The Average Gamer

Silent Hill – Movie (slight wee spoilers)

The original Silent Hill was one scary little game back in the PS1 days. Afterwards Resident evil seemed quite tame by comparison, going for silly jumps and scares along with some occasional OTT giant monsters (and an even more scary targeting system – frustrating). Silent Hill was all sorts of nastiness and nightmares rolled into one, with a fully 3D game world alternating between a relatively calm fogged out ghost town, to a darkened hell version of the same town made up of rusted metal and bloodstains.

It really used to freak out me and my old flatmate, as we played on into the dark quiet night… brr. The audio alone was fantastic, and it was critical to the game – its ablility to create such a powerful atmosphere.

If the new film version couldn’t recreate that same atmosphere, then to me that would be an instant zero score. Did it manage to? Find out below in this mini review: (some small spoilers – beware)

I managed to see it the first Saturday after it opened, the cinema wasn’t packed out (later afternoon showing after all) and was filled with the predictable geeks in long black leather jackets along with a few couples – i’d guess it was only 1/3 full.

The opening quickly intoduced the main characters, a mother and father looking for their sleepwalking daughter. I won’t talk much about the plot (go see the film if you want to know more), but generally it all starts off pretty well (Sean Bean’s duff American accent aside, would a UK accent upset the plot? no..) with the girl muttering about `Silent Hill` in her dreams, and the mother deciding to take her to visit this town.

All in all it’s not a terribly taxing story (I think the game had more to it) but follows the essence of the games nicely. Some people have complained about the woodeness of some dialogue, but it kind of suits the otherworldlyness of Silent Hill. The confrontation dialogue at the end is pretty weak, it felt like it could have either been written better, or edited better – it just didnt have much punch.

Atmospherically the film is fan-flippin-tastic, when that air raid siren first kicks off you just know something awful is afoot. Both the audio (very similar to the games’) and visuals work perfectly to recreate the same uneasy feeling as the game, and when the world flips from fogged to hellish – well, it just has to be seen.

One let down is that you never feel any real mortal danger for much of the beginnning of the film, which is a shame as slackens the tension a little (a few more nasty close encounters with monsters would have been better).

It would be easy of course to come up with visuals superior to the videogame versions of course, but just showing more (more monsters – more detail etc) wouldn’t feel right, and the filmakers seem to have got it right on the whole, for the most part showing only glimpses of the horror – allowing your imagination to fill in some gaps.

Unfortunately the monsters start off being shown as if in a slideshow. Heres monster type one – scary nasty – it’s gonna get her… then a few scenes later heres monster type two – scary nasty – about to get her…
A symptom of being a film of course, there is only so much time to introduce such elements. Hopefully some sort of sequel might expand on the Silent Hill world and its inhabitants.

The only FX shots that looked a bit ropey are a couple of obviously green-screen pan arounds the fogged town. All the other CG looked very solid and mixed well with the latex suited stuff.

So all in all it’s a good film that captures the atmosphere of the games, not a fantastic script but not awful either – at least it feels quite different to the other game-to-films out there, it isn’t trying to be a popcorn no-brainer like Tomb Raider/Doom/Resident Evil etc. I’m not sure how someone who never played the game will really take the film, knowing the game means you already know a lot of the backstory to Silent Hill – even though the film story is different, it’s the same in essence – but if you are not really sure but just fancy seeing something a bit different, give it a go (and don’t forget it’s scary, it may have only a 15 rating but the more sensitive minds may well have a few nightmares).

And if you enjoy the film, do try out one or more of the games. I’d advise starting with the PS1 original (initially not that scary, but get to the old school and things turn real nasty) or Silent Hill 2 on PS2 – before trying SH3 or 4.

Finally, there is a little extra bonus beyond the films closing scenes, so be sure to sit tight for the credits.

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