Sometimes, there are only certain things a film needs to get right in order to be a successful movie. This is the case with Silent Hill. It has numerous problems, but it’s quite easy to overlook them because of what it manages to accomplish. It is lacking in terms of characters, script and the fact that it is only intermittently scary. It does, however, feature an interesting story and atmosphere that it draws you into.
Now, I’ve never actually played the Silent Hill game series. That may be blasphemous to some people, I’m sure, but I just never got around to them. Going into the movie, I knew just about two things regarding the series. There was a town and it was named Silent Hill. There was also someone named Pyramid Head, and he is supposed to be a very interesting character. If nothing else, the movie confirmed both of these beliefs.
We begin the film looking for the missing daughter of a couple. She sleepwalks, and is about to jump into a pit, before she gets tackled to the ground by her mother. The daughter says she wants to go home to Silent Hill, but after awakening doesn’t remember any of this, or even know what Silent Hill is. The mother (Radha Mitchell) decides to go against the father’s wishes and takes the daughter to the town the next day. Followed there by a police officer, the mother’s daughter goes missing, and the two remaining characters soon realize they are trapped in Silent Hill. At this point, the film also follows the father (Sean Bean, who I’d like to mention cannot pull off an American accent), as he searches for his wife and daughter. He ends up wandering around the town as well, being given a hand by another police officer.
The father’s role ends up being small in comparison to the mother’s. In fact, his role could have been entirely cut out of the film, and it wouldn’t have changed much in terms of plot. It almost seemed like director Christophe Gans decided last-minute that there needed to be a male lead, so he went and changed the script up just so that this new character has something to do over the course of the film. As a result, Bean’s character has practically no development or even any real emotion. Granted, that may not be due to a last-minute change at all, but more so a result of the script as a whole.
There are so many things wrong with Silent Hill that it’s a surprise to me that it manages to be as entertaining as it ends up being.
In fact, none of the characters get any real development. They are cardboard cutouts of what should be real people. They don’t speak, act or seem like real people. Their dialogue all comes across as forced, as well as something that people wouldn’t actually say, given the situation. Their actions are also surprising. I mean, sure, the point that the mother is looking for her daughter is something that the film makes very clear, but she never quite acts like a real mother should. She follows random clues, she heads directly into what could easily kill her, without looking for another way, and she doesn’t accept help from people. She’s a character who doesn’t seem in the least bit like an actual human being, and even her emotional responses prove this. She is rarely sad, despite possibly having lost her daughter, and she also never seems frightened whenever the film decides to change the tone a bit and become scary.
The main issue I have with Silent Hill is the fact that the film warns you whenever things are going to start getting somewhat frightening. Horns blare in the background, and you notice the change in the environment. This change doesn’t illicit fear either. Instead, you are given joy by the change in tone. During the times before and after these sequences, the film acts more like a mystery than anything else. The characters go from location to location, looking for clues that will take them to the next one. It’s only during these shifts that there is any excitement. That’s not to say that some of these times aren’t scary, because they most certainly are, but it’s not the same type of dread that it seems the filmmakers were going for.
Now, the story is rather interesting and engulfing, making you care about what is actually going on within the town. It changes locations frequently, and there is a lot of scenery that is fascinating to look at. The problem here comes from the fact that a lot of the back-story regarding the town is never mentioned. We get one slightly drawn-out explanation at the end, but it doesn’t serve to explain what actually went on. I know that there is a person named Pyramid Head, and I saw him earlier in the film. Who is he, and why is he here? This is what I really wanted to be answered, but it never got brought up at all. It’s a shame because, given more back-story, we might actually care about what happened there.
There are so many things wrong with Silent Hill that it’s a surprise to me that it manages to be as entertaining as it ends up being. While you are given a warning every time the film tries to be scary, it manages to be scary, for the most part anyway. There isn’t much back-story on the town itself, especially regarding the character Pyramid Head, and it would have been nice to have main characters that acted and sounded like real human beings, but in the end, Silent Hill is a fun little ride that will give you some scares and an entertaining story. It’s not a great film by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s definitely an enjoyable experience.
Conclusion: It’s a decent little ride, but Silent Hill has a lot of problems.
Recommendation: If you’re a fan of the games or interested in the story, Silent Hill might be worth a watch.