Christophe Gans 2006 adaptation of the smash hit game Silent Hill didn’t exactly set the world on fire despite it’s visually stunning depictions of Hell on earth, so the arrival of a sequel six years later proved to be a little confusing. Who asked for it? I certainly didn’t and I LIKED Silent Hill – but then mysterious, unexplained resurrection are sort of the franchise’s bag, so I guess it’s not THAT suprising…
Enter M. J. Bassett, director of Deathwatch and the fairly underrated Solomon Kane, who was not only going to drag us kicking and screaming back into the most infamous town in all of survival horror history, but was also going to take advantage of the 3D explosion (remember that?) and make sure the shock and gore be literally in your face.
However, the final product wasn’t really up to anyone’s standards and the story (which tried to retcon the original movie and combine an adaption of Silent Hill 3’s video game plot) ended up being as inconsistent as the look of reality-shifting city itself…
Thanks to a excruciatingly clumsy flashback that sloppily rewrites the original’s ending, we catch up with Sharon De Silva (aka. Heather Mason) who apparently escaped the titular town at the expense of her adoptive mother and is in hiding with her father Christopher. Living in fear that cultists searching for them will find out that she is part of a being known as Alessa Gillespie, a little girl who’s immolation 31 years earlier caused Silent Hill’s frequent jaunts into a hellish dimension, Christopher has kept is adopted daughter’s past a secret from her and has moved from town to town to stay one step ahead. Starting in yet another new school, Heather/Sharon/Alessa/whomever meets fellow new kid Vincent Carter, but any thoughts of a romance are put decidedly on pause when the arrival of a private investigator triggers latent memories and our heroine (let’s just stick with Heather, yeah?) starts having violent visions of the twisted beings that emerge whenever reality shifts.
This, twinned with the disappearance of her dad, spurs Heather to recruit Vincent and travel back to Silent Hill to rescue her father with some handy, supernatural macguffins in her pocket that’ll no doubt come in handy later (video games, eh?). As she traverses past misshapen creatures both familiar and new, can she possibly escape the doomed neighbourhood one more time with here father, her life and even her very soul intact?
Back before video game titles started employing actual actors to voice the characters in their games, there was an in-joke about how bad some of the performances really were (check the original PS1 Resident Evil for the best of the worst), but in some hideous twist of fate, Silent Hill: Revelation manages to rekindle those memories by containing some line readings that make those examples sound like Olivier reciting Hamlet. The vast amounts of expostion and zero characterization delivered as if it’s come straight out of a 90’s videogame sunscreen means most of the movie is about as much fun as once of those buxom but butt-faced nurses giving you an enthusiastic root canal. Sure, the young leads are hungry and inexperienced and Adelaide Clemens and Kit Harington (steadfastly proving that Jon Snow truly knows nothing when it comes to American accents) try to weather the storm with nothing but sheer energy and concerned looking eyebrows. However the rest of the cast really should know better as such usually dependable names as Sean Bean (as ineffectual as his role in the first one), Malcolm McDowell and Carrie Anne Moss (who’s platinum blonde wig has her looking unnervingly like Luke Goss in Hellboy 2) phone in their roles with casual disdain.
Writer/director MJ Bassett also struggles with the material, which is a shame considering this sort of thing is usually right up her alley, but the film’s need try to explain what should be unexplainable means that instead of giving us an unpredictable horror show, the film keeps checking in with us like an anxious babysitter to make sure we know what, why and how everything is happening, even if it’s all complete bollocks. As the film relentlessly torpedoed it’s own tension for the fifth time in twenty minutes, I had to wonder why so many studio horror films feel the need to explain things so much to a glaze-eyed audience – isn’t horror SUPPOSED to be somewhere where you’re terrified of the unknown?
As the film streaks ever onward, flashing visions of self-mutilated wraiths in front of your eyes like a Cliver Barker movie with attention deficit disorder, you hope against hope that at least the guaranteed procession of monsters will be cool – and they are… but only because most of them was cool in the first film six years prior. So we get encores from those fan favorite nurses who top off their Victoria’s Secret model figures with heads that look like fleshy brussel sprouts (talk about having a million dollar body and a ten cent face…), not to mention a brief cameo from those acid spitting things that look like writhing ball sacks on legs – but these feel less like coherent horror set pieces and more like box ticking for fans. Nowhere it this more evident than the movie’s treatment of it’s unofficial poster boy, the immensely impressive looking Red Pyramid (aka. Pyramid head) who is reduced to unlikely hero status in a last act monster mash with The Missionary (a new creature that looks like an out of work Cenobite) that only drives home further that the films seems to have no idea what it’s doing.
The one true saving grace is a sequence involving an utterly trippy beast that’s essentially a multi-limbed incect creature made entirely of the parts of fashion dummies. Two parts nightmare fuel to one part of one of those freaky fucking things that live in Sid’s room in Toy Story, it’s one of the rare moments where the movie stops tripping over it’s own plot and actually gets down to the business of being remotely unnerving.
For a film called Silent Hill, the only revelation is that this sequel ironically proves to be nothing more than very loud and very flat…