Monday, December 8, 2014

MR Silent Hill (movie)

Movie: Silent Hill 
Directed by Christophe Gans 
Release date 2006
Genre Psychological thriller/horror
Country USA/France/Canada

Following a long convulsed development that had been going for as long as the early 2000s following the first couple of Silent Hill games, due to the games' huge reception at the time, the Silent Hill film finally became a reality in 2005 and was released on theaters the next year.

The film was made by French film director Christophe Gans (behind the worldwide successful Brotherhood of the Wolf/Le Pacte des Loups). Gans was a huge fan of the game series, and he is mostly known for his horror and fantasy films. His first major notable work was on the renowned classic film H.P. Lovecraft's: Necronomicon in 1993.

This was a huge work of love for him. He had been trying to obtain the rights for the Silent Hill series for years. He sent informal requests to Konami, explaining them how he intended to adapt SH to film. How the games had been a huge influence on his work and how important they were for him. And apparently it worked out great in his favor since it resulted in him getting the rights to the IP. Konami and Team Silent wanted to get involved directly with the film's production and help as much as possible.

Filming would finally begin in the mid-2000s, on a rather small and modest budget for this kind of production. The film was a Franco-Canadian co-production.

It was written by Roger Avary, Christophe Gans and Nicolas Boukhrief. Gans imagined it as the first film in what could become a series of SH films. The idea was for it to be an original story set in the same world, using as many elements from the game series as possible, mostly from Team Silent's original first four Silent Hill games. But to be honest, it basically combines elements from various SH games, it's mostly an adaptation of the story of the first Silent Hill overall, along Silent Hill 2's creatures and design ideas.

It does retaining much of the same themes such as the religious themes and the whole aesthetic of the series.

The film features Radha Mitchell, Laurie Holden, Jodelle Ferland, Alice Krige, Sean Bean and Deborah Kara the lead roles.

This Silent Hill film follows the original protagonist of Rose Da Silva as she goes looking for her missing adopted daughter Sharon lost in the foggy mid-western town...

Rose and her husband Christopher Da Silva have adopted this little girl Sharon. Sharon is now 9 years old and she's been sleepwalking a lot, having these dreams about this town called "Silent Hill". Rose decides to bring her to Silent Hill to see if her nightmares will finally stop if she confronts the reality.

This cop, Cybil Bennett, starts pursuing them but Rose insists on getting to Silent Hill. They get into a car accident after this strange figure appeared in the middle of the road. Both vehicles crash and Sharon goes missing...

Silent Hill seems completely abandoned, and there's this deep heavy fog covering the entire town.

Rose goes looking for Sharon, she wanders into town. She sees these strange creatures... Cybil catches her back. They met this woman named Dahlia Gillespie who apparently lost her own daughter Alessa to the town many years ago.

As they continue to explore they find the road cut off where they came from.

We then go back to Christopher "in the real world" who just arrived in Silent Hill... Only there's no monsters or any kind of strange mist to be seen, and it all seems pretty normal from his side.

Back in this "fog world", Rose discovers this local cult her Sharon's connection to the town. There's been these fires running deep beneath the abandoned town (or so, it seems). They find their way back to this local church, narrowing escaping from this giant terrifying monster called "Red Pyramid" (or simply Pyramid Head). This cultist Christabella finds out Rose is connected to the "demon". She takes them to the condemned hospital. Rose escapes and finds the real long-dead burned Alessa, alongside this "Dark Alessa" memory that seems to have split from her ages ago. This Dark Alessa appears to be the direct incarnation of the darkness in the town

We get treated to plenty of expositions in this vintage-looking flashback in old school 8 mm film explaining much of the history of the town, how it all happened 30 years ago. Alessa was Dahlia's daughter. She had this "darkness" to her much of the town felt uneasy with. At school she used to be bullied by her classmates. She was even sexually assaulted by the janitor (!!). The cult wanted to purge her from the town to get "innocence" back to Silent Hill. We discover how the church was burned when they tried to sacrifice Alessa to a ritual, how a fire destroyed much of the town. But you see, Alessa lived though. She found herself in local hospital, with a new rage burning inside her. That's when Sharon was born, Alessa's remaining goodness reborn inside a new body, while this also gave birth to this Dark Alessa.

Meaning all these people are in fact long dead townspeople actually!

That's when all hell breaks loose and Sharon helps this monstrous Alessa get loose inside the churce, stranded to this barbed wire bed. Dark Alessa attacks and kills people one by own, finally having her revenge in a huge massacre!

I love how this feels like a final boss in a film, yet they don't end up stereotypically fighting it at the end.

The movie ends as Rose and Sharon/Alessa return back home to find Christopher awaiting for them on the couch.. or do they?

Most video game adaptation are all quite bad. From the cheesy ones like Dead or Alive or Street Fighter to the downright awful ones like The Legend of Chun-li. The only decent one that comes to mind is probably the Mortal Kombat movie. As you can see, for some strange reason, most of the time it seems Hollywood is always only interested in adapting fighting games. I wonder why!? Because it's a genre that is well known for its "plot", right (and I'm saying this as a long-time fighting game fan)? While always ignoring the more story-driven genres like adventure games or survival horror.

But Silent Hill's never been just a mere horror series. It's also a good example of psychological horror done right. Always has been. And the film's no different.

As a game, Silent Hill worked at best as this interactive story. The transition to the film medium worked pretty well in the hands of Christophe Gans who knew how to make the best use of the game material as a storytelling device. We get to follow Rose in the same kind of cinematic angles the games are known for. Directly only able to see most times what is in front ahead of her while running. Some sequences do seem play directly like you're watching the games on the screen (which were pretty cinematographic already). They perfectly captured all the little details such as the way our protagonists walk or run. The film makes use of some great unique imaginative shots.

It's also quite gory. The film is aimed at a mature audience, afterall. But it's never gore for the sake og gratuity. It's a pretty smart well-thought well-crafted movie.

Christophe Gans' film is a gorgeous looking film. Really beautiful. And well shot. The film makes use of some great interesting angles. It all works great with the sounds and the music (easily one of the film's best aspects, in my eyes). Both visually stunning and it sounds just perfect sound.

Absolutely gorgeous visuals and sets. With a great mix of digital effects and stunning practical FXs.

If there's one thing it manages to get perfectly right, it's the great atmosphere similar to the games.

Originally Gans didn't want any male characters in the film, preferring to highlight the feminine aspect of the games, what with the themes of giving birth/pregnancy, etc. (particularly prominent in Silent Hill 3). But as you can imagine, Hollywood being, well, Hollywood, the studio was quite worried. Gans wanted an all-female cast, but they made him add the character of Christophe (named after him) and his entire subplot. But it actually ended working quite nicely for the film. And yes, for this female-drivent cast this was the main reason why SH1's protagonist Harry was changed for this female protagonist, Rose. (But then again the character of Harry's never really been that much defined as stereotypically male, either).

The monsters look great. Beautifully given life and portrayed on screen thanks to the use of prosthetics, makeup and professional models and dancers doing these roles to better represent these complex creatures. Most of the fog was added in post-production, thanks to a great minimalist use of CGi effects.

Also a special mention to the fantastic if moderate performance by Roberto Campanella as Pyramid Head (he also gets a cameo as the terrible school janitor..).

Like the original inspiration behind the series, Jacob's Ladder, the movie never gives an entire answer to what is going on in the story, leaving a few possible interpretations open. If the townsfolk are all dead but still appearing very much alive in this "fog world", one could see Rose, Sharon and Cybil all dead after the car accident at the beginning of the film - all the rest of the film playing in some kind of afterlife, if you want (and it works great with the ending they chose for the film). Or this could also possibly tie with some kind of imaginary/hallucinations brought forth with the toxic gases released from the coal mines, another possible interpretation.

The movie seems to have some fun with the idea of these alternate realities next to each other (the reality Christophe operates in/the fog world/this Otherworld), all possibly playing in Alessa's head, a mirror of her fractured mind.

Even the creatures roaming Silent Hill are not real monster, closer to a mockery of human beings. The movie puts some emphasis on the real monsters being the townspeople.

Christophe Gans wanted to depict the original atmosphere of the games as much possible, so he even played the games on a PS2 on a big screen to the actors to show the kind of tone, camera angles and feeling he was trying to capture.

They also add the original Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka brought to the set to help along (and like in the games, he was also a producer for the film). The film's perfect score simply consists of music entirely brought from the game soundtracks. Arrange by Canadian film composer Jeff Danna. It also makes a fun use of a Johnny Cash song, "Ring of Fire" in a memorable little scene following the return from the Otherworld.

The dialogues can feel a bit heavy, specially in the final act as these protagonists start doing a lot of backstory exposition to explain much of the film. Which works okay as a trope in video games, but what can usually work in a 10+ hours game feels a bit cluncky on the silver screen...

The last few minutes are quite insane.

After a Resident Evil film franchise that left much to be desired, we finally got an honestly decent game adaptation, taken seriously and keeping much of the same tone and messages intact. This Silent Hill movie is not your usual average videogame adaptation. It doesn't feel like your usual blockbuster popcorn flick. Instead of focusing on the action, it's a smart movie that takes some time building its atmosphere. And such a great work on the atmosphere! It even kept all the religious symbolism from the series.

You don't need to be familiar with the game series to enjoy it, although it would certainly help understand some of the subtext and details. It's a great introduction to the series, I'd say. The film being mostly interested in creating just the right mood and atmosphere.

Since it was made on such a simple budget, getting a lot of praise (and criticism) helped it make its budget back easily and was a positive success for the series.

Overall, easily one of the best game-to-film adaptations in ages. It's a very good movie, with a beautiful picture. Great atmosphere, great mood, great camera work. And stunning creepy creature designs (entirely lifted from the games).

The changes from the original story actually work for film. The film starts a great solid cast.

The film starts a bit slow, slowly pacing and building towards the arrival in Silent Hill. It works great in favor of the tension and the ambiguous nature of the town. Once there things get rusty, and it looks absolutely stunning, such an intriguing concept.

This Silent Hill film has a lot going for it. A masterful picture, it's intense, and it's easily in my eyes the best video game adaptation ever made to this day. Much better than any of Paul W. S. Anderson's RE fanfics films (despite coming at the time right behind Resident Evil: Extinction in terms of box office gross). 

Even Akira Yamaoka loved the film quite a lot. As the executive producer of the game series and the main composer behind the franchise, he was quite impressed how they were able to keep much of the themes and visuals into this new medium. So it comes to no surprise the film would then become a huge influence on the next following games.

Christophe Gans was originally set to direct sequel, but he ended up being replaced by Michael J. Bassett since he was too busy at the time (and still is to this day. He had written a first draft (much of it would be lost in th rewrites). He gave the new film his blessing as he was busy attempting to produce another game adaptation (this time based on Capcom's Onimusha series, which is huge in France).

I give it:
2.5 / 3 Necronomicons!

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