Christophe Gans’ Silent Hill, while thoroughly imperfect, was at least a stylistically faithful adaptation of the popular video game, and continues to stand tall as the most reverent one to date. The film’s modest successes are not repeated, however, in Michael J. Bassett’s (Deathwatch, Solomon Kane) inept, offensive butchering of the outstanding third Silent Hill game.
Fans of the game will be acutely aware of why Bassett has chosen not to just adapt the second title in the series, because Silent Hill 3 shares a direct narrative fabric with the first game, whereas the second – easily the best game of the lot – is almost completely unrelated beyond sharing the same setting. And while the first few minutes of Revelation demonstrate some sure promise, accurately replicating the nightmarish carnival scene from the start of the third game, the overly busy, spasmodic direction continually places the viewer at arm’s length. The incompetent helming, combined with a lot of questionable make-up effects and ropey CGI, makes Swiss cheese out of what was truly terrifying in the video game.
The likelihood is that if you’re not acquainted with the source material, this film is just going to leave you angrily mystified. Sean Bean returns as Christopher, but is now under an assumed name, Harry, living with a now-teenage Sharon (Adelaide Clemens), who is going by the name of Heather. All of this information should come as a surprise – it is revealed mid-way through the third game – yet Bassett keenly, dispassionately doles it out in the opening minutes.
Lazy, cluttered exposition spells out the rest for us, making for a haphazard experience even for those acquainted with all of the particulars ahead of time. While the game explains all of this in plain terms, this film glosses over a lot of the finer points, stirring them amid a slew of incongruous pop-culture references – no Silent Hill film should ever reference Facebook or Twitter multiple times – which only further pulls us out of what should be an atmospherically creepy outing. This is the sort of film where when characters are searching an object, they proclaim so out loud, because apparently we wouldn’t know otherwise.
Heather does not appear to be able to differentiate between dreams and reality, yet Bassett’s visual conveyance of this fact is woefully amateur, resorting to cheesy 3D flourishes that hurl weapons and severed limbs out of the screen, but don’t really give this nightmarish world any texture whatsoever. Furthermore, characterisation is distressingly slack; the bond between Heather and a young classmate, Vincent (Kit Harrington), feels inauthentic and forced, going from standoffish and antagonistic to warmly affectionate within about 10 minutes of screen time.
By the time Heather has decided to ignore every single sensible character and arrives at Silent Hill, the film is half done, at which stage Bassett simply recycles a lot of the body horror and crazy nurses we encountered last time. Fan favourite monster Pyramid Head – a creepy, hulking staple of the earlier games – finally makes his presence felt in the pic’s final quarter, but is barely given anything to do, certainly nothing matching his skin-ripping shenanigans in the first film, anyway.
Aside from a moody score by Akira Yamaoka – who also scored the video games, as well as the first film – there’s really very little to praise at all. Some of the visual design is decent, and Clemens is well-cast as Heather, but really, every good element feels short-changed by the insufferable script and third-rate direction. As for the rest of the cast, the oddly distinguished bunch have a fun time hamming it up; Sean Bean – who appears for maybe 15 minutes – still can’t work an American accent to save his life, while Deborah Kara Unger and a virtually unrecognisable Carrie Ann Moss get to mince about the screen in heavy make-up as vile crones. The real treat, though, is Malcolm McDowell’s short cameo as a blind miscreant in drag; completely perfunctory and adding absolutely nothing to the film beyond a few perverse chuckles. Also, those expecting to see Radha Mitchell’s arc from the previous film carried over will be let down gently here; her screen time totals around a minute, so don’t expect much in the way of developments.
After laying some firm, flawed groundwork with the first film, this execrable sequel undoes all of the good work for video game adaptations that Gans’ film mustered. A sacrilegious adaptation of an excellent video game, Silent Hill: Revelation will infuriate gamers, and just confuse everyone else.
Silent Hill: Revelation is in cinemas now.
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