Thursday, January 5, 2012

Movie Review: Silent Hill

 Of the many films based upon a video-game, Silent Hill is one of my favorites (along with Resident Evil and Doom). The film stands out for its rich cinematography and convincing special effects.  The viewer is quickly immersed in the frightening environment.  Fans of the game will not be disappointed.

 The film starts out by establishing a little background.  Rose and Chris are adoptive parents of a little girl, Sharon.  Sharon sleepwalks, and during her episodes she talks about a place called "Silent Hill".  Her episodes place her in grave danger, as we see in the opening scene of the film when Rose and Chris narrowly rescue their adopted daughter from plummeting to her death off a cliff.

 Rose is determined to discover what is tormenting her daughter, and she believes the answer is in Silent Hill.  It becomes apparent later in the film that Chris is opposed to the idea.  Rose and Sharon leave without Chris's knowledge, and head for the remote former mining town.

 Chris discovers a wealth of information that his wife has discovered on her computer.  30 years earlier Silent Hill was a town in West Virginia which suffered an underground fire, killing many of the residents and making it uninhabitable.  It is considered one of the most haunted locations in America.  The location is cordoned off by the local authorities.

 Rose and Sharon stop at a gas station in not far from the one road that leads to Silent Hill.  Rose notices that Sharon's drawings now feature images of buildings and people on fire, and when she confronts her daughter about these drawings Sharon begins to cry and insist that she did not draw them.  This draws the attention of a female police officer, who attempts to question Rose but is waved-off.  Chris has been trying to contact Rose to no avail, but Rose calls him when her credit card is declined in the gas station.  It becomes clear that Chris may have also called the local police in search of his wife and child.

 Rose and Sharon leave the gas station, only to be pulled over by the female police officer a short distance down the road.  As the officer approaches the car, Rose sees that the turn for Silent Hill is just ahead.  She tells Sharon to buckle-up and she speeds off, with the police officer on motorcycle and in pursuit.  Rose breaks through the gate that blocks to road to Silent Hill, and seems to lose the officer in the distance.  Suddenly, a young girl appears in the middle of the road and Rose swerves to miss her, crashing her vehicle.

 From this point forward, the movie roughly follows the video-game, with Rose taking the place of Harry, the game's protagonist.  Rose finds herself chasing what she believes is her daughter, and during her pursuit encounters both the strange residents of Silent Hill and reality-shifts that turn the drab and burnt-out environment into a hellish nightmare.  The film is not without its surprises.  Although it takes us through many familiar locations (such as the elementary school), it also draws from other games in the Silent Hill Franchise and has a twist in the story that makes the film stand out from the game. 

 The film has no lack of gore.  At one point, a young girl is captured by a giant creature on the steps of a church.  She is completely disrobed with one brutal rip of her clothes, and then a moment later her skin is completely removed by the same motion.  Blood-spray filled the air and blood spatter covered the screen.  Another woman is later depicted having barbed wire being driven into her crotch, through her body, and out the top of her head resulting in her being sawed in half vertically.  The highly detailed and well-executed special effects make scenes like these even more gut-wrenching.

 Whether intentionally or not, the films most significant cultural impact was its depictions of the "zombie" nurses.  In the game, these creatures appear as nurses in the hospital which have a parasite attached to their backs.  They are drawn toward movement and light, and are barely able to stand upright.  Their uniforms appear to be standard nurses attire with cardigans.  The film's version is hyper-sexual in comparison.  The nurses are depicted with their heads and faces completely obscured by a wrapping of stained bandages.  Their uniforms are curve-crushingly tight, pressing their breast until they spill out over their collars.  Their jerky and quick motions and moaning has an almost erotic quality.  The image has become iconic among fans of horror films.

 The end of the film is my only real complaint.  The film finishes on a down-note.  Though the protagonists are successful, it appears to be only a moral victory. The end of the video-game, though different, had the same kind of hollow "you won but..." feel to it.  Otherwise, the film was wonderful.

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