I like all the actors in Silent Hill. I don't mind horror movies based on video games, and director Christophe Gans's previous movie, The Brotherhood of the Wolf, is one of my all-time favorite movies. I thought the themes in Silent Hill (missing children, a fire that never goes out, strange religious cults, monsters, bugs…) had the potential to be fascinating, so what could be wrong? For one thing, the theatrical movie was not screened for the press, and for another, those that did pay to see it said it was indeed terrible.
But I was undeterred by the criticisms: I don't mind style over substance (think: Suspiria) and I don't mind a hodgepodge of genres in one movie (think: Hostel). Silent Hill couldn't be that bad. I was gung-ho about finally viewing the movie on DVD.
The movie opens with 10 year old Sharon Da Silva (Jodelle Ferland), having had yet another nightmare that's driven her to sleepwalk to the edge of a massive cliff near her house. So much for child-proofing the property. Her parents Christopher (Sean Bean) and Rose (Radha Mitchell) search desperately for her, and it's Rose who finds the little girl just as Sharon is about to go plummeting over the edge. "Silent Hill," says Sharon, as she collapses into her mommy's embrace.
To Rose, this is a mantra. Silent Hill, the ghost town which sits atop a mine that has been on fire for three decades, is the place that Rose decides will cure Sharon of her chronic night terrors. Christopher disagrees, thinking their daughter needs to go to the hospital, but he's outnumbered and consequently left out. Rose and Sharon drive out to the creepy burg, meeting Cybil Bennett (Laurie Holden), a lady cop, who thinks something suspicious is up with the pair. The pretty policewoman gives chase and everyone crashes into the living nightmare that is Silent Hill.
The trio becomes separated for awhile, each one in their own terrifying situation; even Christopher gets his screentime, trying to track down his wife and daughter in wheel-spinning futility.
That's the problem with Silent Hill: An awful lot of wheel-spinning without much suspense or sense. Some of the scenery is beautiful, artful, creepy and shocking, but unfortunately the imagery is undermined by an over-reliance on CGI. The fact that it is based on a computer game doesn't really justify the proliferation of pixels, because Silent Hill is supposed to be organic.
The plot thickens predictably, and finally rallies at the end — there is a Grand Guignol, bang-up ending that brings to mind a Goya or a Bosch painting come to life, but it is too late by then. To add insult to injury, the conclusion is a kick in the teeth.
The DVD has some detailed making-of featurettes, including some footage shot with the "zombie nurses" on the day Horror.com was on the set in Toronto.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson
Be sure and check out Horror.com's exclusive, on-camera interviews with the cast and director, Christophe Gans.