Review: SILENT HILL: REVELATION is Nothing of the Sort

James Marsh, Asian Editor
This lifeless, uninspired sequel to Christophe Gans' 2006 adaptation of the Konami video game, Silent Hill, retreads much of the same ground, but is almost totally devoid of scares, atmosphere, or most surprisingly, blood.

I don't play video games. Save for the occasional dalliance with Angry Birds while on the bus, I simply don't have time for them. Those curious to know how Michael J. Bassett's film measures up to its console-based source material will find nothing to enlighten them here. What I can tell you is how the film compares to its big screen predecessor and how well it delivers as a CG-heavy, 3D-shot fantasy horror film. And the short answer is, not very well.

Rose de Silva (Radha Mitchell), who found herself and her daughter trapped in the alternate reality of Silent Hill at the end of the first film, has somehow managed to push young Sharon back into reality - a course of action that has left her trapped forever beyond the reach of husband, Christopher (Sean Bean). Father and daughter have spent the seven years since on the run, moving from town to town, state to state, assuming numerous false identities, always in fear of their lives. Sharon has been plagued by dreams of Silent Hill the whole time, but her father has kept the truth from her, claiming Rose was killed in a car accident and that he's wanted for murdering an intruder.

No sooner have they arrived at their latest new home, Sharon - now called Heather - begins having hallucinations during the day. At school, at the mall, even in the street. When her father is abducted, and she is beckoned by the message "Come to Silent Hill," scrawled in blood on her wall, Sharon has no choice but to accept, with fellow new classmate Vincent (Kit Harington) tagging along.

Plot-wise, that's about it for Silent Hill: Revelation. Other characters show up, such as Martin Donovan's private detective or Malcolm McDowell's crazy, blind grandfather, but they are more dramatic triggers than real characters, who spout information before being hastily dispatched. All you really need to know is that Sharon/Heather is coaxed back to Silent Hill, where the same Dark Order is waiting to reunite her with demon girl Alessa, so she will become one again and can be expelled back to Hell.

The reality of this means numerous extended sequences of Sharon wandering ash-covered streets, or spooky abandoned asylums, and being periodically attacked by assorted creatures resembling bargain basement Giger/Del Toro knock-offs. While these sequences are clearly what Bassett & Co. assume their audience is paying to see, they prove the most leaden, unimaginative stretches of the film. The reason Gans and writer Roger Avary's earlier film was received as kindly as it was back in 2006 was because of the film's vivid visual aesthetic, which went to great lengths to create an environment seemingly spewed from the bowels of the underworld. 

This time out, we have the same faceless ghouls again - Pyramid Head, Vagina Face and the buxom twitchy nurses - but they seem reluctant to get involved, let alone scare us. Revelation's primary new creature is a spider fashioned from random mannequin parts, which for an instant shows an inkling of devilish promise, only for Sharon to then duck into an air vent, never to encounter it again.

While I'm normally a fan of pointy-pointy 3D in horror films (with Final Destination 5 being the best example of this to-date), Silent Hill: Revelation fails to do anything with this extra, though superfluous dimension. We are treated to the perpetual "immersive" ash fall, which evokes fleeting murmurs of "oh look, depth of field", while a couple of the larger, more aggressive antagonists occasionally thrust sharp instruments in a general forward direction, but it's nothing we haven't seen countless times before, and almost always done better.

I can't say I'm disappointed for the franchise that Silent Hill: Revelation proves to be anything but, but I am saddened that Michael J. Bassett was unable to conjure up something more imaginative and engaging in the wake of his gleefully bloodthirsty Solomon Kane. Speaking of which, for a film almost solely populated by rabid demons brandishing over-sized edged weapons, where is the gore? I can forgive a film like this for scrimping on the depth and nuance in the script department if it's going to paint the walls red with the blood of damned souls. But no, almost every death - and there are only half a dozen or so - takes place in the shadows or entirely off-screen.

Australian actress Adelaide Clemens (perhaps best known for her role in Iwai Shunji's Vampire) does a perfectly respectable job, although she'll have a tough time shaking the fact she's a dead ringer for a young Michelle Williams. Elsewhere, however, the supporting cast of Kit Harington, Sean Bean and Carrie-Anne Moss can do little to breathe life into such flaccid material. Fans of the first Silent Hill can take pleasure in recognising certain buildings and background characters from the previous film, but my advice to anyone even remotely tempted by this property is to stay home and play the video game instead. And that's coming from someone who's never had the pleasure.

Silent Hill: Revelation 3D opens in Hong Kong today and in North America on 26 October.
Around the Internet:
  • ikilledbambi

    i knew it will suck when i saw the overpopulated trailer

  • Josh

    No gore? No one gets flayed skin thrown at them in this movie? Sadness.

  • SH Fan

    Yeah, SH1 had more (but just the right amount without being super bloody and gory), and had THAT one been in 3D, it would have been better. I re-watched it a few days ago and was like wow, this could have totally been 3D and worked well! This one, not as much :/

  • ShitHappens

    Oh i really doubt that any fan of the franchise been waiting for horror-slasher instead of thriller-drama. Yeah, i've just described why sequel is no where near the first movie and the games. It's a freaking Resident Evil with heartless teenager and just monsters that need to be killed. However, if you like such stuff - go check it out. Get couple of beers and enjoy the show. Or get something really bitter and watch how franchise going down, both new game and new movie. 5/10. 5 for special effects, really loved them (except for the spidey, that was hilarious).

  • SH Fan

    I was gonna mention that, too, that it felt more like a Resident Evil horror-slasher instead of a psychological horror movie. And what was up with the slight love story?! And yeah, I laughed at the mannequin spider too. The woman next to me was super scared and literally jumping in her seat and being all squeamish, and I just couldn't understand why. Even the scary jump-out-at-you moments weren't scary. And even the "gory" moments weren't disturbing or gross or creepy. Not just in terms of SH, but in general.

  • DforDawn

    It sounds like what you liked the less is exactly what the fans of the games have been waiting for. So I can't wait.

  • disappointed

    i am a huge fan of the games as well and i thought the 1st movie was a decent effort for a video game movie but yes they changed way too much story wise(especially the ending) but they did nail the atmosphere.

    after reading this review. i have no desire to see this movie now. i tire of these directors claiming to love the game they are making a movie of and the completely ruin it.

  • Big Wonk

    No need to give up hope yet. The reviewer's comments - understanding nothing of the setting, getting which monsters were in which movies confused as he has, not knowing the names of some, and misunderstanding the difference between the cult in the first flick, the one in the second, and that in the video game, clearly mark him as a person who does not understand the goings-on, and so cannot form an educated opinion. He goes so far as to call the monsters "Del Toro knockoffs." Clearly, he does not know the Silent Hill mythos - and its monster design - precedes Pan's Labyrinth by years. How would he know if it was deep or not? He clearly was the wrong reviewer for the film.

    And really, the 3D isn't good enough? 3D hasn't changed since the days of red and blue colored glasses. It was, is, and will always be a gimmick where knives get shoved at the screen. Moreover, his litmus test of "not enough blood" is just juvenile and lame.

    Maybe it'll suck, but I trust this particular review about as far as I can spit it. It's easy to rag on video game adaptations. So easy it's a cliche.

  • I want this to be good as much as the next Silent Hill fanboy (and I am one), but criticizing a review because the guy doing the reviewing isn't well versed in the lore of the games or even the previous movie is ridiculous - the movie should work regardless of whether you know the games or not, and it would be even more beneficial to the movie if seeing the previous one wasn't a prerequisite to appreciating and understanding it (see: Aliens, Terminator 2).

    Attacking him over the del Toro comment is silly too - did you know Guillermo del Toro has made other films besides Pan's Labyrinth? Mimic predates the first Silent Hill by a couple of years, and The Devil's Backbone was released in the same year as Silent Hill 2. I doubt there was any influence from either side, but I can understand why someone who reviews films for a living and has already confessed to not having played the games would think there was.

    I'd imagine going in that he knew he was about to watch a horror movie, featuring a lot of monsters that have stabby things in their hands (Pyramid Head, the nurses), so it's not unreasonable for him to expect there to be at least a little blood shed.

    Do you know why it's easy to rag on video game adaptations? To the point that it's a cliché to do so? I'll give you a minute.

    ...
    ...
    ...

    Because there hasn't been one adaptation that could legitimately be called a good movie!

    The best we've gotten so far is the original Silent Hill, and that was let down massively by a crappy third act (save for the dancing in the blood scene, that was creepy) - the film was average at best. I would make a case for the original Mortal Kombat movie, but that's dated badly, and is a good movie in the same way that any of the Fast & Furious movies are good (i.e. guilty pleasures). Everything else has been terrible. If this continues that tradition, it's the reviewer's job to say as much.

    At the end of the day, that comment reads like it was written by a fan boy unwilling to accept the possibility that the movie adaptation of a franchise he loves *might* not be that good, so feels the need to resort to trash talk. This guy has seen it, and you haven't - it doesn't matter what your background with the franchise is, you cannot possibly form an opinion on a movie you haven't seen.

  • marshy00

    Why is your handle "Big Wonk"? Is it because you've got a massive...oh, never mind. I just read your comment. I get it now.

    Go see the movie, the franchise sure needs your support, then come back and tell me how awesome it is. Don't criticise an opinion of a film you haven't seen yet, that just makes you look like an idiot.

  • SH Fan

    No spoilers in my review, so feel free to read it. (it may allude to a few subtle things, however).

    Saw it last night. I have to say, this review is pretty accurate. The previews make it look like it's very much based on SH3, then they change EVERYTHING. Heather and Douglas were awesome but the story fell apart big time, the music was underwhelming (full of orchestrated pieces - that's not the Silent Hill feel at all, but because they used pretty much the entire SH2 and 3 soundtracks in the first film, they didn't use hardly any here), and it lacked any creepy moments or any real feel of Silent Hill. Too much took place in the real world, there were way too many normal people in the real world and Silent Hill, and there were only a few glimpses of rust, blood, and fog. There were a few "boo!" moments that tried to scare you but that's not what Silent Hill is supposed to be, it's more about scaring you by being creepy and eerie, which SH1 did well.

    Sadly, the absence of Carol Spier as Production Designer this time around, and a $28 million budget as opposed to the first film's $50 million budget really affected the movie. And perhaps the absence of Roger Avary as writer. For me, it wasn't the changes they made necessarily but how they did it. The first SH movie changed some stuff but still remained more or less faithful. The writing wasn't perfect, but overall it was all done a lot better than this sequel. Another factor is the first film built a lot of the set and had a lot of outdoor scenes filmed inside so they could have real fog. Due to the budget, mostly everything here was outside and so CG fog was added in, and that does have an impact. And a lot of the costumes were done differently or enhanced with CG as opposed to the detailed multiple-piece costumes they used in the first film. Except for a few recycled enemies (which felt like fan service), it was rather bland. The new enemies lacked any SH feel and just weren't creepy (I actually laughed at one). Claudia was a huge disappointment. And each character's role was just a let down. Like I said, they changed everything, and made it very Hollywood style. And Pyramid Head left me scratching my head as to why he was even in it (the reason he's in it is actually told in the movie, which was disappointing because it paints him almost as a good guy).

    Dahlia's cameo was confusing (again, fan service I think), and the plot seemed like it wanted to go 3 different paths and so it didn't flow right. They also tried to explain things but did a bad job at that (both in terms of story and in terms of dialogue). It's like they read a vague description of SH3 and then based a movie on it without actually playing it. I'm not saying it needs to remain 100% to that story or characters, but this didn't even make much of an attempt beyond a few things. I was confused with the story, and they rushed a lot of things and threw in things at the last minute and never elaborated, things that should have been part of the main plot from the beginning. So even as just a horror movie, putting aside my love for the games, I would have been disappointed 'cause it just didn't flow well. Fans of SH will definitely enjoy the very last scene before the credits, but that really was my favorite part and it shouldn't have been (you'll understand once you see it).

    And yes, the 3D wasn't that impressive. They bragged how they did things that has never been done before, but it was all pretty standard 3D to me. Not bad, just 3D.

    Another factor to consider is it was 30 minutes shorter than the first film (which was 2 hours 5 minutes, as opposed to this film's 1.5 hours). So they rushed the story along, but in my opinion they spent way too much time in backstory and the real world and not nearly enough time in Silent Hill.

    I dunno. There are some major parts of the game they took and completely changed, and not only did they change but they made it completely opposite of what it should have been. I'm a huge SH fan and was very excited about this sequel after waiting 6 years for it (I loved the first movie, even though it had a few flaws it was still the best film adaptation of a game). And I've considered maybe I over-hyped this for myself, but no. I went in hoping it would be great but also aware that it could be bad, and I really did my best to enjoy it but half-way through I realized it was just not gonna be what we were all expecting, sadly. So fans of SH and SH3 will probably be disappointed. If you go into it without any expectations based on the game and watch it simply as a movie, you'll probably enjoy it more but will still be disappointed I think. The story isn't mediocre because it didn't remain faithful to the game, it's mediocre because it has holes and flaws or lacks and real flow. Heather and Douglas rocked. Vincent, Claudia, Harry, and even Rose left a lot to be desired. Don't expect this to be the SH3 adaptation we were led to believe it is. It's just not.

    It pains me to say that, 'cause the people involved tried to do a good job and I know they put a lot of effort into it and tried to please fans. They had to also work with connecting it to the first film, and so because of those changes in the first film they had to make a few changes here. But leading up to this I worked out possible scenarios in my head that I thought they would take and that would have worked well and still remain faithful to the game while still making sense based on the first film, but they didn't even come close to those scenarios. They just used generic explanations and went a different path. Many things felt like an after-thought, and what should have been after-thoughts became the main plot. It was a strange direction they took. :/

  • Martin Wagner

    As a huge fan of the game franchise, I didn't even like the first film, which, bizarrely, a lot of fans seemed to love. Questioning many of them, it seemed they were all squeeing over the production design and how well the movie LOOKED just like the game. The dreadful, scare-free script didn't even seem to be something they noticed.

blog comments powered by Disqus
​​