them and the other involves a cameo from Randa Mitchell reprising her role as Harry's wife Rose in Harry's supernatural flashback sequence. It turns out that Rose is unable to leave the town of Silent Hill and could only return Sharon to Harry because she took half of a sacred amulet that she gave to Sharon that Harry now has hidden away. Heather cannot remember anything about her past and Harry tells her that her mother died in a car crash. They are both on the run after Harry had committed manslaughter by killing an intruder in self-defense. It turns out that the man was not a burglar but was sent after Heather. She is still plagued with nightmares of Silent Hill just as she was when she was a child and is confronted by her evil self Alessa in Silent Hill's fair ground.
At her new high school Heather meets another new student named Vincent (Kit Harington) who takes a keen interest in her. Heather is also pursued by a man named Douglas Cartland (Martin Donovan) who reveals himself to be a private investigator when showing remorse for why he has been put on her trail. He has been hired by the remains of the cult The Order to find her as they want her to come back to Silent Hill for reasons unknown to him. After this revelation he is killed by a monster that has long blades on each arm (looking a lot like a cenobite) when reality shifts to the dimensional darkness of Silent Hill. Managing to get away, Vincent turns up at the crime scene where Heather is made a suspect for Douglas' murder. After Vincent drops her off home Heather finds that the place has been ransacked and that Harry is missing. There is a message written on the wall - “Come to Silent Hill”. Calling Vincent in for help, Heather finds and takes with her the half of the amulet along with the box it was in that contains all the information Harry knows about Silent Hill and they both make their journey to the town to find Heather's father.
I will make one thing very clear here before I continue - this is not a particularly good film... overall. What it is though is an enjoyable hour and a half with just enough good in there to make it a worthwhile watch. In addition, if you have not yet seen 'Silent Hill' the above synopsis probably made very little sense to you. So, make sure you see it before watching this. What Bassett gets right with his follow-up to Gans' movie is the as before mentioned faithfulness to that predecessor in recreating this world in what is a visually stunning piece of entertainment and to really bridge the two stories together in continuing the plight of this family of characters that I became so invested in before. Yamaoka's soundtrack also returns. However, the writer and director is inept at bringing depth to these characters again and in other new characters here as well with the whole cast coming across as walking cardboard cutouts. The performances of the actors is passable on the whole considering the lack of characterization they have to work with. The truly stinky exception here though is Carrie Anne Moss as the big villain Claudia Wolf the leader of the cult. I usually like Moss in everything but here her character is the most woefully underwritten in a very minimal role for what is supposed to be the main antagonist that not even she can bring one redeeming quality to the whole of the two scenes she is in. Her makeup job is also terrible.
The true standout here is the always brilliant Malcolm Mcdowell in his cameo as Claudia's insane father Leonard Wolf. No matter how shitty a film is with this actor - one of the greatest of his generation - you know it's still going to be a blast watching this endlessly interesting character actor. Deborah Kara Unger also returns in a cameo as Alessa's mother Dahlia but her sole scene feels nothing more than fan bait bringing nothing to the table. The dialogue fairs little better here as well with terrible scenes involving characters constantly explaining to Heather what has just happened to her in a previous sequence.
While the 3D effects work very well it only really does in the movie's descent into heavy slasher like kills territory for its cheap thrills in a 'My Bloody Valentine 3D' kind of a way with body parts flying out of the screen at you. This is all very gory fun but the technology is misused for this purpose when really it should have been utilized to bring the audience into the world of Silent Hill. Although, the town's fog does look fantastic. There is the welcome return of most of the first movie's monstrous creatures and there are some new ones too that are not quite as memorable but are still effective enough including a very cool mannequin spider monster. Of course, the returning Pyramid Head is the main highlight of these but the character has been rewritten as Alessa's bodyguard who continuously helps Heather on her quest by slaying the obstacles in her way. In the original as with the other creatures of Alessa's darkness he was more abstract and was mystically aloof. The final showdown between Pyramid Head and the monster that attacked Heather and Douglas is laughably fanboy wank just put in there to appeal to the Silent Hill fanbase. The confused ending itself still has me scratching my head with a relation between the cult's leader Claudia and Alessa's darkness when the cult is supposed to be fighting against it.
Take what you will from the below rating but to be honest despite its shortcomings I found this to be all very entertaining. It is not a patch on Christopher Gans' film but is an enjoyable piece of hokum. The majority of reviews from other critics have been overwhelmingly negative but I am going to stand out from the pack and say that while 'Silent Hill: Revelation' is by no means a good movie it sure is a good time. A guilty pleasure shlockfest.
*** out of ****
Dave J. Wilson
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