Friday, January 2, 2015

MR Silent Hill: Revelation

Movie: Silent Hill: Revelation
Directed by Michael J. Bassett 
Release date 2012
Genre Horror film
Country Canada/France/USA

Following the release of Christophe Gans' Silent Hill movie adaptation based on the eponymous cult classic survival horror series from Konami, Gans was originally set to produce a sequel. He started working on it himself as early as the first film's 2006's release date. But he finally had to decline to direct it due to being committed to several other projects in mind (mostly his long in development-Onimusha movie).

The studios was still interested in a possible sequel, with the objective of making it more accessible to a wider audience this time.

That is when Michael J. Bassett then took over both writing and directing duties. First release in 3D in theaters, Silent Hill: Revelation is the 2012 follow-up to the previous film, following six long years of development, this time directed and written by Michael J. Bassett, who also directed Deathwatch (2002) and Solomon Kane (2009). It's another co-production between Canada, France and the US.

This time the music mostly comes from Hollywood composer Jeff Danna with only a handful of original Silent Hill songs from series composer Akira Yamaoka remixed.

To help with the film's authenticity, they originally asked horror artist Masahiro Ito who worked on several SH games to design the creatures of the film as well as the overall look of the films' "Otherworld" dimension, but he ended up declining the offer sadly.

Michael J. Bassett had opened fan suggestions for the new lead role on his official blog, and actress Adelaide Clemens was eventually cast in the role of Heather Mason. Radha Mitchell, Sean Bean and Deborah Kara Unger all reprised their previous roles from the original film. "Revelation" also stars Kit Harington, Martin Donovan, Malcolm McDowell, Carrie-Anne Moss and Erin Pitt. Also, it's great that they could have Roberto Campanella back portraying Pyramid Head, since he did pretty well in the previous film. The only problem is that they gave him a much more muscular ridiculous look and strange make-up, a big disservice to the cult monster. 

Since the first film was more or less a free adaptation of the plot of the first SH game, this time they naturally based the sequel on its direct continuation Silent Hill 3.

Our story takes place a few years after the previous film.

We find back the little Sharon Da Silva (Adelaide Clemens) all grown up, living with her adoptive father Christopher (Sean Bean). They've been on the road, continuously hiding and on the run, living under all sorts of aliases since then. They're currently now known as Heather and Harry Mason. They keep moving from town to town, with different ids each time. Heather always thought it all was because her dad Christopher/Harry killed a man in self-defense once and they now have to hide from the police. And she also thinks her mother Rose died in a car crash. But in fact, Harry's hiding her from the Order, the cult from the town of Silent Hill. Rose was only able to free Sharon/Heather from this strange dimensions haunting the town by using the half of some kind of talisman called the Seal of Metatron, while she was forced to remain trapped in Silent Hill.

At her current new school, Heather meets this student named Vincent.

Lately she's been plagued by these strange hallucinations of Silent Hill.

One day this private detective Douglas Cartland follows her after school. He wants to talk to her about her "real identity". She later tells Harry this on the phone... when suddenly Harry's abducted by members of the Order! They want Heather to come voluntary to the town of Silent Hill.

Meanwhile Heather was waiting for Harry at the mall when she ends up in this stranger "Otherworld". Douglas tells her he was really hired by the Order to help locate her, but he finally decided to warn her instead once he discovered their true intentions. This monster called the Missionary kills Douglas. Later Vincent escorts her back home when they find a message on the wall asking her to come back to Silent Hill if she ever wants to see Harry alive. In true Silent Hill game fashion, she finds a couple of notes and reads a letter Harry wrote telling her the truth about everything. She decides to go back to Silent Hill to rescue him.

Vincent drives her there. They stop at a motel Vincent reveals another truth of his own, how he's actually the son of the current leader of the cult - Claudia Wolf. He was sent to the outside world to convince her to come back willingly. Heather finds out how she was "part" of this Alessa Gillespie  who was burnt several years ago by members of the Order and is now responsible for shifting the town into this strange hellish dimension.

Heather sets to find Claudia Wolf's father, Leonard (a sadly underused and always quirky Malcolm McDowell). He has the other half of the Seal of Metatron.

Heather roams the street of the town, encounters some monsters along the way, and finds Alessa's real mother Dahlia from the previous film. She locates Leonard who reveals that the Seal of Metatron can expose "the true nature of things".

Heather encounters Pyramid Head and tries hiding from him. She finds Vincent about get chopped off by a bunch of monstrous nurses. They go to the Lakeside Amusement Park where they're able to reach the hiding of the Order. On the way Heather has a face to face with the last remaining manifestation of Alessa's tortured past in the form of this so-called "Dark Alessa". But Heather's able to absorb her and be complete again.

They faces Claudia. Claudia tells Heather how she wants to help bring this deity to live and give birth to a whole new world that will punish all sinners. Heather forces Claudia with the Seal of Metratron which transforms her into this Missionary creature seen earlier.

...And that's when the movie lost me completely... Pyramid Head arrives just in time to save the day. Apparently he's not supposed to be a mere tormentor (and a representation of James' sexual perversion here) but he's in fact Alessa's guardian and protector. And he ends up fighting this Missionary creature to the death in a "ring of fire" while Heather is able to rescue both Vincent and Harry.


Anyway, the Fog world leaves town, and the movie ends with a couple of epilogues in true Lord of the Rings fashion, that all could tease the next upcoming film, granted if they're even able to make more of these the plot is now open to all kinds of non-cult-driven adaptations possible. Harry decides to stay in town to find his wife for a possible Silent Hill 2 adaptation. They hitch a ride with truck driver Travis Grady who seems highly familiar with this town, do you want a Silent Hill: Origins adaptation, anyone? And finally a prisoner transport surround by a couple police cars is seen disappearing into the area, leading into a possible Silent Hill: Downpour adaptation as well apparently...

Things come pretty close to grasp, you can almost feel the great potential and the most faithful adaptation of the Silent Hill franchise there ever was. But it all just seems to fall short in all kinds of way. If anything can be said positive about Silent Hill: Revelation is that it still had a pretty great photography and perfect locations used for sets, from decrepit carnival grounds to familiar rusty corridors. 

Michael J. Bassett wanted a film closer to the games but since the first film was so different and he to follow that, he ended up half-adapting the story he's supposed to be covering with this new episode. Actually most of the introduction is spent on several retcons of the original SH film, to be able to bring the films closer to match the continuity of the games, from separating Sharon from Dark Alessa from the ending of the previous film to ages, dates and names being basically changed on a whim.

Which brings me to the main point of discussion of this film. Let's be honest, the only real reason  why Pyramid Head is here is because Pyramid Head is a marketable character from the franchise, the creature has sadly become the face of the entire SH series by now. He really shouldn't have been in this movie. He has so very little to do anyway (besides being used as Deus Ex Machina at the end of the film), he basically has the same role that Valtiel had in the original Silent Hill 3 game, that of a sort of guardian/distant watcher.

While Revelation sets up a pretty good tone and atmosphere (at least in the earlier parts of film), as the movie progresses the film leave any sort of mysterious psychological horror feel for cheap-looking simple jump scares that seem to fill any modern horror film these days. There's just way too many silly jump scares and not enough world building anymore. The pretty meager budget is also pretty apparent from the shaky "fog world" of this new installment to one very forgetable lone CGi monster.

There was some potential to it, Revelation is pretty short on being a good horror film, but always comes up short. Even the likes of Malcolm McDowell and Carrie-Ann Moss can't save it from how cheap it all feels (McDowell certainly can't stop playing these sort of quirky roles in bland horror films these days..). 

Despite the final apparent visuals, most effects were all practically done except for the Mannequin Monster. Which is good. Even detractors of the first film liked the stunning special effects and direction of the original.

The problem with this sequel is that it feels even more confusing for the mainstream audience. Even being familiar with the series won't help you from asking yourself what's going on as things seem to jump from one point to another. While trying to adapt the games even more closely following Gans' adaptated elements, Revelation seems to far off somewhere in-between both film and games. It does try to mesh the original film ajusting so many elements to a pretty close story to Silent Hill 3. And it simply feels confounding and pretty cheesy at the end of the day.

Lots of things simply lose their meaning. Heather for one really lost her sarcastic personality.

Compared to the original film the atmosphere and aesthetics are simply not up to par, it feels like a direct-to-video sequel. Not a lot time is actually spent in Silent Hill this time, instead much of the film's screentime is spent on her episodic visions back in the nightmarish Otherworld settings.

Sadly the psychological horror motifs were ditched for these weird disrupting zombie imagery (the prime example being the mall sequence).

Silent Hill: Revelation tries instead to play the familiarity with lots of references and allusions to the games (and particularly Silent Hill 3), from Heather’s mostly identical appearance and outfit to Robbie the Rabbit. Starting off the story with a nightmare sequence at the amusement park, to Douglas Cartlan's overall look, a mention to Heather's birthday, using a steelpipe as weapon, following the same general order of identical locations from the shopping mall to the amusement park, hitching a car ride to SH (with Vincent taking over Douglas' role), the use of a flashlight, there's even a creepy cooked dog in the background (the only part really missing is sadly Harry Mason's death - despite being played by Sean Bean here! But that's basically to set a possible sequel and a reference to James Sunderland from Silent Hill 2...). Vincent is the only one really getting a complete revamp for the film (and to play out stereotypical love interest).

We could have such a perfect cinematic version Silent Hill 3 within grasp... Clemens looks and acts the part but the rest of the film simply doesn't follow. Not even mentioning that awful silly climax..

Lots of dialogues mostly consist of exposition. It takes a long time to actually get to the titular town of "Silent Hill", and once there it only reveals how much sadly Revelation is one big clumsy follow-up to the captivating previous film. Almost boring at times. We get to see so little scenery of the creepy town once there...

While the film did pretty well in terms of box office, thanks to its pretty small budget all things considered, Silent Hill: Revelation was pretty badly received at the time. And even compared to the pretty mixed opinions the first film received. The main problem is that it feels pretty heavy handed, not to make any favor of one of the best games in the series, only getting a surface impression of the actual great storyline and just feels overall cheaper and cheesier to the previous episode. The pretty bad CGi effects and amateur direction just bring the film down a lot...

Overall, the first half starts actually pretty good. Bassett managed to well capture the game on screen. Great suspense and all. Even if most of that was summarizing and retconning several aspects of the first film. Then from there on it jumps on to something else altogether. They try to explain way too much. And it was probably too short to make anything worth it really, it just feels underdeveloped.

I guess it's a rule with no exceptions in Hollywood. All good movies, if they ever came with any sort of originality, will get a bad sequel at one point or another. Only Check it Out if you're a fan of the series or the previous film. If anything it's a decent small film, it was able to make its budget back, but nothing more. It's not that great a horror film when it's all said and done, it neither works as a Silent Hill entry nor a standalone film.

Right from the start you can clearly see it simply doesn't have the same artistic direction the original had. It looks cheap and almost cartoonish at times, were the first film was gritty and so surreal. As far removed from the tone of the original as possible. Mostly counting on the viewer's knowledge of the game series to fill in the blanks (yet it feels nothing like the games if that makes sense)...

Some details do seem to work. Replacing the role of Douglas in the story by this movie's version of Vincent is okay, as far as movie adaptations go. And this series keep featuring a Sean Bean that will just not die for some reason, but it's really only for the purpose of the end of the movie. The romantic subplot is kinda creepy. Pyramid Head cameos continue getting tiring, bastardized every times he appears ever since SH2. There's a couple of special effects that looked pretty nice, specially the rotting Otherworld. A few predicable jump scares. The mannequin monster is either the worst or the best thing about this film depending on your impression.

The original film was easily one of the best video game film adaptations out there. The town used to feel like a real location, now it looks like such a small set. McDowell is wasted once more in a crappy modern horror film and let's not even talk about that awful MMA match-style with Pyramid Head against a cheap cenobite-lookalike in the anticlimatic ending... just awful...

While most people are quick to dismiss this sequel, I say it's still pretty watchable (and specially better than anything Uwe Boll ever did or those generic Paul W. S. Anderson's Resident Evil films). The only real problem is that it just feels like such a wasted potential... Some fans loved the mythos of the film being moved closer to the canon of the games, while others would have preferred to see it continuing its own thing like the first film did. At least the Otherworld segments still look nervous and captivating.

Currently, despite no new talks regarding a possible third episode, it still remains a possibility. Michael J. Bassett mentioned wanting to explore his own original story in a possible sequel... while also talking about following Harry looking for Rose in Silent Hill, just like SH2's protagonist James in said game.

I give it:
1.5 / 3 Necronomicons!

No comments:

Post a Comment