Dear Mr. Ebert,
I am aghast that you, as mentioned in your review for Silent Hill, cannot describe the plot for this movie. I, as you, have not played the video game, but even so, I think the plot woefully obvious. Allow me to illustrate it, with as much brevity as possible, so you can better appreciate the nuances of this story.
But before I begin, I was wondering what you use for a light source when you take notes during the movie? I have tried various book-lights and pen-lights, but they are either too bright, usually annoying those sitting around me, or too awkward to position or uncomfortable to hold for long periods of time. I was lucky with Silent Hill, as there was an Exit sign which cast just enough reddish light for me to see what I was writing. Of course I had to sit on the floor next to it, but it was not too uncomfortable, except for the occasional person stepping over me to go to the bathroom or concession stand. It is a good thing I do not review Disney films, as I would have had the little monsters and their rude parents incessantly running back and forth trampling me.
But getting back to Silent Hill, the plot is a simple one, often repeated in horror and science fiction films. It even reminded me of the Star Trek episode, "And The Children Shall Lead," where Gorgon, an evil alien who appears to children as a friendly angel (ironically played by attorney Melvin Belli), takes advantage of their naivety to further his evil plans, for what I am not sure. But he uses the children as a conduit for his nasty deeds, and without them he is powerless. Now instead of an evil alien, in Silent Hill we have a child (Alessa) who is being used by a malevolent demon to exact malicious mischief and revenge on the titular (I always love using that word) town.
Now, oh wait a minute…is it a demon that is using the girl as a conduit or is it actually the dark half of the girl that is taking revenge on the townsfolk? The convoluted explanation for the story toward the last quarter of the film, oddly done in an inappropriate grainy home movie-styled flashback, described how badly the poor child was treated, and that she eventually split into a dark half that eventually destroyed the town, and a good half, that the dark half sent away only to call it back after nine years to return to the town. Why did the dark half send the good half away, and then call her back to the town after nine years?
Dear Mr. Ebert,
I am surprised that you, as mentioned in your review for Silent Hill, cannot describe the plot for this move. I, as you, have not played the video game, but even so, I think the plot fairly obvious. Allow me to illustrate it, with as much brevity as possible, so you can better appreciate the nuances of this story.
A girl (Alessa), born out of wedlock, is badly treated by her classmates, the school janitor, and in particular, a religious cult that cooks her like a hotdog. The poor child amazingly survives all of this torture and develops an evil personification of herself that can reach out from her badly scarred and bed-ridden body to destroy those that mistreated her (no wonder there). Or, a demon from hell takes advantage of the poor girl’s revenge and hate-filled state of mind to pick on the titular (had to use that word again, sorry!) town.
After wreaking chaos and horror on the townsfolk, the mistreated girl realizes she has been acting badly, and decides to create a good version of herself, which she then sends away from the town to live with strangers until nine years pass. She (or the demon) then summons her good self back to the town to…do what? And what’s that backstory about a witch being burned by the townsfolk and the town being on fire for years and years?
Dear Mr. Ebert,
I am not surprised that you cannot describe the plot for Silent Hill. Allow me to illustrate it, with as much brevity as possible, so you can better appreciate the nuances of this story.
To begin with, I must give kudos to the art direction for this film. It is a wonderful creaturefest of make-up, CGI, and costuming that is quite a treat indeed. The creatures are nightmarish and the coloration of the film, when the mom goes deeper into the cursed town — especially when the siren blares as a warning that the town is going ‘into the darkness’ — is superb, and evokes a truly horrific mood; those embers that glow on the damned creatures’ bodies, and the falling ash and pall over the town — again, quite well done.
The dialog needed much more work, however, as most of the lines are poorly written. The acting also needed more verve, especially the climactic Barker-esque Hellraiser– styled confrontation in the church between the mom and the evil religious cult. She manages to easily walk through a congregation of crazed, girl-roasting individuals with amazing ease. And the black leather uniform on the female motorcycle police officer. Really! You couldn’t get it much tighter. How DOES she get on the motorcycle dressed in those tight pants? Weak acting here, too.
Oh, yes, the plot.
Alessa, the poor girl born out of wed-lock that is roasted like a turkey by the evil religious cult, while her mom stands by helplessly, takes revenge on the titular town of Silent Hill. Though…I am not sure if this occurred before the fires broke out in the mines, or afterwards. I am also not sure how the witch burning thirty years beforehand fits into the events with Alessa.
Anyway, from her hospital bed, the badly scarred and immobile Alessa, either through sheer malevolent will power, or by the assistance of a hellish demon (hey, maybe it’s the witches familiar?) destroys the town and it’s citizens, forcing their dead spirits to ‘live’ in a nightmare world that puts Dante’s Inferno to shame. The undead citizens of the town must endure not only the hellish Limbo they have been caught in, but also must avoid the Darkness that brings Pyramid Head (see the game) and his agonies (give or take a few) to torture them.
Alessa, for some reason (any readers that know why, please share), sends off a good version of herself as a baby, now known as Sharon, then summons it back to the town after nine years. Sharon sleepwalks and blurts out "Silent Hill" in her sleep, so her mom, casting prudence to the wind, takes her to Silent Hill. Yes, that Silent Hill, the one with all the well-known evil cursed stuff attached to it. A place so bad, Sharon’s father reads about it on the web at a famous ghosttowns.com site. This is the ABANDONED place that has had toxic fires burning beneath it for years, so much so that ash continually falls from the sky. So her mom takes her there at NIGHT, hoping to find out why her daughter keeps sleepwalking and saying “Silent Hill.”
Along the way, they are almost stopped by a female motorcycle police officer who dresses in impossibly tight leather motorcycle garb, but her mom makes a frantic attempt to head straight into the unknown at the last minute.
Reaching Silent Hill, her mom also promptly manages to crash the car in a convenient plot-ism to keep the story rolling. She wakes up, sees that her daughter Sharon is missing, and heads into the town. The police officer eventually makes her way to the town, too, even after crashing her motorcycle on the roadway (probably couldn’t reach the brake because of those tight pants).
Now, Mr. Ebert, here is where the subtlety begins. You see, as far as I can gather, Sharon, her mom, and the police officer are actually dead, but they do not realize it. They died in their respective vehicular crashes. This is the only way I can explain why they can be affected by the creatures and hellish darkness of Silent Hill, while her husband and the others searching for them walk through the town unaffected and unaware.
Alessa has Sharon’s mom go through quite a few trials and tribulations to find her (Alessa, that is), and uses her to bring the darkness into the church, where the dead cult members retreat to when the siren blares, to escape it. Much gore ensues as the evil Alessa gloats over her prey and tears them apart in a scene of CGI butchery that Pinhead would be proud of. Sharon and mom survive all this, though — wink, wink — and the evil Alessa (or demon) now lives inside Sharon. Mom and daughter walk back to the car, buckle themselves in for safety, and head home.
Of course, there is the confusing sequelization-antic ending, where the husband is home while mom and daughter return home, and the scene shifts between the husband in the nice sunlit home, and the mom in the dark ominous-looking home, with Alessa/Sharon/Demon looking ominous in the background.
With mom and daughter being dead and all that, how exactly does Alessa benefit from taking over Sharon’s dead body? And I still do not know why the witch was burned or why the fires started in the mines.
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