SILENT HILL

I really enjoyed watching Silent Hill largely because I didn't have any prior knowledge of the video games and I hadn't even seen the trailer, so I will attempt to pass on the favor by not telling you anything substantive about the premise or plot in the next few sentences.

The only thing I'd seen about Silent Hill was a 15-second TV advert that made it look like a nice atmospheric suspense movie instead of belonging to the slasher/torture genre that I probably wouldn't enjoy (Saw, Wolf Creek, Hostel, what have you), so when my flatmate expressed the need to see this on opening day, I offered to join him. On the way to the theater I learned it was based on a video game (in fact the only game to give my flatmate's brother nightmares) which might have lowered my expectations and mollified my criticalness, but so be it.

In the first few minutes I was surprised to discover it actually boasts recognisable actors, in the forms of Radha Mitchell (Man on Fire, Melinda & Melinda) and Sean Bean, and one of those unknown to me, Laurie Holden, quickly became my favorite cop since HiPs, the 1989 Energizer Bunny ad spoofing CHiPs. The acting is nothing special, but in a movie like this dialogue is usually a method of communication rather than the main attraction, so who really cares?

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Initially, Mitchell does her best impression of fellow aussie Naomi Watts while exploring the ghost town of Silent Hill, but the sudden emergence of a few grotesque figures evocative of Dante's Inferno made me realise this was going to be more than another Ring retread. Admittedly, there are elements in common with "J-horror" since the game was created by Japenese designers, but this is decidedly not another tepid offering of PG-13 kiddie horror. Though it begins relatively benign, each subseqent encounter with evil escalates in intensity until finally all hell breaks loose. If you don't have an "I can't believe I just saw that" reaction or two by movie's end, you might not be human.

Along with his subject, I knew nothing of French director Christophe Gans. I missed his last movie, Brotherhood of the Wolf, which is now five years old but his relative lack of product wasn't reflected in a lack of vision for Silent Hill. The art direction, production design, costume design, and make-up in particular, were collectively top-notch, making the world and its macabre inhabitants at once repulsive and irresistible.

The fun for me was knowing nothing and — both during the movie and afterwards — trying to figure out exactly what the nature of Silent Hill is, and in the end I found the movie a provocative addition to the supernatural genre despite a few cliches and what I thought were unsatisfactory explanations. Having read a bit about the game since coming home, however, what I considered flaws in the revelations near movie's end do seem to be consistent with the game, and their seeming incoherence to me might be due to their being influenced by Eastern mythology.

Still, despite its tendency for over-explaining, the movie ironically left enough gaps for me to develop a personal interpretion to my satisfaction. So if anyone does see it, I'd love to bounce my reading off you. I recommend it unless you don't want to see any kind of gore (brief though it is).

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