DISCLAIMER: I write this after seeing this monstrosity twice. Expect belligerence and spoilers.
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the Silent Hill universe. In fact, there is no video game series that I cherish more. That’s why I get so upset when Konami allows individuals who don’t understand the license to take liberties with it while “adapting” it (although, “bastardizing” seems like a more apt term). When the original Silent Hill feature film was released, I was disappointed by the level of changes Christophe Gans felt had to be made in order to tell “his story.” In the span of 125 minutes, Harry Mason had received a sex change, creatures that only James from Silent Hill 2 could have seen were on full display, the Order had become a group of fundamentalist witch burners, and the town had suffered from an underground coal mine fire. The Silent Hill I knew and loved was destroyed by one man’s artistic vanity and a hack screenwriter who has since been put behind bars for manslaughter.
Naturally, Michael J. Bassett (the director of Silent Hill: Revelation) had a lot of work to do if he wanted to regain the trust of the fans. I suppose that has to start by building your klout. On numerous occasions he had talked about his fandom for the series over twitter. He and I even communicated several months ago regarding the changes that would have to be made to better fit the continuity of the games. Unbelievably, I had finally felt good about a Silent Hill feature film. After all, why would superfluous changes be made by someone who is actually a fan of the series? Well, after seeing the film twice I have just two words for Mr. Bassett: FUCK YOU.
Never before have I felt so lied to after seeing a film. Sure, Christophe Gans didn’t know a ton about the series, but he also never claimed to be a fan. I expect people like him to make changes that better suit film sensibilities. You, on the other hand, maintained that you had played several games in the series and that you had a deep understanding of what made Silent Hill tick. Well sir, either you’re a massive liar or a tremendously dense gamer because this isn’t Silent Hill 3. While your film may simply urk most Silent Hill fans, I’m a scorned cinephile with nothing better to do with his time than complain about the various franchise inconsistencies on display in this 94 minute boomfiesta. Prepare to get your ass torn by my pedantic nerd rage.
Picking off where the last film left off, Rose Da Silva and her daughter Sharon are inexplicably trapped in Silent Hill’s alternate dimension. I say “inexplicably” because Silent Hill doesn’t exist within another dimension and you’d have to really miss the point of the town to think otherwise. Rose, in a scene that is so long in the tooth that it’s almost hilarious, contacts her husband Christopher (a man that was sequestered to a subplot throughout the last film) via a mirror and unloads an ungodly amount of proper nouns and exposition. Despite supposedly being in an alternate dimension in another town, Rose magically sends a mind-wiped (for plot convenience) Sharon back to Christopher using half of the Seal of Metatron, despite the fact that the seal doesn’t work that way at all. Rose maintains that she could only send back Sharon and will stay behind to distract the cult.
In the last Silent Hill feature film, these assholes were religious zealots who liked to burn people for not liking the bible and now they are a cult dedicated to bringing about the resurrection of a pagan god? Don’t get me wrong, I very much prefer the concept of using the Order from the video games over that of a bunch of Christian witch burners, but the roles of your antagonists were clearly defined before you got here Bassett. This is a direct sequel and you can’t rewrite the motivations of your antagonists to something that is fundamentally different.
In the present day, a teenage Sharon and Christopher now live under assumed identities of Heather and Harry Mason respectively. The pair are constantly relocating and changing identities to hide themselves from pursuers and the law. Heather suffers from recurring nightmares of herself being trapped in Silent Hill’s amusement park, in a scene that actually feels kind of like the first part of Silent Hill 3. Unfortunately, things unravel as soon as “Dark Alessa” lights her on fire.
FUN FACT: There’s no such thing as Dark Alessa. Alessa was never evil or vengeful and the only reason why Heather faced her dark half in Silent Hill 3 was that she was currently bearing the cult’s God in her womb.
On her way to school the next morning, Heather glances at a homeless man and has a breakdown after imagining him with no face. This is an ongoing problem for the film. Silent Hill: Revelation seems to understand that disturbing imagery is common in Silent Hill, but doesn’t understand why that imagery looks the way it does. Rightfully speaking, each new visitor to Silent Hill should see different creatures as they’re to represent the psyche of that visitor. James saw Sexy Nurses because he spent a lot of time in the hospital and was sexually frustrated due to his wife’s illness, Harry saw the Air Screamers because of an image in one of Alessa’s favorite books, and the Numb Bodies appeared to Heather as a result of her bearing The Order’s God in her womb. No two people will walk into the town on separate occasions and see the same creatures torment them. You can’t take things like Pyramid Heads and Lying Figures and shove them into every scene when they hold no significance to Heather as she explores Silent Hill. THIS IS A FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLE OF THE VIDEO GAMES.
At school she meets Vincent. In Silent Hill 3, Vincent is a priest within the Order who manages the cult’s finances and had a chief hand in building the church. He is about 24 years old, exceptionally greedy, and was raised alongside Claudia Wolf. In this film, Vincent is Claudia Wolf’s teenage son and Heather’s love interest.
As soon as Heather starts to realize that she’s being followed at school, she calls Harry and after a short conversation they agree to meet in the mall. Heather makes her way there while Harry gets kidnapped. The darkness of Silent Hill overtakes the mall and Douglas Cartland, a private investigator who helped the Order locate Heather and Harry, warns Heather about the Order before becoming the victim of a bladed creature. Douglas (my favorite supporting character from Silent Hill 3) is then killed off screen and Heather becomes a suspect in his death. Once Heather escapes the mall and returns home, she notices an extremely blunt “Return to Silent Hill” message left by the Order.
Heather hasn’t even gone to Silent Hill and already this film is wildly different from its source material. In Silent Hill 3, Heather went to Silent Hill with Douglas because (1) the Order killed Harry Mason and she wanted to get petty revenge, (2) Douglas felt bad about being involved with the death of Heather’s father, and (3) neither of them truly understood the danger that the town represented at the time. Now, Heather is wanted for the death of a man (meaning that if she does escape Silent Hill alive, she will be pursued by the law) and she is willfully heading into a location that her father has actively told her is unsafe and should be avoided at all costs. Honestly, this just makes Heather seem really dumb and Douglas’ inclusion in this movie pointless.
Vincent is now the one who drives Heather into Silent Hill. Bassett tries really hard to turn his character into a love interest, but it feels forced the entire time and whatever chemistry they had between them goes cold as soon as he reveals that he is a cult member involved in the plot to return Heather to the town.
Once in the town, Heather runs into Alessa’s mother Dahlia (who is still being made to be a sympathetic character). She spouts a bunch of exposition about the cult’s original plans with Alessa (which do not mesh with those in the first film), the Order of Valtiel itself (which is actually incorrect terminology, as the cult’s official name is “The Order” and the cult members this film focuses on are actually known as “the Valtiel sect of The Order”), and Vincent’s insane grandfather Leonard Wolf.
Heather heads to Brookhaven Hospital (misnamed “Brookhaven Asylum” in this film) and wanders through the halls in search of Leonard’s quarters. On the way, patients attempt to attack Heather and Pyramid Head inexplicably fights them off and saves her (according to this film’s dumbass mythos, Pyramid Head is supposedly a Alessa’s guardian and judge).
FUN FACT: Pyramid Head’s appearance and actions are a representation of Silent Hill 2 protagonist James Sunderland’s psyche. Only he is able to see this creature. Throwing him in for fan service is really lame (especially when Heather sees plenty of cool creatures in the game that could fill that role).
Once Heather actually finds Leonard, he shoves the half of the Seal of Metatron that she has in her inventory into his chest and then morphs into a massive hulking creature. He then picks her up and starts to walk out of the hospital before she reaches into his chest and pulls out the Seal (as though this were a boss fight and the Seal were his glowing weak spot).
I am not amused. The film has officially dipped into “roll my eyes” territory and I am counting the minutes until I can chuck my 3D lenses and buy a stiff drink.
Heather then finds Vincent strapped to a gurney, surround by bubblehead nurses that don’t act like bubblehead nurses. These creatures don’t react only to movement so much as they do anything that is alive. There is no reason why these things are freezing in time whenever characters stand still, nor why these things appear in Silent Hill at all, unless Heather is sexually repressed and has a thing for busty ladies. Regardless, Heather manages to free Vincent and the two of them leave Brookhaven for the amusement park.
Because his character in this film is incredibly irrelevant, Vincent sacrifices himself to draw away the Order’s guards so that Heather can ride the merry-go-round. She is soon confronted by Dark Alessa and overcomes her by giving her a hug. Pyramid Head, apparently tired of hulking around, decides to play the part of a carny ride operator and pulls some levers so that Heather can ride the merry-go-round elevator into the Order’s secret place of worship under the amusement park. After finding Claudia, Vincent, and Harry, Heather is told that she was not only brought back to destroy Dark Alessa, but also to birth the Order’s god. Unfortunately, that plot point is almost immediately forgotten as the film dips into what I can only describe as a pokemon match between Heather’s Pyramid Head and Claudia’s fucked-up knife-fighter. It seems like a pretty even battle at first, but Pyramid Head’s decapitation move is super-effective and Claudia blacks out.
With the cult destroyed and Dark Alessa gone, ashes stop falling in Silent Hill. Instead of doing the rational thing and moving on, Harry choses to stay behind in the town and sequel-bait by searching for Rose. Heather and Vincent then walk out of the town and back into the real world where they get a ride from Silent Hill: Origins’ Travis Grady. The film then ends with a nod to Silent Hill: Downpour as several police cars and a prison bus travel into Silent Hill, and disappear in the fog. The credits roll and I’m a little happier that I survived yet another severe teabagging of my favorite horror franchise.
What can I really say about this film that I haven’t already said? The film follows really stupid horror conventions, some plot threads are never tied, the narrative itself is kind of a mess, exposition is toss around constantly and non-fans will not find this movie easy to consume, jump scares are constantly abused in the place of legitimate tension build-up and pay-off, at times the principle performances are alright but supporting actors are surprisingly hammy, the creatures are almost all from Silent Hill 2 and lack applicability to the context of Heather’s situation, plenty of character liberties are taken and some characters are just useless now, dialogue is a little too melodramatic, all action is framed like a video game and it doesn’t mesh with the medium, and the 3D is really poorly implemented most of the time (in fact, there are usually things in the foreground that are blurred).
The whole thing is just a jumbled mess. It doesn’t just fail completely as an adaptation, but it also is a really poorly crafted film with an absurd screenplay. The only really good thing I can say about Silent Hill: Revelation is that it makes me appreciate the original Silent Hill feature film’s cinematic merits more (oh, and that it might of actually killed the film franchise).
THAT’S RIGHT – REVELATION MADE ME ALMOST LIKE THE FIRST SILENT HILL MOVIE.