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Silent Hill: Revelation

October 27, 2012
Silent Hill Revelation

I must begin with a confession: I am the guy who liked Silent Hill. Good action; great atmosphere; a tight, coherent story; the script, while clichéed, at least wasn’t stupid. Even the film’s detractors — of which there were many — admitted that it looked gorgeous as it shifted from delicately fog to rust and decay. How, I was curious, can you make a sequel to this film, especially six years after the fact?

The answer, as evidenced by Silent Hill: Revelation, is that you can’t. Or at least Michael J. Bassett can’t. Everything that made Christophe Gans’ gem sparkle is gone, replaced with an ugly, lumpy mess.

The first installment left off with Sharon Da Silva returned to her adoptive father, Christopher (Sean Bean), and her mother, Rose (Radha Mitchell) only an observing spirit. But this is retconned to say that Rose is actually trapped in Silent Hill, and has directed Christopher to keep Sharon safe and far from the town. And so the two have picked up and moved with some regularity over the last years. In their new town he is Harry and she is Heather Mason (Adelaide Clemens). However, she doesn’t remember anything from Silent Hill, and thinks they’re on the run because her father once killed a guy, which cutely prevents her from calling the police when she thinks she’s being followed.

And she is indeed being followed; it turns out that the cult from the town — now under the leadership of Christabella’s sister Claudia Wolf (Carrie-Anne Moss) — can actually send people out into the real world when it suits them. They want her back because they can only be freed from the demonic Alessa by reuniting her with Heather.. Sharon.. whoever. There’s basically no point in even trying to figure out this story’s metaphysics without remembering the preceding movie, though at least it tries presenting a clunky, awkward recap.

So, haunted by her dreams, Heather remains aloof from all personal contact, which she makes clear in one overwrought monologue to her class that she must reiterate to fend off the other new kid, Vincent (Kit Harrington). And if you can’t figure out who Vincent is within a few minutes of his appearance you’re just not paying attention anyway; save the ticket price and be equally entertained by a dangling piece of string.

The previous film made expert use of the dichotomy between the grey and dark versions of Silent Hill — one of the original game’s foundational mechanics — to develop tension and atmosphere. There were obstacles to be overcome, a mystery to be uncovered, and even some uncertainty. Bassett’s script not only has no mystery or suspense, the entire story is dumped on the audience in massive blocks of tedious exposition. By the time we actually reach Silent Hill we know exactly what’s coming, and it’s straight into the dark, decayed version for a sequence of underperforming set pieces. Gans lifted his finale from legend of the Overfiend; Bassett seems to have crossed Hellraiser with Street Fighter.

As I said, plenty of people didn’t care for the story in Silent Hill either, but at least they agreed that it looked great. Unfortunately, Maxime Alexandre is no Dan Laustsen. The imagery is composed almost exclusively from muddy shadows, broken up mainly by glaring flashlight beams aimed straight at the camera. The stereography is also pretty terrible, and wearing the glasses only makes the already too-dark shots even darker.

On all counts, Silent Hill: Revelation is a disappointment, and it’s probably disappointing even if you didn’t enjoy the first one as much as I did.

Worth It: no. Just rent the first and pretend this doesn’t exist.
Bechdel Test: as much as I hate to say it, it does manage to pass.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 28, 2012 13:28

    I have yet to see one of these films and I don’t think I will start with this one. Apparently it beat Cloud Atlas on Friday at the box office!

  2. October 28, 2012 13:55

    I’d suggest giving the first one a try (there are only two, unlike _Resident Evil_), especially if you enjoy horror films.

    As for the box office, I’m uncertain what it means. The numbers were close — $3.5M to $3.46M — but then you have to take into account that _Cloud Atlas_ is available in IMAX in some locations, while _Silent Hill: Revelation_ is available in 3D in most locations. My intuition would be that the 3D bump would be greater despite the smaller surcharge since it’s more widely available, but I really don’t know.

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