When her adopted daughter's nightmares grow increasingly violent and destructive, Rose (Radha Mitchell) decides the only way to solve these problems is to find their source. Driving to the ghost town of Silent Hill, Rose swiftly loses her daughter, forcing her to search the empty, ash-laden town for clues. What she finds instead is a nesting ground for otherworldly beings and demonic locales. With the help of a police officer (Laurie Holden), Rose looks to battle and stumble her way to answers in this mysterious town.
The lesson learned from last autumn's colossal flop "Doom" was that perhaps not every video game was meant for the big screen. I would even say that maybe video games in general were never meant for celluloid treatments. Unlike a book, play, or even a remake, modern video games are becoming increasingly cinematic already, with some titles at a point where they top anything coming out of Hollywood. The "Silent Hill" series comes across as an experience that should be left for the console. The new big screen version is a good reason why.
Writer Roger Avary and French director Christophe Gans came across a little arrogant in the press recently as they crowed about their attention to video game detail during the production of "Hill." Truthfully, the team has brought the gaming experience to the screen with astonishing accuracy. The problem is, "Hill" gets lost in the foaming desire by Gans to maintain the movement and depth of the game, leaving the action lifeless and dreadfully repetitive. All Rose manages to do over two ungodly hours is enter spooky rooms, be scared off by something inexplicable, and then fight the "boss." Gans beats this format into the ground, optimistic that each new creature or hellish vista will be enough nutrition to sustain interest until a resolution appears.
Avary ("The Rules of Attraction") is little help to the director, often scripting unintentionally hilarious dialog that has the characters simply stating what's in front of them ("There was a fire here." Cut to: a burned up room). It makes the actors look bad, and Gans even more incompetent. Avary is also useless trying to deliver some level of sensible plot to this picture. I'm sure even die hard fans of the game would have difficulty with all the puzzle pieces Avary randomly drops on the audience. And forget attending the movie if you've never even played the game. The plot here is so convoluted and so careless with alternate universe structure that Gans stops the film completely toward the end to help the audience catch up. Gans and Avary have no sense of pure storytelling with "Hill," again placing emphasis on all the visual splendor.
The creature work in "Hill" is respectable, but a little too reliant on CG to fully capture the imagination or wet the pants. Most of it resembles a lost "Cremaster" film from Matthew Barney, and Gans explains the sights about as effectively. "Hill" requires the audience to simply go with it; to accept every new step of Rose's journey into the underworld as it plays. Oddly, Gans feels hindered by his R-rating, cutting around the extreme violence or keeping the horror in the dark to protect his film from censorship. It kind of ruins the film to see the money shots (including a doozy where a creature with a pyramid head – stay with me here – rips the skin clean off one of Rose's friends) have been muted when Gans was obviously going from broke.
"Hill" struggles to tie itself up with a wacky ending that recalls "Hellraiser" by way of Arthur Miller's "The Crucible." If anything was proven in Gans's breakthrough cult film, the pedestrian "Brotherhood of the Wolf," it would be that the man has no idea when to say when. "Silent Hill" lurches to three different finales, all completely unsatisfying storywise, but thrilling in their promise that someone has finally made Gans stop the tedium.
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