Tuesday, November 14, 2006

SILENT HILL

Based on a popular video game, Christopher Gans’ SILENT HILL (2006) is an atmospheric, visually striking film, that nonetheless feels a bit hollow.

In fact, it feels very much like watching someone else play a video game.

The story (secreenplay by Roger Avery), which I’m told is quite faithful to the game, goes something like this: Rose (Radha Mitchell, MAN ON FIRE) is a mother who takes her adopted daughter to the ghost town of Silent Hill, in a desperate attempt to cure the young girl’s strange emotional and mental problems. But Silent Hill is not like any other town on Earth. Seemingly abandoned and constantly shrouded in smoke and drifting ash from underground fires, the town may or may not exist in another reality altogether. When Rose and her child are separated, she must search the eerie town and attempt to unravel its secrets.

In the course of the film, Rose must solve riddles, decipher clues and avoid terrifying creatures – creatures which never seem to have any plot purpose but to be avoided. There’s fiery baby demons, disfigured wanderers, an armored stalking knightmare, and scary nurses (yeah, I said nurses) – all well rendered with state-of-the-art CGI, but rarely relevant to the story. Of course, the town’s dark secrets are eventually revealed, but the backstory is so elaborate and convoluted that while I think I understand it, I’m not entirely sure.

On the plus side, the performances are quite good, and the movie does succeed in creating an unearthly "reality" that is genuinely unsettling. On every technical level, the film shines, with astounding visuals and a decidedly effective use of sound effects and music. But it still feels empty.

Sony/TriStar’s DVD presents the movie in a perfect 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, accompanied by a haunting Dolby 5.1 sound mix. It’s not overloaded with supplements, but there’s an informative and engaging 6-part "making of" documentary and trailers for other Sony releases.

If you’re a fan of the game, you’re probably going to enjoy the film more than I did, but I can still recommend the film to horror fans for its overall creepiness and memorable visuals. Check it out.

BUY: Silent Hill (Widescreen Edition)