Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Silent Hill: Revelations - Theatrical Review

Release Date: October 26, 2012

Can you name a legitimately good video game to film adaptation? I can and it goes by the name of Silent Hill. Too bad it's sequel doesn't live up to it's namesake.

Review Vital Stats:  
Theater: AMC 16 Tyler Galleria
Time: 2:25 pm October 27, 2012   
Projector Type:  Digital 3D   
Film Rating: R  
Film Runtime: 1 hr 34 min
Studio: Open Road Pictures

Loves: Atmospheric horror films    
Likes: The Silent Hill video games, the first Silent Hill movie
Neutral: Horror movies with illogical characters and stories
Hates: Horror movies that aren't scary
How accurate is it to the games?: It holds pretty true to its video game roots for better or worse

Heather Mason (Adelaide Clemens) and her father (Sean Bean) have been on the run ever since their encounter with the infamous town of Silent Hill over six years ago. After landing in yet another nondescript town to lay low in, Heather's father goes missing and is faced with the reality that she must go back to Silent Hill to find him and bring him back. With the help of her new friend Vincent (Kit Harrington), she heads back to the place she knows only from her nightmares to face that which has haunted her ever since the disappearance of her mother (Rahda Mitchell) once again.

This film is nothing but a series of missing opportunities and botched ideas. After the surprising solid first film had come along and showed that it is indeed possible to make a decent flick out of a video game franchise, in comes the half-a**ed sequel to prove the naysayers right. The worse part of all is the wasted potential that the film dances around during it's very brief ninety minute stretch. Most of everything needed to make a passable follow up is there, a creepy town, nightmarish creatures and lots of occult craziness. It's just too bad they didn't feel the need to provide a decent story or anything resembling the commitment to the source material that the first film showed.

One of the many problems with most or all video game to film adaptations is how they almost always feel embarrassed by their video game roots. Video games have come a long way over the past decade and have incorporated Hollywood quality scripts for most of their stories, but nearly every single video game film still feels the need to create something new and change things around. Films based off of novels do this because the contents of the source material are too immense to cram into a two hour movie. There really is no excuse for why this happens with films based on a video game. Their stories, while complex for the most part, are fairly linear and compressed. Many games feature filler that has no bearing on the story being told.

Why bring any of this up? Because "Silent Hill: Revelation" ("SH:R" from this point forward) is a film that should have and could have benefited greatly from director Michael J. Bassett doing exactly what the video game series does and treat each new installment as a separate story with different characters with the only linking factor being the town of Silent Hill. The infamous town is supposed to tailor fit itself to the person who becomes trapped within it. Each time out we are introduced to a new character with a new enigma to figure out which the town and its many horrors helps unravel. Instead of remaining true to that formula, SHR tries its hardest to be an actual legitimate sequel to the last film which had a proper ending and did not need a follow up to it's particular story.

The problems start almost immediately when we are introduced to Heather and her father. Regardless of whether or not you have seen the previous film (despite this being a direct sequel) you are already lost about what is going on. The last time we saw Heather (formally Sharon) and her mother, they were locked away in the alternate world of Silent Hill with the father hopelessly searching for them. For the first ten to fifteen minutes the audience is left wondering who Heather is which is just plain bad writing. It's not mysterious or mystical, it's just annoying. It's only when a flashback of sorts happens that we see the circumstances that brought Heather/Sharon back into the real world but left her mother trapped. This rather annoying mentality of letting things go for a long time without explanation persists throughout the film.

One of the most troublesome of these is the introduction of Heather's classmate/stalker Vincent (Kit Harrington) who has this uncanny ability to pop up in the strangest of places at just the right time and is game for anything. While it is later revealed who he is and why is so willing to help a girl he just met who just so happens to have satanic symbols drawn in blood on her walls, it becomes apparent to just about anyone that he isn't who he says he is almost immediately. Because if he is the innocent school boy he makes himself out to be, then this would be the worst and most blatant implementation of a buddy character in the history of film, it's that obvious. Once again the problem lies in the film letting things drag out for too long. This problem even carries over to the pacing of the film with our characters entering Silent Hill at near the half way point of the film which would be acceptable for a new film setting up its world, but is practically unforgivable for a sequel.

All of that however is everything outside of Silent Hill which is without a doubt the weakest part of the film. Once in Silent Hill, things start to pick. Once again we are treated to the usual aesthetics such as ghostly figures staring out windows, a constant downpour of ash from the still burning coal mines miles below and then we hear the sirens call out from the church at the center of town which signifies the darkness coming. A quick explanation if you are unfamiliar with Silent Hill lore, when the sirens kick in that means s**t is about to get real and that spooky atmosphere quickly changes into a hellish one with an assortment of f**ked up imagery that the Silent Hill game franchise is most well known for.

Inanimate objects such as corpses or mannequins suddenly come alive but are the most ghastly things you can imagine (S&M influences abound). Walls of all kinds turn into rusty chainlink fences, the ground rots away and all daylight is sucked away which signifies the alternate realities name, the darkness. If you are coming into this film just looking for an assortment of visual treats then you will likely find a lot to like in "SH:R" simply from an artistic standpoint. However, if you are looking for any sort of plausible reason for anything that happens in it then you are likely to find most of the imaginative horror delights a yawn inducing maze which leads to a finale that is quite honestly a mess.

There are some promising ideas in "SH:R", the mannequin warehouse sequence is without a doubt the best set piece in the entire film and teases the tantalizing idea of there being other wayward drifters who accidentally wander into town and meet their demise in an appropriately disturbing fashion, but those ideas are exchanged for a weak story that makes little sense and is a dreadful departure from what made that first film work so well. Instead of having the darkness come and go at irregular intervals (lending a lot of tension and unpredictability to the proceedings), the darkness pervades throughout our entire brief stay in Silent Hill which becomes this exhaustive and mind-numbing tour of dark alleyways, abandoned theme parks and an Asylum that should have been much more sinister that it ended up being.

Any way you slice it, "SH:R" is a disappointment for both fans of the game franchise and for fans of the first film. It isn't scary, it isn't creepy and it isn't very interesting. Even the creative creature and production design fails to impress due to its lackluster execution. Where a sequel was once a welcome idea before this, now it would be better if the series would just end here if they plan on continuing down this ill-conceived path.





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