The first Silent Hill is an underrated gem. Lumped in with the rest of the video game adaptations, it is instead an incredibly effective horror film. Visually stunning, with some good performances, Silent Hill had two big strengths: it created a terrifying atmosphere, and it refused to treat its target demographic like idiots.
Silent Hill: Revelation cannot quite live up to the promise of its predecessor. It continues the story several years down the line, with Heather (played by Adelaide Clemens) near eighteen years of age and living with her father, Harry (Sean Bean). She is being plagued by horrible dreams of a town called Silent Hill. She knows nothing of her real past, and the events of the first film. Unfortunately for her, the town itself is coming to take her back.
From the off, it seems as though the filmmakers were concerned with how ‘hard’ to decipher the original film was. The entire movie, in particular the first half hour, is full of expositional dialogue. The back story from the first film is clumsily explained through a series of clunky scenes, and even Heather’s immediate situation (being near-18 and going for her first day at school) is awkwardly explained in an early bit of dialogue with Harry.
There is, quite frankly, too much speech and not enough done with it. It is used to make the plot that much easier to understand – from discussing the history of the town of Silent Hill, to Heather’s origins, and even the mysteries of Silent Hill’s sect, the Order of Valtiel. Characters spend so much time explaining what is going on that there is no real chemistry between them. You do not feel Harry’s yearning for his lost wife, or the growing relationship between Heather and Vincent (played by Kit Harington, better known as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones).
An even worse problem is created, though: the characters do not appear all that phased by what they see. Whether it’s a sword-armed demon, the walls rotting around them, or a fairground made out of human remains, the characters barely react. Then, with each further moment of expositional dialogue, tension and fear are eradicated. It has to be said, though, that this is not a bad movie.
Silent Hill: Revelation does saunter along, disappointing, for about half of its run time. But, the moment Heather actually enters the town of Silent Hill, that all changes. Instead of the fleeting and relatively safe settings of the first half – a high school, a shopping mall, a motel – the atmosphere of Silent Hill is immediately oppressive.
The film, at that point, hits strong with a succession of fantastic horror set pieces. A twisted version of a mannequin warehouse gives us the most terrifying part of the film, and the fear continues well into Silent Hill’s mental asylum and dark carnival. The original visuals, such a triumph of the first film, come back to the fore to great success. A dangerous world of rust and decay, constantly shifting, is created. Not only that, but the monster designs are fantastic as well. Falling somewhere between David Lynch and Hellraiser, they are the kind of body-horror monstrosities that will slowly seep into your nightmares.
Given all of these stylistic positives – the art style, the monster design, and the sets –it seems a little strange that a decision was made to make it in 3D. Although there are moments where the 3D works quite well (during the snow storms and fairground scenes, for instance), there are large portions of Silent Hill: Revelation where it feels out of place. It takes away from the unique feel that the film has, and makes it feel a hell of a lot cheaper than the first Silent Hill. It also suffers from the usual problem with dark 3D movies – it is sometimes very hard to work out exactly what is going on.
Silent Hill: Revelation, unfortunately, doesn’t quite live up to the hype. Although the film is sometimes stunning – and terrifying – to look at, and although it contains some genuinely scary moments, it feels a little like a wasted opportunity. It falls down in the same places that the first one was strong: an unnecessary desire to explain every detail. It is good for a video game adaptation, but really that’s just a case of damning with faint praise.