Written and Directed by: Michael J. Bassett
Starring: Adelaide Clemens, Kit Harington and Sean Bean
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
ďGo to hell!"
"We're already here."
"We're already here."
Calling Silent Hill the best live-action video game adaptation ever might sound like damning with the faintest of praise, but itís an ignominious distinction that was actually quite well-earned. While Christophe Gansís take was saddled with a script full of nonsense, the director effectively outran it with a film that effused atmosphere and style. The original games hailed from Japan, but the French directorís adaptation often resembled the dreamy, nightmarish quality of classic Euro-horror, and it even ended on a Fulci-esque note. Six years later, a sequel has arrived with Michael J. Bassett at the helm, but all the nonsense finally catches up with this follow-up despite the directorís best efforts to simply style his way around it.
Picking up several years after the first film, Silent Hill: Revelation reveals that Christopher (Sean Bean) and Sharon (Adelaide Clemens) have been on the run ever since their ill-fated trip to the ghost town. On the eve of Sharonís birthday, the two have moved to yet another town and assumed new names. It does them no good, as the cult operating out of Silent Hill catches up with them and kidnaps Chris in an attempt to lure Sharon back to fulfill her destiny. She teams up with another new kid in town (Kit Harrington) and walks right into their trap, thus unleashing the nightmarish world that has plagued her since she was a child.
The biggest revelation in this sequel is that they had about five years to write a script and maybe only used five days. Iíll grant that what I can recall of the Silent Hill mythology isnít exactly the most graceful, but the original film untangled it well enough to function. On the other hand, this sequel canít quit tripping over its own plot mechanizations. Not only does it have to deal with getting around the original filmís ending (which prompts a ham-fisted cameo appearance from exposition machine Radha Mitchell), but itís also constantly bringing viewers up to speed about the backstory that was hashed out the first time around. Making heads or tails of it all is essentially a foolís errand, mostly because the basic plot is almost at odds with itself. Both the cult and Alessa, the demon-child once used as a vessel for the cultís god, want Sharon to return to Silent Hill since each side believes itíll result in the otherís destruction.
This puts Sharon on the run from both of them, which effectively raises the stakes; however, it also results in a confused, muddled sense of action and momentum since thereís never really a lesser of the two evils (even though the film sometimes would have you believe so). As the film unfolds, it seems pretty obvious that the cult itself clearly deserves everything it has coming to them, especially when they end up on the wrong end of Pyramid Headís rampage; however, itís not like Alessa acquits herself as being a whole lot better, and this leaves Sharon as something of a nothing protagonist who just has to show up and coax information from the various people she encounters, such as an insane man in an asylum (Malcolm McDowell) and Dahlia Gillespie (Deborah Kerr Unger reprising her role from the original). The setup and structure certainly mimics a video game, so much so that you can almost hear Bassett pushing the correct button to advance the stilted dialogue after Sharon has wandered for the adequate amount of time.
At least she has an absolutely gorgeous production in which to traipse about; Revelation might be a narrative failure, anchored by lazy twists and forced exposition, but Bassett goes down swinging with a lushly designed film that especially carries over the creepy atmosphere from the original. Silent Hill itself is still shrouded in fog and ash, and a candy-colored slickness dominates the aesthetic. There are brief moments where the visuals work in tandem with Akira Yamaokaís distinctive score to create the slightest hint of ethereal creepiness. If nothing else, the film serves as a reminder of what a modern Nightmare on Elm Street film should look like, as it sometimes glimpses an imagination for the bizarre. Such moments are all too brief, though, as Revelation quickly descends into gore-soaked tedium whose ghastly and cool creature designs canít distract from the hollowness of the whole endeavor. Fans of the video game will be likewise diverted by familiar sights and sounds (such as the killer nurses), but it soon becomes obvious that Revelation is a loud, shrill, and empty exercise in attempting to create a movie with a killer production design and little more.
It all comes at the expense of an unusually talented cast and crew for a horror sequel. Original director Gans passed on the project, but Bassett isnít a bad replacement having directed stuff like Wilderness and Deathwatch. Sean Bean is back but spends most of the movie tied up in captivity (maybe this is why his characters often die--so he doesnít have to be stuck in dead-end sequels), and an almost unrecognizable Carrie-Anne Moss pops up as new cult leader Claudia Wolf. Adelaide Clemens is the grown-up Sharon (or Heather, as sheís called now) and is asked to do little more than serve as a dead ringer for her video game counterpart, right down to the wardrobe. Technically the film is pilfering mostly from Silent Hill 3 for this first film sequel, and it often looks the part; unfortunately, thatís about all it does with the franchise. For all of its concern with the backstory and mythology, it does remarkably little to advance it in any meaningful way. In fact, the whole thing just feels like a setup for another movie, and this film never makes the case that we should be all that interested to return to Silent Hill for a third time. Rent it!
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