Monday, July 22, 2013

More Revealing, More Silent, More Hill

Michael J. Bassett’s Deathwatch was a fresh and frightening entry into the horror genre, so it was great news to hear this British writer/director would be handling the second installment of the potential-filled Silent Hill franchise.

Quick Plot: When last we met the Da Silvas, mother Rose and daughter Sharon  were trapped in some sort of Nether-reality that separated them from dad Ned Stark—er, Sean Bean’s Henry. 

At the start of Revelations, Sharon is now an 18-year-old blond renamed Heather living a nomadic existence with a non-Nether-separated Henry and the belief that she lost her memory and mother in a car accident. The pair rarely stay in one town long because, as far as ‘Heather’ knows, her dad is on the run from the law due to a self-defense murder. It doesn’t explain the increasingly surreal nightmares-dripping-into-daily-life-visions she has, but Heather seems well-adjusted enough for a surly teen.

On her first day at a new school, Heather catches the eye of another new kid/Game of Thrones refugee named Vincent (aka You Know Nothing Jon Snow) who quickly becomes her ally after a private detective tracks her down and gets murdered by a monster-woman-thing at a shopping mall. Heather and Vincent return home to find her dad gone and a blood-written invitation on the wall calling her back to the place of her nightmares, Silent Hill.

After that, it’s all cotton-tailed bunnies and bulldog puppies of course!

Or horrifically mutilated corpses, murderous religious zealots, stabbers wielding knives bigger than Shaquille O’Neal's idea of an oversized novelty item, and Malcolm McDowell.

I appreciated Christophe Gans’ Silent Hill for being something significantly different from the standard studio horror film you’d find in a major release. As someone who’s never played the video game (Super Nintendo’s top left and right buttons were where I drew the line, thank you very much), I didn’t necessarily have a preexisting attachment to the world, making some of the fuzzier touches rather confusing. Though it apparently is bursting with easter eggs for loyal gamers, Revelations is also much more appealing to newbies like me because it doesn’t necessarily feel as though it’s trying to replicate the PlayStation experience.

This is not to say that Revelations makes total sense, but unlike its more style-over-substance predecessor, the film adheres to a simpler, more straightforward narrative that the atmosphere effectively supports. We primarily follow Adelaide Clemens’ Heather/Sharon on a sort of Alice-In-Wonderhell trip of Silent Hill, and because the narrative is fairly simple (girl find dad), most of Revelations moves at a much better pace. 

Not that I wasn't baffled again as to what was actually happening once Heather/Sharon reached the final reel. There’s a muddled confrontation with goth girl other half Alessa that translates extremely poorly from 3D to standard def, followed by a cooler, if MORE confusing showdown with the real villain who never really feels that important. 

Could I poke holes in most ends of this movie? Certainly. But can I find a gigantic Shelob-style spider composed of human limbs and mannequin heads in just any big screen genre release? I WISH!

Silent Hill: Revelations is a messy film. But dagnabbit, I had a pretty great time watching it. It’s easy to be lazy when working with surrealism, and Bassett keeps the reins tight to deliver an effective ride. This isn’t game-changing horror, but in the realm of wide release studio horror, it’s a big win.

High Points
In what’s essentially a cameo, Malcolm McDowell brings full energy and wackiness to his role


Low Points
I know 3D sounds like a great idea when you’re marketing a big screen release and can bank on that higher ticket price, but please, filmmakers, please remember that eventually, those effects are going to be seen on a good old fashioned television screen. It’d be nice if they didn’t look terrible

Lessons Learned
When filmed in close-up, even a Pop-Tart can be frightening

People from mystical orders in netherworlds have trouble deciding what type of accent to use

Fitting in at a new school can be tough, but fitting in when a lot of your day is spent seeing images of no-faced Jacob’s Ladder refugees following your every move can be REALLY tough

Sometimes, everybody needs some Pyramid Head to help them out of a jam

Bean There, Done That
SPOILER FOR THE OPENING SCENE OF THE MOVIE: You have to admire the film's wink to kill off (dream sequence style) Sean Bean within five minutes of starting. It's almost as if someone pointed out that no matter what, the audience was going to be counting the minutes until the inevitable, so why not just give it them immediately so they could check it off their list and watch without distraction

I was very pleasantly surprised by Silent Hill: Revelations. While I appreciated the first film’s ‘otherness’ and dedication to NOT being another slasher or messy action-riddled video game adaptation, the gooey pace and lack of any strict focus made it something of a slog. Revelations is a much tighter film filled with neat visual touches and an incredibly unique soundtrack that actually works WITH, not FOR the action (unlike the majority of modern horror films that believe a crescendo equals a scare). Now on Instant Watch, it's well worth a visit.


  1. Wow! You're review is pretty surprising. I was really disappointed with this film. The first Silent Hill is a really great horror flick so I was kind of let down by Revelations 3-D. Okay, I was really really, really let down. I like the high points you pointed out. They reminded me that I did enjoy parts of this flick. Who knows? Maybe when this hits the $5 bin, I'll give it another look.

  2. Granted, I had ZERO expectations for this film. But I tell ya, I just enjoyed it from start to finish. Not great by any means, but I liked how briskly it moved and the fact that it stands so distinctly apart from what you usually get from a studio-released theatrical horror movie.

  3. The original is one of my fiance's favorite horror flicks, so we had to watch REVELATIONS. I found myself counting the minutes until it was over. She hated it too.

  4. Bummer! Even the mannequin spider? THE MANNEQUIN SPIDER?!

  5. I can't even say that I enjoyed it since I've only ever had it on as background noise when working from home. I'll have to actually sit down and watch it for once before making up my mind.

  6. I'll be curious to hear how it plays out when you're actually watching it. Maybe SOMEONE can confirm that my taste hasn't gone straight downhill...

  7. Right, I'm watching this ASAP. I had been turned off by other reviews but now I have to know!

  8. I enjoyed it.
    I'm a big fan of the first 3 games (so damn scary!)... and while this deviated from the game's (muddled) mythos even more than the first one it never descended into the drek I feared it would.
    For one thing, Pyramid head did NOT become the ubiquitous Pinhead-like mascot of the series like I feared he would (he's a spice not and entree). If they had to use him (he's only in the 2nd of the 1st 4 games) they used him well IMO.
    The mannequin spider was very creepy cool.

    It is stuffed full of lame exposition (yet made less sense to me than the first one) and Mr. Bean seemed to be encountering his lines for the very first time.
    I would happily swap the boyfriend for more Martin Donovan.
    But even all that couldn't keep it from being several mannequin heads over the usual crap being shoveled into the horror dumpster.

    I still liked the first one much more. But this one was way better than most sequels ever hope to be.
    If you aren't a fan of the games you wouldn't have noticed that the end referenced/set up 3 of the other games in the series. One of them maybe being Bean's search for Rose... which could easily be a take on the second, widely considered the best, game of the series (lots bizarre sexual themes in that one). I'll keep my fingers crossed.

  9. Pearce: Looking forward to your review!

    I can see your worry with Pyramid Head. He's such a great visual character that it'd be VERY easy to start relying on his presence.

    Totally agree about Mr. Bean! I love the guy, but he was very phoned in. Then again, I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the dialogue was written along the way. Nobody seemed that comfortable when talking (save for Malcolm McDowell, who knows a thing or two about shining in bad movies).

    I wish the film did better, just because I'd be all for a Ned Stark searching for rose threequel. The first wasn't a theatrical hit either, so maybe they'll give us another somewhere down the line. Either way, I'm glad to see Bassett working with bigger budgets and hope he continues to get good opportunities.