Director Michael J. Bassett has stepped into the terrifying world of video game-turned-movie franchise Silent Hill with his latest film, Silent Hill: Revelation 3D - a follow-up to Christophe Gans’ 2006 movie about the titular (and twisted) town. For a long time, video game adaptations have delivered underwhelming big screen experiences (and equally unimpressive box office returns), as directors (most famously Uwe Boll) pilfered one well-known gaming property after another (Alone in the Dark, BloodRayne, House of the Dead).
Many of these films were bizarrely selective in implementing the source material (see Doom‘s FPS sequence); however, as video games become more cinematic in presentation (and attempt to tell more emotionally impactful stories), the lines between big screen entertainment and interactive entertainment are beginning to blur. When it comes to distorting reality, Silent Hill is a perfect fit, but has Bassett successfully blurred the lines between movie and game – delivering a film that provides a great (and terrifying) Silent Hill experience with creepy monsters and an impactful story for non-gamers?
Unfortunately, Silent Hill: Revelation 3D is a mixed bag of creepy and downright captivating visual set-pieces coupled with melodramatic dialogue and an overly-complicated storyline. For every interesting creature moment that Bassett presents, there’s one or two lengthy scenes of convoluted and campy exposition that, instead of heightening the tension, deliver eye-rolling exchanges and provide unintentional laughs. The result? A movie that is easy to recommend to fans of the game (Bassett nails a diverse mix of creature encounters) but fails to hit the necessary benchmarks for non-gamer mass appeal.
While there are numerous ties to the 2006 Silent Hill in Revelation, the film starts with Heather Mason (played by Adelaide Clemens) – the guarded “new girl” in town. Game fans will remember Heather as the lead character in Silent Hill 3, and a lot of the same story elements are explored in the movie adaptation. However, instead of traveling to Silent Hill on a quest to avenge the death of her father, Revelation deals much more directly with Heather’s origins: on her eighteenth birthday, she is forced to confront her mysterious past. Heather’s search for answers leads to the Silent Hill Otherworld where she, along with friend Vincent (Kit Harington) come face to face with cult leader Claudia Wolf (Carrie-Anne Moss), and a laundry list of twisted monsters – including iconic series antagonist, Pyramid Head. In order to survive the warped Silent Hill nightmarescape, Heather must learn the truth about her life and put an end to a ruthless “darkness.”
Instead of enhancing the Silent Hill 3 plot with dynamic character moments and a fully-formed mythology, the plot relies heavily on a MacGuffin chase that throws Heather into one iconic creature face-off after another. Fortunately, a number of these encounters are downright chilling and provide smart tension plus fascinating (albeit disgusting) visual spectacle – especially in 3D. Bassett absolutely nails the Silent Hill horrors with a diverse batch of memorable sequences (most notably the “Dark Nurse” scene) that deliver truly unique scares for gamers and non-gamers alike.
That said, without an engaging context, the film is nothing more than a disorganized monster closet. For some, warped creature sequences and compelling visuals may be satisfying enough, but for anyone who expects proficient storytelling with their scares, the Silent Hill: Revelation narrative is a mess of cliches as well as uninspired twists that fail to deliver interesting character drama or captivating world building. While flat characters are forgivable in horror films (if the frights are good) Revelation spends entirely too much time educating viewers about the Otherworld, franchise folklore, as well as explaining where this story connects to the prior film. These expository scenes cause the movie to lose any momentum created by the intriguing creature set-pieces and few of these “explain the plot to me” dialogue exchanges actually payoff. While the filmmakers might have enjoyed winking at larger Silent Hill mythology questions throughout the film, for the purpose of Heather’s story, very little of that information comes full circle and ends up confusing the story instead of enhancing it.
Remember, this is the second installment in the film series. Admittedly, the six years between Silent Hill and Revelation has likely left many moviegoers fuzzy on canon details, but the Silent Hill games have succeeded as a sandbox of mysteries told through focused character-driven story experiences. There’s no reason to think a similar approach wouldn’t work for the films. Unfortunately, Heather and Vincent are saddled with so much exposition that Revelation undermines any interesting developments as well as otherwise competent performances from Clemens and Harington, respectively. Similarly, the supporting cast – which includes Sean Bean and Malcolm McDowell – has little to do but spout platitudes about love and sacrifice.
Given that the success of the film rests heavily on visual spectacle, it’s easy to recommend seeing Silent Hill: Revelation in 3D. Despite a number of cheesy “in your face” shots, where blades fly out of the screen, Bassett crafts several surprisingly beautiful 3D moments. Revelation isn’t the most artistic use of the format that viewers will see all year, but there are sharp visual sequences – both subtle and over-the-top – that are absolutely enhanced by increased depth-of-field. Whether or not these enhanced visuals are worth the premium charge will come down to how excited an individual is for the film in the first place. The 3D in Revelation doesn’t make or break the experience, but should compliment some of the better sequences – for anyone willing to drop the extra cash.
Silent Hill: Revelation fails to elevate any element of the franchise through screen adaptation – in that none of the characters, mythos, or over-arching storyline are made better (or more interesting). Instead, the film succeeds only as a good game-to-movie translation – successfully bringing a number of iconic creature encounters into live-action. As mentioned, fans of the game installments will likely enjoy seeing Bassett’s visual set-pieces, but most viewers who can’t appreciate the director’s careful recreation of the Silent Hill horrors will likely be left underwhelmed by cliche character interactions and a convoluted plot.
If you’re still on the fence about Silent Hill: Revelation 3D, check out the trailer below:
Let us know what you thought of the film in the comment section below. If you’ve seen the movie and want to discuss details about the film without worrying about spoiling it for those who haven’t seen it, please head over to our Silent Hill: Revelation 3D Spoilers Discussion.
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Silent Hill: Revelation 3D is Rated R for violence and disturbing images, some language and brief nudity. Now playing in 2D and 3D theaters.