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Movie Review: Silent Hill

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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.

Silent Hill Movie 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?

Hmmm…I’m confused.

 

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?

Oh, bugger!

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.

Damn.

 

Dear Roger,

Nevermind.

Sincerely,

IL

 

 

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About ILoz Zoc

  • http://midnightcafe.wordpress.com Mat Brewster

    god blessit, that was great.

  • duane

    Great concept. Great review. Do some more, please.

  • Renae

    The movie, Silent Hill was just plain bad in my opinion. First of all, I think a good horror movie must play off the idea that the scenario could really happen. Too much of the information needed to clarify all the background for the movie theme / plot was never given. There were also too many “evil” characters who’s presence or actions really didn’t make sense in the movie.
    These characters came and went without a clear purpose or connection to the main story. The “good” mother of Sharon seemed like a real weirdo and always jumped into situations without thinking first. I would rate this one of the worst horror movies I have ever seen. No good understanding of the purpose of the story and where it was heading. Lot’s of jumping from idea to idea. I give it a thumbs down!

  • http://zomboscloset.blogspot.com Iloz Zoc

    Renae, you’re right, too much time spent on art design (which I did like very much), but too little time spent on story logic. I fear alot of today’s movies are being made to appeal to the eye more than the head. I hope the DVD supplies more onscreen time to flesh out the story, but I doubt the motivations of the mom will ever make much sense.

  • Sheldon

    This movie is one of those films where you SHOULD have some prior knowledge of it by playing the video games. If you go to http://www.wikipedia.org and search for the Silent Hill, it will explain the games in detail (especially read the character profile of “Alessa Gillespie” under Silent Hill 1). This should help in understanding the basic plot of what the movie is based around.

    I just watched the movie…I was confused by the Silent Hill reality for Rose and Cybil compared to everyone elses. Your thought of them dying in the crashes is an excellent conclusion. This makes it totally add up and make sense. In fact there is a hint of this in the film when Rose blurts out to Christabella that everyone in this town is already dead and they are in a limbo.

    You also commented about the use of the grainy home video footage played in the film. There is footage like this played during “cut scenes” in the games. Again, it is the director’s way of trying to keep the film in close relation to the games. I am a huge fan of the video game series; therefore, I was expecting much more from the film. Boy, was I disappointed. Great games, lackluster film. With the right director it could have had alot of potential.

  • calamity

    Nice review would have been nice if u was able to make out the bits of the film that i ddin’t get too XD, oh well

  • http://www.zomboscloset.com Iloz Zoc

    Sheldon,

    Thanks for filling me in on the use of grainy footage in the game. I like the look and creatures of the film a lot, but the script logic fails to knit it together coherently enough for the general horror audience that’s not familiar with the game. I realize that game players would most likely go to see the film version of the game they’ve played, but the director has got to also make sure the non-players are at least covered to some extent.

  • http://www.zomboscloset.com Iloz Zoc

    Calamity,

    Thanks. I’ve not watched the DVD yet, but from what I’ve read, it contains lots of extras, so I’m tempted to pick it up in hopes it can flesh out more of those bits.

  • Silent Hill fan 101

    Ok people, I know that Silent Hill is confusing let me break it down for you. I have played all the Silent Hill games, and the movie did not confuse me at all.
    Yes, Cybill and Rose are DEAD. Remember what the gas station attendant said “coal fires still burning underground. You breathe enough of those fumes and it will kill you.” Rose and Cybill both got knocked out by their respective car accidents in Silent Hill. As a result they breathed too much of the fumes and they DIED. EVERYBODY IN SILENT HILL IS DEAD!!!!!!! Hello? Alessa is the demon of the darkness, the little girl in purple is just another form of Alessa’s evil side. It was Alessa the burn victim, that is the mother of darkness, and she is the one who wants Sharon because Sharon is her daughter. Cristabella, Anna, EVERYBODY in the damned town is dead. Now for those of you who have not played the game, listen up. The director Samuel Hadida wanted to make the movie as much like the game as possible. When you play the game your characters don’t think twice about what they’re doing, they don’t break down and cry, they don’t go to the bathroom. They just do what they have to do to get the hell out – hence when she takes a key from the dead guy’s mouth. Hence why she runs all over the place, because that’s what you do in Silent Hill. I thought the movie was amazingly well done, and I followed the plot just fine. All the characters in the movie are based on characters from the game, everybody is evil. In short I loved this movie, I thought it was very much like the game. Of course it didn’t make sense to anybody who hasn’t played the game. I think the director did a great job of making the movie so much like the game. People think that it should have been more realistic, with the characters thinking about their decisions, well sorry but in Silent Hill if you stop to contemplate your decision too long you die. Simple as that people. If you want realism go watch Survivor.

  • Slighlty confused

    I also came to the conclusion that Sharon and Rose were dead as a result of the crash. But how is one to explain the phone call she made to her husband’s cell phone which you can also listen to when he retreives the message. Also, the message is left after she wakes up from the crash and does an initial search for Sharon. A search, I might add, in which she has already encountered the other “dead” people in Silent Hill. The cops also said that they found her Jeep without anyone inside. These are the only things I can think of which throw a wrench in the idea that they are dead.

  • http://www.zomboscloset.com Iloz Zoc

    These are good points. I don’t think the film provides enough information either way to explain the situtation. Is she dead, alive or in limbo? Each explanation appears to be contradicted to some extent, or supported by the events. I’ve not viewed the DVD yet. Perhaps that provides more insight in one of the extras?

  • Voice

    hey guys, look, i didnt understand the end of the movie… were the daughter and mom dead when they went back home… why do they go back home and its dark, while her husband is in the same house, but the environment is different… im confused, someone help me out please

  • Iloz Zoc

    Voice,

    My impression is they’re either dead, or trapped in a limbo state, which, like a dream, keeps them under the control of that demonic kid.

  • Voice

    i hate movies like that, do u think there will be a silent Hill 2….

  • Iloz Zoc

    The budget was about 50 million, and so far the movie and DVD box office haven’t broken that number. So I doubt if anyone will make a sequel. One can only hope.

  • Voice

    so whats the conclusion? are sharon and her mother Dead? is Allessa inside of sharon? im just so fuckin curious…i havent been able to sleep during these days just thinking about the conclusion of the movie… it was just sad to look at the guy waiting for his family…. but my question is how did the phone call get to the husbands number.. and how could he smell her perfume?

  • Iloz Zoc

    I could say ghostly phenomena–look at today’s J-Horror and other ghost-related films and you’d find lots of subtle and overt influences by ghosts on the living (the creepy phone call is a staple of J-Horror).

    But I think Silent Hill leaves the ending ambiguous for a few reasons: one, a possible sequel; two, the director and writer really didn’t know where to take it; three, being a nightmare-state (or limbo state) like you get in a Freddy movie allows you to toss in lots of weird sh*t that is usually never explained, but “looks” good while not making much sense when you think about it.

    I tend to think a mix of two and three explain Silent Hill. The film is visually stunning and very creepy. But if you try and go beneath the visual part and look for story logic, I don’t think the writer or director bothered much with that. They just worried about the visual look of the film more.

  • Voice

    i like ur style, u like to discuss things… :) well, as u can see theres a lot of movies… is this the place where u discuss them all or ur just in this Movies blog critics

  • http://www.zomboscloset.com Iloz Zoc

    Voice,

    Yes, so much horror, so little time to enjoy it all (and non-horror films, too, of course). Aside from writing reviews on my blog and BC, I’ve tried discussions in the Yahoo and Fangoria forums, but haven’t really clicked with them.

    Either I don’t have enough time to keep up with the conversations, or more often, the conversation stays at the basic level of “I liked it or not,” and trying to get whys and wherefores is like pulling teeth from a horse.

    However, I’m sure there are more indepth discussion groups, I just don’t have much time to search for them.

    But I do like to get inside a film like you. They have so many elements to look at, from the mechanical aspects to the artistic. And the fact that you are thinking indepth about the “sense” of the ending of Silent Hill, and how it works or doesn’t work, might be an indication you have a scriptwriter lurking just under your skin.

    Feel free to drop me a line anytime. You can get my email address from the About page on my blog site. I’d love to hear and discuss your take on Vacancy or any other film for that matter.

  • Voice

    ummm i went to the about page, but didnt find anything about u?

  • http://zomboscloset.typepad.com/about.html Iloz Zoc

    I added the direct address to my About page. Click on URL under my name, then when you’re in the About page, right click the Email Me link and choose copy the email address. Depending on your email setup, you can also try clicking on it to open your email program directly.

    I tried adding my address here, but BC blocks out email addresses in the comments.

  • Voice

    yeah, i got ur email zonbocloset … and well, about Vacancy, I havent watched it yet, its still in the movie theaters and ima wait for the dvd so i can download it from utorrents and then ill give u my opinion… thanks for everything man.. u a nice person man, take care

  • Jack_the_tripper

    I liked the film, but the plot was rather convoluted IMO.I’m going to play the game and see if it sheds any light on things. One of the most interesting things is the difference between the silent hill that the husband sees, and the silent hill the mother sees. I’ve read what everyone has been saying here but I don’t think the ‘dead’ or ‘limbo’ explanations jibe with ohter aspects of the film. I’m going to keep thinking and searching for the real explanation…I am assuming the game producer has a coherent storyline while makeing the game.

  • Finn

    I have never played the game or even heard of it, and I loved it and understood it all except the very end. Brilliant, very scary, not even going to think about playing the game! The guy in the toilet! OMG!