Review: Silent Hill

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What happens when you have a continuously-screaming heroine, an assortment of grotesque hellbound minions, and enough razor-wire to choke a small country? Well normally it would be a Hellraiser sequel.

Now imagine this if you will.

Remember what you can of any of the Hellraiser films, except the first two, substitute the stalwart Hellraiser heroine Ashley Laurence for Radha Mitchell from Pitch Black, and then sprinkle dabs of the recent Japanese horror dud, Dark Water. Oh, one more thing for your cocktail, add a Troma Films screenwriter. There, put all that in a blender, and you will come very close to what Silent Hill is.

Silent Hill is based on the spooky horror genre video game of the same name. The plot of the film involves a desperate mother, Rose (Radha Mitchell), who is trying to unlock a deep secret within the fractured mind of her adopted daughter, Sharon.

The secret seems to linger within the walls of a mining village known as Silent Hill that has been condemned for nearly a decade. The village of Silent Hill now sits in silence and waits for Rose and Sharon.

Upon their arrival, Sharon goes missing and Rose risks life and limb to find her child. Unbeknownst to Rose, the town itself seems peaceful and isolated in the day but hell arrives on Earth as soon as the day turns to night. Can Rose save her daughter before this town swallows them whole? What is Sharon's connection to this forgotten town? And what is with the town's grotesque citizens?

Silent Hill reminded me a lot of the Hellraiser films and especially the Cennobites that inhabit those films. But I would be more likely to compare the film to a Hellraiser sequel gone amok.

The biggest problem with the film is the script. The script is probably one of the worst I have seen in a very long time. The script is so bad it overshadows some of the more interesting parts. I think screenwriter Roger Avary had absolutely no idea what to make these actors say. After seeing Silent Hill, it is surprising to learn that Avary has a long history of good writing. He has teamed with great wordsmiths like Quentin Tarrantino and Bret Easton Ellis on scripts. However, this is his first foray into screenplays for horror films.

Other bad things include ludicrous performances from Alice Krige and Deborah Kara Unger. Together, these two women have probably starred in some of the worst movies ever. If you remember 1996's Crash or 1992's Sleepwalkers then you know what I mean.

I liked the film visually. The terrifying scenes are vintage Hellraiser. I liked the grotesque creature design which not only were inspired by the video game but actually looked like something from it. I also liked the atmosphere of the film because it was a direct representation of the game. These aspects purists will love.

I have to admit that director Christophe Gans made some rather brave choices in the film by filming some of the scenes, often ripe with bad dialogue, like a filmmaker would shoot a play or that style of direction seen in the infamous Dogville. It is a minimalist approach with a darkened stage trading the place of a darkened street. It's a very raw and unpolished way of looking at a scene.

No matter how bad the script was or how much blood they splattered her with, Radha Mitchell stood her ground. She is a great stalwart heroine even with her rather obviously bad dialogue. I admire her for what she did in this film. Her strength in this film reminded me a lot of her break-out role in Pitch Black.

I can't recommend Silent Hill like I can't recommend any Hellraiser film past the first two. Silent Hill is kind of an enigma of a film because it's so blatantly bad but also worth a rental when it comes around. If you loved the video games and love the Hellraiser series then I would have to say it's worth a look. (1.5 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.

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