Monday, November 9, 2015

Silent Hill (2006)

Here I am, back again from a short hiatus after my uncle got everyone in the house sick. Being doped up all the time is not good for the writing process. I mean, yeah, you can get some great ideas while in that state, but good luck writing any of them down. I could barely walk to the bathroom without tipping over and, as I'm sure at least one friend can attest, my typing ability most definitely suffered. But I have returned and I owe you all three more entries before I let Horrorfest come to a close. When debating on what those three should be, I turned to you. Or rather, I turned to the messages you've all sent, whether as requests or comments. One I get from time to time is regarding video games and whether I will ever give the whole "Let's Play" thing a go.

For some reason, you all seem to get the impression that I might be entertaining.

On that same note, I've also been asked about what games I like and if I was a fan of horror games. This line of questioning leads me to believe that people really want to see me shitting myself as I flee monsters. Alright, while I won't come out and say whether I'll be doing the "Let's Play" thing just yet, I will say that I do enjoy some horror games. Some. As I have made clear in the past, I am a wuss. I can take a punch, but I am not looking to go into monster-filled hallways or face off with xenomorphs. First person perspective games are difficult for me. I grew up on arcade cabinets and consoles, often always leaning more towards fighting games. I didn't really play a RPG until Final Fantasy VII came out and every gamer collectively shat themselves over it. But I had played horror games. Splatterhouse, Fester's Quest, and Uninvited were things I gave my time to at a young age and I loved my experiences with them.

Few things match the fear of not knowing how to open a car door while your friend frantically yells at you.
But my introduction to a horror game that truly made me scared came along much later with Silent Hill. By today's standards, it seems hokey and has very dated graphics, but it still gives me the chills when I see it staring back at me from my shelf. No, really, Dahlia Gillespie's eyes are fucking creepy. You open that case and there she is leering at you. Remove that disk and there she is again. Two sets of Dahlia eyes to ruin your ability to sleep. She's not even a demon, she's just a fucking kook.

And her gaze haunts me while also causing my sphincter to slam shut.
Despite the stigma attached to video game movies, I was really optimistic about a Silent Hill film. It was a game largely inspired by an excellent film, Jacob's Ladder, so I figured we'd possibly get some really similar imagery. The story of the game always got to me too, as it is one of those primal fear scenarios anyone with kids can empathize with. Harry Mason is a man who lost his wife and is now a single father. After a car crash, he awakes to discover that she's disappeared, thus leading him on a desperate search through a town filled with demons. Harry has one thing he cares about: his child. Finding her is what drives him and the story of his search is a powerful one. I really wanted to see it done proper justice in film form. My hopes got even higher when I heard Sean Bean was cast in the film, as he's a damn fine actor. Oh, how naive I was.

Much like James Sunderland, I was clearly deluding myself.
Our adaptation begins in Ohio, truly the most frightening of American states. There we see two parents chase their daughter who has been suffering from severe nightmares. Her name is Sharon, because Cheryl was copyrighted by Donald Trump and he will totally sue you if you try to use it. And that's not the only change that makes no sense as not only are her adoptive parents both alive, but her dad isn't named Harry. I guess we're not allowed to use that name either? Or at least not until the sequel, right? Yeah, call it nit-picking, but changing these characters' names simply doesn't make sense. It adds nothing to the story and only serves to distract and irritate the fans who are going into this hoping for something true to the game. But don't worry, they'll surely make it up to us when Harry and Cheryl...Chris and Sharon...end up in Silent Hill, right?

Oooh! Swing and a miss!
No, you see, that's not going to happen because this is not the story of a parent desperate to protect and save his child. No, this is the story of Christophe Gans deciding to focus on Rose, the mother, because apparently a father cannot be the focus because he wanted to focus on a theme of maternity. Now, hold your outrage, because I have something to say first. I have no issue with strong female leads or the idea of a mother trying to save her daughter. But I do have issue with them taking what was already a great hook and changing it to the point where it loses a lot of what made it strong. What do I mean? Well, you see, Harry only had Cheryl. She was all that he had in this world after the death of his wife. Rose doesn't carry that same weight. Her spouse is alive and well, despite being played by an actor who has a proclivity for being rather the opposite of well.

"No, really, I'll be fine. Just rub some dirt on it. I'm good."
 Without that it feels like the stakes aren't as high because Rose still has someone who needs her, who loves her and wants her. Harry doesn't. If Cheryl is lost to him, he is a man left with nothing but regret and the knowledge that he has lost two loved ones. It adds to the desperation of his narrative and you can feel how fragile he truly is. Rose is...a woman in a horror movie. Not to say we don't have awesome badass ladies in the world of horror, but the vast majority of women in horror films usually are a cliche. They scream, they run, they make terrible decisions, and they're often blondes. Gans can say what he wants, but I honestly think he just wanted to make a movie about a pretty blonde in a spooky place. So, that's what we got. And this means that Chris, the character played by Sean Bean, is a rather meaningless entity altogether. Yes, let's take a great actor and then let him play a character that has little to no effect on the entire plot of the film. Great idea.

He left a bigger impact when Christian Bale shot him in the face in the first 10 minutes of Equilibrium.
So, Rose takes Sharon to Silent Hill, the place she keeps screaming about when she has nightmares. Because when your kid is having horrible night terrors about a place, nothing cures it like taking them there to experience that terror firsthand, right? But, much like in the games, things go awry and Rose ends up crashing and waking up alone. But wait! i skipped out on an important scene, right? No, not really, because it's just a scene that highlights part of what I really hate about this movie. But let's talk about it anyway. Before the crash, they stop at a gas station and meet Officer Cybil Bennett. In the game, Cybil was the first normal person Harry met in Silent Hill and her presence was comforting and supportive. In the movie, Cybil comes off as nosy and believes Rose is abusing her daughter. But I don't really need to illustrate why Cybil is awful in here with simple words. No, I have a visual example for people who might need it.

She's played by an actress known for playing terrible adaptations of awesome characters who come off as unlikable & annoying. Yay.
Yes, Cybil is played by Laurie Holden, otherwise known as Andrea from AMC's The Walking Dead. For those of you who don't know, that show is based on an extremely popular comic series and Andrea has been one of the central characters of it. She's gotten stronger and more bad-ass over time, surviving when many others died, all the while being an enduring fan favourite. On the show, Andrea was whiny, irritating, attracted to abusive psychos, and a near complete mockery of the character from the books. What I'm basically saying is...Holden has a history of portraying fan favourite characters and it not being a big hit with said fans. I don't know why either, as she is talented. All I can figure is that the people in charge of these projects genuinely wanted the audience to have little to no emotional attachment to her characters, for some unknown reason. But it might be a bit worse here, as she basically starts off jumping to conclusions and generally proceeds to be rather useless in the grand scheme of things.

Unless you really think we need two ineffectual blondes in our movie.
See, here's the thing, I know I've gone off the rails and stopped talking about the story. There's a really good reason for that too, I promise. It's because the story is dumb. It's really really dumb. But okay, let's get back to the stupidity. Rose wanders into Silent Hill, they do a fairly great job of recreating the opening of the original game as she gets pulled into the Otherworld, and then after all of the creepy shit...she meets Dahlia. Dahlia the crazy kooky cult lady who abused her daughter. Not here though. Here she's portrayed as a sympathetic figure. A mother who lost her daughter. How'd she lose her? Oh, well, the cult she was in burned her alive. Yep, I'm really feeling the sympathy for her.

"Come on, I'm super tragic and junk! Look at my hair!"
After meeting yet another female character who once served an actual purpose in the source material but is only here for name recognition, Rose finds a drawing that points her towards the school. But first we get to have some great character interaction as Cybil shows up and acts like a completely unsympathetic bitch towards Rose and then a monster attacks them both. This right here could actually be a basic description of the basic plot. I'm going to sum this up as best I can in as short an amount of time and effort as I can. Rose and Cybil walk around and keep calling attention to themselves. Pyramid Head shows up and seems slightly threatening, but doesn't really hurt them. Rose meets a young woman who is in that cult. Apparently the members of the cult are still alive in Silent Hill. Who needs a feeling of isolation when you can just have lots of people running around, right? Anyway, the woman gets forcibly stripped by Pyramid Head.

It turns out that he's not a big fan of showing off skin.
So, hey, they meet the cult. The cult are...well, culty. It all goes rather badly. Rose finds out that Sharon looks like the girl they burned, Alessa. What a very strange coincidence, yes? Also, Cybil makes a really stupid call and gets burned alive. It's probably my favourite scene. So hey, she sure was useful. Speaking of useful, Chris has been roaming around in the regular "not covered in ash" version of Silent Hill with a cop who only existed as a name in the game. They're attempting to find Rose and Sharon. This plotline goes nowhere, because Chris was an afterthought and served no real purpose in this film, meaning that we have a big budget film where two really talented actors are almost completely wasted on useless characters. Woo.

Kinda like tossing in an antagonist from an unrelated story resulted in no real payoff to them being there.
Rose takes an elevator ride to go meet Alessharon and Lisa, a nurse who isn't dressed in a blatantly sexual manner and isn't all stab happy. Lisa is...actually quite irrelevant to this story. She's relevant in the game because she meets Harry fairly early on and serves as a comforting presence, being just as scared and confused as he is to be stranded in the hellish Silent Hill. Here she's just a nurse that, again, only exists to give a small nod to the game while offering no real substance. Anyway, Rose ends up bringing the "evil" into the cult's headquarters, they all die rather horribly, and Alessharon joins her as they go back home in the Otherworld. yes, it ends with the clear impression that they didn't escape at all and are still stranded in the Otherworld, unable to cross over into the regular world and keeping the family from ever being reunited. Nothing has really been solved and a whole lot of people died. Don't worry though, the sequel will ignore that downer ending.

Because it's a comedy! Hyuk hyuk!
If it wasn't obvious by my multitude of complaints or general dismissiveness towards the actual plot, I really dislike this movie. The first Silent Hill game is a very creepy and moody psychological horror experience about how love and desperation can bring one man to go through hell to save the person they love. The film I just watched is a fairly mediocre horror movie where a woman runs around and makes a lot of bad calls that result in people dying and her ending up stuck with the bizarre amalgamation of her daughter and a dead girl in a weird ash covered world version of their house. Featuring Sean Bean! Yeah, this movie was a massive let down. Changing the lead to a woman feels like a cheap excuse to have an attractive female lead, characters get thrown in while serving no real purpose, and most of the creatures highlighted in this movie where not even in the original game.

Neither was this gaggle of assholes.
This movie felt like a massive waste of time when I first saw it and it still does. There was a lot of potential here for a really interesting horror film that could've dealt with loss, feelings of isolation, and the fear of truly being left with nothing. Not only that, the effects on display really are very well done. I wasn't joking when I said the initial Otherworld transition was perfect earlier, as it really was. But they shoved in useless characters and plot devices and it caused the overall film to feel muddled and aimless. Do you know what really could've solved that problem? Excising Rose, the cult, and the bullshit Chris stuff, replacing it with a story about a guy named Harry who wanted to find his fucking daughter. It's even worse when they give us an actor perfect to play that part and he gets largely underutilized.

I bet he's dreaming of being in a good movie. One where he might die, but at least gets to actually act.
A lot of people hold this movie as an example that video game movies can be good, but I don't know why. While it may look good, not amount of window dressing can make up for a piss-poor plot and characters who may as well not even be there. Less is more and this movie simply has way too much. So, until Konami makes a movie based on the Silent Hill pachinko machine, I'll be here preparing myself for what comes next...because this shit sandwich has a sequel. Later days. bleeders.

In Hell, there is no silence or hills. Only pachinko.

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