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Griffith Maloney [Celluloid 10.26.12] horror thriller mystery


The only revelation here is that this Silent Hill sequel is dumb as rocks. Continuing the long tradition of video game movies being more trouble than they're worth, Silent Hill: Revelation delivers vapid performances, lackluster monsters, predictable scares and a story that is so misshapen and lurching it might as well be one of the movies many deformed monsters. The first Silent Hill wasn't a paragon of horror filmmaking but it succeeded in providing an atmosphere of menace and had a few campy fun performances. SH:R has none of these things and the addition of 3D shots into this already dull stew makes it seem that much cheaper than its predecessor.

Silent Hill: Revelation is based loosely on the plot of the video game Silent Hill 3. It's a shame really, since the third silent hill game is probably the strongest in terms of story and theme and it all becomes a mess of nonsense in this adaptation. Pursued by mysterious cult members, young Heather Mason is dragged against her will into the cursed town of Silent Hill where she must confront her past and an assorted collection of creepy monsters in order to save her father's life. In addition to this barebones plot there are a baffling number of references to the first movie and a set of completely unnecessary gimmicky send ups to the game series. These confusing references along with a whole sack of other problems drag down an already weak script.

The direction of this film is passable, Michael J. Bassett can frame a shot and film an action scene as well as the next man. Similar to his previous work, Solomon Kane, the quality of direction here never rises above passable. Nothing is atrocious but nothing is particularly interesting either. On a whole the handling of the film, which is co-written by Michael J. Bassett and Martin Solibakke, is just bland, which for a horror movie is pretty much a death blow. Maybe Mr. Bassett just hasn't found a subject he feels passionate about but this project feels like a product made to spec for late night rental rather than any labor of love.

The shinning star of Silent Hill: Revelation is the stellar sound design. I know it sounds like a small thing but good sound design is a boon to any scary movie and the work done here is pretty amazing. I enjoyed long sections of generically creepy hallways solely because of the clever and chilling music and sound effects. In fact, had another aspect of the film been more than mediocre, we might have had a genuinely scary and exciting movie on our hands. Killer sound design alone can't save a movie and the exciting sounds don't match up to the haunted house style monsters and death scenes.

The effects in this movie are mostly forgettable. The monsters that are achieved by practical effects are suitable gruesome and squirm inducing. The CGI monstrosities are less so. One in particular, a collection of living manikin limbs, is so laughably fake looking it looks like it was made with CG from 20 years ago. For a horror movie the onscreen gore is remarkably tame and anyone looking for a bloodbath will be disappointed. The few gruesome deaths that we're privy to are ruined by the inclusion of stupid 3D gimmicks. You'd think that after sixty years of serious effort in 3D we'd have gotten further than sword goes through a guys chest and out towards the audience. The 3D in SH:R seems to be an afterthought and its misuse only weakens the already wobbly film.

The performances in Silent Hill: Revelations are universally shallow and boring. They're not bad per se just lifeless. Even more so than most horror films we're given very little in the way of likable characters. Adelaide Clemens is cute but overly hysterical as our hero Heather, Kit Harington is bizarrely miscast as a shoe horned love interest Vincent, Carrie-Anne Moss is unrecognizably wooden as villainess Claudia Wolf. No one is on their game in this movie, not even the gruff Sean Bean who plays a role that seems to deliberately ape his past performances.

For the life of me I have no idea why Sean Bean agreed to be in this movie. He spends the majority of the film chained to a statue that looks like a bondage party reject prop. I can only imagine that someone showed up with a sack full of money and said that he'd just have to appear delirious and angry in equal measure for a few scenes and then disappear into a damsel in distress role for the rest of the picture. In fact this use of him is so strange and leads to such a lackluster finale that I found myself wishing they'd killed the character off in the beginning of the movie instead of leaving him as a grizzled plot device.

I'm sure most of these weaknesses come from the struggles of adapting a video game protagonist to the screen, in a game you're given hours of time to get to know the protagonist, learning their story piecemeal as the game goes along. Movies on the other hand demand quick character hooks to get the audience involved and horror movies require some of the fastest and the dirtiest. There is no time for slow character moments when you need to frighten the audience. It's no doubt a tough job, effective adaptation of anything is tricky but it doesn't look like anyone even tried to do it, much less do it well in SH:R.

The Silent Hill video game was originally inspired in part by Adrian Lyne's spectacularly moody horror film Jacob's Ladder. Its ironic that the Silent Hill film series has jettisoned all of the psychological mystery and slow creepiness of that movie. What's left is something that feels more like a small town haunted house then any cinematic scare-fest. If they keep making these movies, as the end of the film hints that they will, I can only hope that the embrace the "waking nightmare" style of psychological horror present in Jacob's Ladder. The Silent Hill games aren't dumb, so I don't know why the movies seem to be getting dumber as they go along.

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