Sunday 10 March 2019

Movie Review: Silent Hill (2006)

A horror ghost story, Silent Hill toys with a few decent ideas but cannot escape it's video game roots.

Sharon Da Silva (Jodelle Ferland) is the young adopted daughter of married couple Rose (Radha Mitchell) and Christopher (Sean Bean). Sharon sleepwalks, has nightmares about a place called Silent Hill, and draws frightening sketches while in a trance-like state. Rose's research identifies Silent Hill as an abandoned coal mining town in West Virginia, suffering from a long-burning underground fire and now considered a ghost town.

Against Christopher's wishes Rose drives Sharon towards Silent Hill. Along the way she tangles with police officer Cybil Bennett (Laurie Holden), then a car crash separates mother from daughter and Sharon disappears into the abandoned town. As she desperately tries to find her daughter Rose starts to encounter monstrous beings and horrifying imagery of violence and death in alternative dimensions, while Christopher teams up with police detective Thomas Gucci (Kim Coates) to try and find his family.

An adaptation of a 1999 survival horror game, Silent Hill is too repetitive and CGI dependent. Long stretches are consumed by Rose exploring spooky hallways and rooms within intimidating buildings, only to be attacked by a succession of pixel-created monsters. Given that Rose's death or incapacitation would mean the early end of the film, the lack of any real threat defangs the film's horror elements.

Director Christophe Gans compensates to some extent with reasonably impressive visuals and set designs, and if Silent Hill fails to deliver meaningful scares, it is at least good to look at. The abandoned town with fire burning underneath and ashes falling continuously from the sky is a spooky achievement.

Elsewhere distraught dad Christopher's parallel quest to try and find his wife and daughter is utterly useless, and it was an afterthought awkwardly added to the script to bolster the male content. Back in town, Rose gradually uncovers a mystery involving a bullied child, witch hunters, religious fanatics and a demon, with Deborah Kara Unger and Alice Krige joining the fun to try and explain a muddled narrative.

If there is a theme, it relates to fundamentalists creating their own hell as a happy place to justify their own existence. Radha Mitchell does the best she can within the confines of the material, and finally breaks out into kick-ass motherhood mode to end the nonsense.

Silent Hill is not entirely without merit, but this town needed more plots and fewer wandering corpses.

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