Silent Hill

Director: Christophe Gans

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Silent HillThere are enough interesting CGI images in Silent Hill (2006) that the distributor was able to concoct an absolutely enthralling trailer. These look like anime rather than anything real, but exciting anime.

Alas, there is not much beyond the CGI horror cartoons to sustain interest, so seeing the trailer is seeing all the good parts. These periodic "good" bits are borrowed from the visual medium of three video games (Silent Hill one, two, & three), but also borrowed from the video game realm is a decided disinterest in storytelling. Without having one's fingers on the gun, a nearly storyless set of visual can get deadly dull in no time.

Rose & Christopher's (Radha Mitchell & Sean Bean) adoptive daughter Sharon (Jodelle Ferland) suffers from a hallucinatory sleepwalking disorder that makes living near cliffs & giant waterfalls tantamount to child endangerment.

Dad wants to institutionalize the poor girl, or keep her eternally drugged. But mom has an even skankier plan. While in hallucinatory states, Sharon sometimes speaks of "Silent Hill," an abandoned toxic mining town in West Virginia.

Silent HillSince their adopted daughter was born in West Virginia, Rose decides that's sufficient reason to transport Sharon, by night, at high speeds, to the toxic town. Hey, made sense to Rose, but someone forgot to put in the script how this would help. And no surprise to us viewers that it makes things much, much worse.

No sooner does she reach the outskirts of Silent Hill than Rose is separated from her daughter & spends the rest of the film running about trying to find her, like in a video game by cracky. She has apparently slipped into an alternate dimension, the door to which "only the dark one can open."

The town is chalkful of weirdness. Mom very soon encounters a gang of children made of burning ash, & runs about screaming until the ash children disappear. Then there's the tragic lunatic Dahlia (Deborah Kara Unger) who knows about the door & the Dark One & claims to have had a daughter some thirty years before who looked exactly like Sharon.

The coal mine burns perpetually underground releasing toxic gases. Ashes fall like snowflakes, & have apparently done so for three decades without accumulating anywhere. Hey, they're magic ashes.

For reasons unfathomable Rose thought it was a good idea to have that high speed chase along busted up back roads with a policewoman in hot pursuit. It's not like she'd broken any laws before that, & if she'd decided not to further endanger Sharon, Officer Cibyl Bennett (Laurie Holden) would probably have checked her I.D. then let her go.

Silent HillBut after resisting an officer & speeding in such a manner that would inevitably result in a wreck, Officer Bennett might be forgiven for playing the jerk cop when next encountered.

This babe cop, skinnier than her nightstick, looks much more like an anorexic dominatrix than a police officer in her motorcycle leather. She's not much help at first, having decided Rose is some kind of loony before they even reached Silent Hill, but eventually she becomes the second-lead heroine almost as brave as mom. That means two can play the video game.

After the senseless chase & inevitable crash(es), Bennett walks the rest of the way into town, encounters Rose, & handcuffs her while refusing to believe the crazy unbelievable crap about supernatural things happening.

On the walk out of town they discover the road has turned into a CGI cliff, & while taking another route they encounter the armless faceless cocoon man who spews flaming ashes from his belly button & looks exactly like what he is, a cartoon.

Even now slow-witted Officer Bennett won't admit this is pretty weird so Rose takes off running while still handcuffed. When next we see this ditzy cop she'll be a believer. Eventually she'll be captured by ghosts who roast her over a barbeque spit.

Dad all this while has been trying to reach Silent Hill, having had a garbled phone message from Rose. The police have blocked off the roads & won't let him look for his wife & child. So he goes to the nearest town to look stuff up in an abandoned public building -- abandoned except for all the old records he needs, which reveal nothing we didn't already know. After that he just goes home & waits for the stupid movie to end.

Meanwhile mom goes from place to place in town & under the town through caves, tunnels, mines, hallways & basements, passing through alternate dimensions as well.

Silent HillWhy she decided Sharon is surely to be found at the school I missed, but she's pretty sure, & so has to figure out where the school is. The best thing seen in the school is crab-crawling man bound up in barbed wire, first found taking a dead shit in the girls' can & later turning out to be an animated ghost.

When the CGI FX are turned on, Rose is supposed to be in the alternate dimension, so it all looks rather phony. Before each FX extravaganza, the Horror Horn blares on the soundtrack as fair warning, I kid you not. After each horror horn we get to see neato monsters, most of them very briefly & just one time each before they're discarded. They're fooken cool but well nigh meaningless.

The Dark One is a muscle-man with a big knife & the Smallville space ship for a hat. He's super strong & powerful when that's what's necessary to keep the visuals going, but easy to knock down or get away from if it's time for Rose to move on to the next lame scenario.

At some point it becomes obvious that the film does have some slight "structure" even if no plot or characterization. Mom runs in some random direction usually taking her underground, finds a clue that causes her to make some barely reasoned deduction & so runs off toward the next level, & so on. Oh wow! We're playing dungeons & dragons!

The abandoned town turns out to have a great many ghostly residents, members of a child sacrifice cult. Dahlia's daughter Alessa was "purified" thirty years before, resulting in the whole cult catching on fire & then the coal mine under the town bursting into flame.

Silent HillAlessa turned into some kind of medical-bed-monster who emanated two doubles of herself, or perhaps gave birth to twins after being raped. One is the absolutely evil Alessa, the other the absolutely good Sharon.

To save her daughter, Rose has to convince the psycho cultists & their fearful leader (Alice "Borg Queen" Krige) they're all dead rather than the sole survivors of Armageddon, & get Dahlia's daughter Alessa & medical bed into position to weave barbed wire spiderwebs from her body, with which to rip up the cultist ghosts as though they had flesh bodies capable of being reduced to mangled splatters & bits.

There's an epilog when Sharon & Rose escape from Silent Hill & return home safe & sound but apparently they're actually dead, or still in the other dimension, surprise surprise. God it's dumb.

So excuse me for not having known beforehand that this is based on a video game. Comic books often make exciting films because they come ready-made with story, but video games do not. Watching Silent Hill is like watching some thirteen year old dork playing video games, but not playing one yourself. When you go to the movies, if you prefer to stay out in the lobby watching kids play the arcade games, then Silent Hill's for you.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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