|Quite possibly the best videogame-to-movie adaptation to date|
Seven years ago I played the scariest video game I had ever played. Turning the limitations of the Playstation into advantages it featured thick fog, paranoia-inducing white noise, and a world that transcended into darkness on whim. Silent Hill had an atmosphere that scared you stiff while keeping you playing. The film adaptation manages to capture the atmosphere of the video game perfectly while adding elements that can only be done in film.
The plot of the movie and the game are similar, though certainly not identical. In both a parent is searching the town of Silent Hill for their lost daughter. In both the parent is aided by police officer Cybil Bennett. In both the parent wanders the town collecting clues which point them to another area to explore. And, naturally, in both there are horrific monsters freely roaming ready to kill the unsuspecting.
Where in the game it's a father searching for his daughter, the movie features the mother searching for her sleepwalking-prone daughter, and then the father looking for both the mother and daughter. The movie also features a good deal more religious symbolism than I remember in the game (but, admittedly, it has been 7 years).
This movie does many things very right, and a few things rather wrong. That edge-of-your-seat atmosphere found in the video game is one of the things that the movie does very right. Although I haven't played the game in 7 years I instantly recognized all of the locals around the town, and and felt that familiar dread when white noise started pumping out of the radio. Many of my favorite parts of the game made it in to the movie, from the white-out fog to the solid-black "kids" that chase and attack you.
Honestly, when the protagonist was wandering the school halls I was feeling very deja vu. When she tried to take a door, found it locked, and went to the giant double doors I immediately thought, "the courtyard!" Sure enough, the doors opened onto the courtyard of my memory which was very eerie, but also very impressive.
However, despite the fact I greatly enjoyed the video game referencing as it is a great way to build the atmosphere and increase tension, it was a bit of a trade-off. The first half of the movie feels more like a video game than a movie, which is kind of cool, but also not. If I wanted a video game I would play a video game. As the plot unfolds it starts feeling less like a video game and you slowly start to see the big picture... then there's a 10-minute-long break from all action where the plot is explained in detail.
This was a bit much. True, the game explains the plot in detail at the same point... but it was as if they paused the movie to explain what's going on before resuming it. Typically I find it better to spread the plot out over the course of the movie, not stick it all in one ten-minute chunk.
After this plot explanation the movie stops being a video game and starts truly being a movie. The ending sequence is really gruesome, but really interesting and unique to the film. I especially like the half-resolution at the end. It leaves it open to a sequel, but I would actually rather it was just left as it is, open to interpretation.
So clearly the film's atmosphere, cinematography, and effects (especially in regards to the monsters) are top-notch. The plot is pretty good too, it's just grouped too closely. The acting in this movie... well... it's not quite as top-notch as some of the other elements. It's not to say it's bad, but I'm not sure if the writing is terrible or the actors' delivery that's terrible, but I definitely wanted to laugh at some of the "serious" lines.
If you're a fan of the video game then absolutely check out the movie. If you're a fan of horror films that rely less on shock value and more on tension then definitely see Silent Hill. If you don't fall into either category? Then it's a toss-up. I recommend it, but expect a little bit of cheesiness in a whole lot of spectacular visual effects.
Written by Hyperion, 2006-04-22 14:59:37
OstrichStealth : "A fan's dream come true, but still missing something."
IMDb page: Silent Hill (2006)