Silent Hill: Revelation 3D
Directed by Michael J. Bassett
Screenplay by Michael J. Bassett
Adelaide Clemens, Kit Harington, Deborah Kara Unger, Martin Donovan, Malcolm McDowell, Carrie-Anne Moss, Sean Bean
How long is Silent Hill: Revelation 3D? 94 minutes.
What is Silent Hill: Revelation 3D rated? R for violence and disturbing images, some language and brief nudity.
A sequel lacking in style, grace, and even the most rudimentary analysis of its own mythology (and that of the first film). The most baffling thing about this sequel is that it was made at all.
For the last three decades, filmmakers have been busily exploring the connections between video games and film; the myriad styles in which the passive viewer and the active player can intertwine; the ways in which a precise “defeat the boss, level-up” format can elevate (or destroy) a film. The gaming world facepalmed in unison when in 2006, director Christophe Gans released Silent Hill, a vague, startling movie based on the eponymous video game. Full disclosure: I’ve never been a gamer, and Konami’s Silent Hill made me bonkers. I tried playing the first one, and not only was I incapable of using the counter-intuitive control system, but the buzzing controller, ominous scenery, and seriously creepy score left me reasonably frustrated and thoroughly spooked. So of course, when the movie came out, I rushed to the theater – maybe I could enjoy it in a way that’s more natural to me!
Critics ripped apart the first Silent Hill, calling it bewildering, confused, and visually jarring. In 2006, I was deeply into feminist film study in college, and I was (and still am) intrigued by the fact that Roger Avary wrote a screenplay that featured nary a male character. Instead, Silent Hill’s speaking roles were occupied entirely by women and girls. As in Neil Marshall’s The Descent, the first iteration of Silent Hill featured women as villain, victim, and protagonist. They were flawed and maternal, insensitive and loving, and would do anything to save themselves and those they loved. Unfortunately, TriStar was deeply concerned by the lack of males and required Avary to add a guy to the mix. Enter Sean Bean’s Christopher, a grieving father chasing his wife and daughter into another dimension. Kim Coates played a small-town cop trying to protect a dark secret. You know that Facebook friend who inserts an extra question mark and exclamation point into every post because it’s just so very? That’s how the male roles in Silent Hill feel: unnecessary, pointless, and frustrating. Nonetheless, the movie was filled with severely spooky imagery, painstakingly rendered creatures, and a fascinating, essential rape-revenge theme. (Further, the first film was based loosely on the captivating ghost town of Centralia, Pennsylvania, beneath which coal fires have been burning for five decades.)
Since I’m a Silent Hill apologist, when news of the sequel began to circulate early this year, I jumped at the opportunity to review it. The 3D format is immensely frustrating when filmmakers utilize it as a moneymaker – but when it’s done right, 3D can elevate a movie from “stupid” to “stupid-but-awfully-pretty.” The first film was made before modern “three dimensions” were a viable option, but its sweeping zooms into glowing chasms, madly whipping razor wire, and massive villains wielding immense weapons lend to a feeling that Gans and cinematographer Dan Laustsen would have made great use of the technology epitomized by Avatar.
After years in development hell, a new director and writer, Michael J. Bassett, took the reins on Silent Hill: Revelation. It secured a Halloween weekend release date, a hot new TV star (Kit Harington, a.k.a. Game of Thrones’s Jon Snow), veteran actors Malcolm McDowell and Carrie-Anne Moss, and a beautiful young ingénue (Adelaide Clemens, an Australian who looks so like a young Michelle Williams that you will find yourself stunned she isn’t spouting Kevin Williamson’s precocious dialogue). It was, however, unable to secure a coherent plot, decent writing, or the necessary creativity in story and timing to make a good horror movie. While the original Silent Hill is intriguingly bizarre, simplistic but theatrically philosophical, and frustratingly plotted, the sequel is baffling and exasperating in that it ever got made at all.
The final scene of the original depicts Bean’s Christopher sensing, miserably, that his wife and adopted child are near; meanwhile Rose (Radha Mitchell) and Sharon (Jodelle Ferland) are trapped in another dimension, a purgatory of sorts (one guesses). The three inhabit the same physical space, but not the same metaphysical space. The sequel, in a stupid twist, posits that Rose found some kind of “seal” in the other dimension that allowed her to send Sharon back to ours. So, in the interim between the original and this weekend’s sequel, Christopher and Sharon have run wildly across the country, changing their names and leaving bodies behind. They have repeatedly, by a hair’s breadth, escaped members of the Order of Valtriel, a crew of religious weirdos who want to draw Sharon back to the damned town of Silent Hill, West Virginia, because she’s somehow part of a demon named Alessa. (In the original, Sharon was the product of rape – Alessa’s victimization at the hands of Silent Hill’s inhabitants propels the movie – but the sequel explains that Alessa didn’t give birth to Sharon, but somehow placed part of her soul in the orphan child. Way to ruin what was one of the most intriguing plot points of the first film, you idiots.)
The girl’s savior, another new kid in school named Vincent (Harington) is, to no one’s surprise but Sharon/Heather’s, has actually been dispatched from Silent Hill to bring her back. When the Order somehow kidnap Christopher, Heather/Sharon refuses to heed his note and follows him to purgatory with Vincent in tow. Vincent, of course, has decided that she’s not really evil after all! So he ends up in the hot seat with the Order, including his mother Claudia (Moss) and grandfather Leonard (McDowell) – both of whom are actually demons. Are you confused yet?
Pyramid Head, played in both movies by Roberto Campanella, is apparently no longer a bad guy – he’s Heather/Sharon’s guardian and executioner; further, cinematographer Maxime Alexandre evidently has no idea how to shoot him, resulting in a series of unnecessary close-ups and a failure to communicate his true strength and horror. The Dark Nurses, a horde of faceless, eyeless “naughty nurses” that ring all the interesting woman-as-nurturer/woman-as-villain bells, return, but Bassett has no idea what to do with them, either. Instead of terrifying the characters, the nurses cause the protagonists to enter into a slightly more high-stakes game of Red Light, Green Light.
Don’t get me wrong. There are some new features. There is some kind of mannequin creature, because mannequins are creepy, right? There is also a dark carnival, because clowns and carnivals? Also creepy. Finally, there’s an abandoned asylum, because of course. Inasmuch as the Resident Evil movies utilize the game format of “beat boss, level up,” the Silent Hill movies don’t feature much triumph at all – there’s just a lot of pointless running. At least in the first film, the various creatures and characters were new and well done. There was a shrewd, unsubtle (some might even say shrill) commentary on dogmatic thinking, rape, and female villains. The second film features nothing new, lacks even the most rudimentary analysis of its own mythology, and is laid out like an increasingly stupid haunted house.
As a defender of the first movie, I am in the minority. However, under no circumstances can I defend spending fifteen of your hard-earned dollars on watching this schlock in 3D – and if the trailers are any evidence, two dimensions won’t do it any favors either. I’ve already expended unnecessary energy trying to figure out its nuances, detail its plot, and explain why you shouldn’t go. TL;DR? Go see Sinister instead. Hell, Netflix The Apparition, which is also terrible. Save yourself the money, confusion, and irritation.