Christophe Gans’ 2006 adaptation of Konami’s “Silent Hill” ranks as one of the best video game to film adaptations ever. It was a deeply atmospheric and deeply boldly stylish horror movie about a woman’s quest to find to find her adopted daughter who becomes lost in the titular hellish alternate dimension. While holding onto the game’s simplistic narrative, Gans and screenwriter Roger Avary made an expressive and horrifyingly beautiful film. Sadly the sequel isn’t even on the same level. In fact, “Silent Hill: Revelation” barely on the level of a Syfy Channel original movie.
Part of the film’s lack of visual sophistication could be attributed to its relatively small budget. The first “Silent Hill” had a $50 million production cost while “Revelation” had a $20 million budget. This meant that the newer film simply couldn’t match the scope of the original. But character depth and competent storytelling aren’t subject to financial considerations. “Revelation” could have turned its limitations into strengths. Writer/director Michael J. Bassett could have done the work with his script and actors to externalize the terror felt by his characters as they are drawn into an ever shifting nightmarish landscape but he doesn’t. He could have taken the Rian Johnson or Josh Trank route and told his story around his small budget but he didn’t do the either. Instead, Bassett tried to imitate the tone of the original with few resources and produced an abject failure.
The film opens with the Heather Mason (Adelaide Clemens) and her father Harry (Sean Bean) as they settle into another town, something they’ve done many times before because Harry has wanted to protect Heather from her past a citizen of the otherworldly Silent Hill. Bassett starts off well by wrapping up the cliffhanger from the previous film efficiently and suggesting that its survivors were left deeply scarred. This potential quickly dissipates as the film devolves into generic horror movie clichés. Heather is haunted by her literal and figurative demons in a setting that eerily recalls a broadcast sitcom. Whereas the first film wasted little time getting its characters to the titular setting, Bassett spends far too long in an unfinished looking suburban setting. By the time Heather is finally pulled back to Silent Hill, it’s robbed of much of its visceral power, like a roller coast ride that’s proceeded by a showing of “An Inconvenient Truth.”
In the first movie “Silent Hill” and its many video game iterations, the title town was a place of mythic resonance. In Bassett’s film, Silent Hill is still an ugly monster filled hamlet but its art damaged beauty is gone. It’s filthy, pulsating textures has been replaced by grimy, obvious set dressing. Its unnerving soundtrack has been replaced by a series of groan worthy needle drops. Its performances are of roughly the same quality but Silent Hill’s appeal has never been with it nuanced characters, it’s been with its stunning visuals and quietly unsettling tone. Divested of those essential qualities, Silent Hill is merely a colorful setting for below average horror movie.
“Silent Hill: Revelation” is available on Blu-ray and digital streaming through Amazon.
Mario McKellop has written about film on Examiner for the last three years and can be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org