Silent Hill Revelations 3D (2012) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Silent Hill Revelations 3D (2012)

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I remember when the first Silent Hill film was released in 2006. I remember nerds pitching a fit because Roger Ebert gave it an unforgivably mediocre review and sparking off yet another internet-wide debate about video games and art and blah blah blah fuck you dad. To Mr. Ebert's credit, Silent Hill was a mess of a film. It tried to be a little more introspective than most horror, then realized that it'd probably lose the mainstream horror-fans and threw some blood and guts in there. But it didn't stop there. Then they must have realized that they waited too much time being gory and half-assed artsy and turned the last 10 minutes into an exposition dump and a horrific barbed-wire rape scene for some inexplicable reason (seriously). It was a resoundingly poor movie, which is a shame because I always felt that the direction, cinematography and (some) of the acting was quite good; where it really fell apart was the script.

Given the poor reception, from fans and critics alike, I figured the Silent Hill film franchise was effectively dead. Guess I forgot the cardinal rule of video game movies: No matter how bad it is, it'll get a sequel. Cut to six years later and I'm staring down the barrel of Silent Hill: Revelations 3D. You'd think I would have learned not to get my hopes up by now. I mean, a sequel that no one asked for, six years after people stopped caring about the original, and it features tacked-on, flavor-of-the-month cheap 3D effects? No, somehow these along couldn't dissuade me. I mean, at least Roger Avery wasn't attached to this one, so it can't be worse, right?

Talk about your aggressive marketing strategies.

No, this time we're in the hands of writer/director Michael J. Bassett, renowned for 2009's Solomon Kane and not much else. But hey, we gotta start somewhere, right? Maybe what the franchise needs is a younger director with a fresh perspective on horror. Well, too bad, we're not getting that. Look, I know it's getting kicked around the internet a lot, and that a lot of other critics are feigning indignity about it, too, but it really does bare repeating: One of the earliest pop-scares in Silent Hill involves a pop-tart. Not a spooky pop-tart, mind you. not a pop-tart that turns into a Freudian hell-beast. An ordinary pop-tart accompanied by an orchestral string hit to make you jump. From that moment I knew it was all downhill from there.

But I stuck with it because I'd been seeing a lot of praise being thrown around the internet for Silent Hill: Revelations. Oh, not by film critics, of course, but fans of the video games are saying that the film does get a lot of the feel of the series right. So I stuck with it, hoping that the internet  This should have been my second clue that something was wrong. As a nerd who uses the internet a lot, I feel I am more than qualified to say that nerds are terrible, and they ruin everything. Everything.

So, dear internet populous, what did this film "get right?" Let's start with the staples of the Silent Hill aesthetic: Fog, rust and monsters. In all fairness, they are present, but they're far from interesting. The sets, when they aren't entirely CGI, look less like a town haunted by demons and more like a small-town haunted house. The monster designs are equally terrible. The video game series is well known for constructing all of their baddies around a central theme (sexual repression, self-torture, the horrors of childbirth, etc). There is a cohesive visual style to them, so that while they are visually repugnant and otherworldly, there is a bizarre sort of unsettling cohesion amongst them. The film, on the other hand, chucks out any deeper meaning or style to the monsters and instead adopts a "generic Hellraiser" look. Oh, I guess Pyramid Head is still there, and now he drives (?) a merry-go-round because he's the Boba Fett of this series: He must be included in every entry so that fans can go ape shit over him and continue making rape jokes. Have I mentioned that nerds are terrible yet?

Hi, folks, Bob Pyramid here. They tell me I get to fight Slender Man in the next film.

Ok, well how about the characters? People have mentioned that Adelaide Clemens nailed the part of Heather, by which I assume they mean is that she is blonde and also wears a white vest. Oh, and she acts like a construction of polygons attempting to approximate human emotions. Not that her costar/love interest (?) Kit Harington is any better, but at least he can pick an accent and stick with it unlike Sean Bean, who once again reprises his role from the first film of "Gut that shows up to drag the plot out longer."

Plot-wise, I don't have much to compare it to. Although I'm fairly familiar with the Silent Hill series, I've never played the particular game this film was based on. Wikipedia tells me that it is vaguely similar in that it has all the same protagonists and antagonists, with roughly the same plot. How does this translate to film? Well, it did have that strange, detached feeling like I was watching a series of video game cinematics without getting to see the actual "playing" sections in between. That is to say, it's terrible and fairly non-sensical. Heather wanders around for a bit, goes to Silent Hill against all warning from her friends and father, winds up fighting an evil version of herself and then gets saved at the last second by Pyramid Head. Yes, really.

I didn't want to get into "video game chat," but with a film so clearly pandering to the video game audience, I fell like I have to. The Silent Hill videos games are legitimately scary experiences. Even the earliest entries to the series hold up today because they knew how to get into the player's head and really mess with them. They used darkens and fog to create a feeling of isolation, and sound to create tension. Even though the graphics don't really hold up by today's standards, they still come off as unsettling because the atmosphere works so well. The first Silent Hill film got this, at least to some extent. It's difficult to represent "isolation" in a film without also representing "boredom" but there were moments in that film that absolutely nailed that feeling. Cut out most of the scenes with Sean Bean's character, axe the goofy 5 minutes of narrated exposition that attempts to explain away the mystery near the end, and you've almost got yourself a pretty decent horror film. Sure, the characters and setting and plot weren't exactly like the video games, but that didn't matter because it got theheart of what made the games so scary: Isolation and terror.

A cute thing in a horror film! The juxtaposition makes it terrifying!

By contrast, Silent Hill: Revelation seems to think that all people care about is whether or not the actors' costumes match with their video game counterparts, and that you constantly remind them of things that happened in the video game. Case in point: Robbie the Rabbit. From literally the beginning of the film, Heather is haunted by visions of a man in a giant, menacing bunny costume. As the film goes on, she sees images of this rabbit everywhere: Pictures, stuffed animals, discarded bits of his costume. It really feels like they're building up to a confrontation between her and this rabbit, yet it never happens. So why have it in there at all? Simple: Robbie the Rabbit is a boss character from the video game. Of course in the game he's a recurring symbol of innocence lost, but Silent Hill: Revelations isn't concerned with boring shit like "subtlety," so here he's just another crazy looking monster to fight. Same goes for Pyramid Head; a legitimately enigmatic and unsettling creature in the original film, here he just shows up to fight Pinhead's sister and save the day at the end of the movie. Seriously.

Point number two: The film ends with not one, but two references to other Silent Hill games in quick secession. You might argue that these are hints of future installments of the film franchise, but I don't think that they are; I think they're just there to say "See, we play Silent Hill games, too!" If you're in the know, it's obnoxious. If not, then you have no idea who these characters are or why they're there. Either way, these little adds contribute nothing to the story, serving only to pad the film out by another couple of minutes and get some hoots and hollers from that guy in the front wearing the Pyramid Head t-shirt.

Silent Hill is a case of not "getting" the point of adapting media. The basic plot elements of the game are in place, yes, and the actors look the part of their video game counterparts, but that's it. That's the extent of the film. There is no meaning, no deeper exploration, no themes. There are monsters and there are pop-scares and, saint's be praise, they got the correct style of vest for Heather to wear, but that's it. It isn't interesting, let alone scary, in the least.

If it were a video game, Silent Hill Revelation would be universally panned for aping the style of the old without any of the substance. As a film, it's not even B-grade schlock, and yet fans are willing to lap it up because, hey, Pyramid Head. There's no heart in this film. There's no story, no message, nothing beyond the cheap-looking costumes and the garish, local haunted-house looking sets. If you really want to see Silent Hill, go track down the video game instead. It's one of the few situations where the game is actually more interesting and nuanced than a film, and the acting isn't even that much of a step down in quality.

And it's actually scary, unlike this dreck.

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Posted by Jacob

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