I have never bothered to own a Sony Playstation. However, five years ago I was able to acquire one on loan for about three months. How? Simple. A guy trying to impress my then girlfriend lend it to me in order to get on her good side. How bruck is that? Sucker.
Anyway, one of titles that came with my bamboozled unit was a unique game called Silent Hill. ‘What an odd name,’ I thought at the time. Why would anyone entitle a game, or a town for that matter, after a hill? But just not any hill but a silent hill? Guess we all eventually get tired of being around loud, obnoxious, bitchy hills? Makes sense.
That’s like Cuba changing their name to ‘Communist Island,’ or ‘Hemingway Got Drunk Here Isle.’ Such honesty won’t entice gringos or tourist in droves. Which is what the town of Silent Hill is trying to do. Its citizens aught to get a tax break for life to make up their forefathers bequeathing them with such an unimaginative name.
Alright, pragmatism aside what I did not expect was to play one of the most engrossing games I have ever experienced. So absorbing in fact, my little teen sister who was too scared to actually play the game, devoted herself to watch the action transpire from over my shoulder as I put my own psyche on the line. With a disturbing ambiance thanks to minimalist –yet quite off-putting— music, grotesque imagery and a general sense of desolation due to exploring a mostly deserted town that chips away at your comfort level.
Silent Hill is as creepy as games get. You hear things stalking you but can’t see them and only the uncomfortable hiss of a broken radio as your only means of knowing if they are closing in on you for the kill or not. The game immerses you into its world whether you like it or not. Sure you want to see how the thing ends but I remember at one point feeling such dread while playing it, I ended up giving myself a day or two just get the heck away from it.
It was like playing through an experience akin to watching the exorcist. Which I have to say made it a great game that ultimately ended inspiring three sequels. Which I never got to play as I gave the unit back to the sucke- I mean, my girlfriend’s friend who perhaps realized lending me a Playstation would not yield the expected results he hoped for. Duh.
Fast forward to a few months ago. As we all know, all cash cows whether be in print, TV or even a video game are nowadays the first victims to be turned into film. However since seeing the trailer of Silent Hill on the big screen I found myself totally engrossed, again. Its portrayal of a parent searching for her lost child in a surreal town which periodically slips into hell gave me hope director Christopher Gans (The Brotherhood of the Wolf) had somehow grasped the underlying sense of despair in the game and transposed it onto film. Memories of the dread I had felt before began to resurface. I wanted to see it, I wanted to feel disturbed…yeah, we humans are a strange bunch.
When the movie was released, I could not find anyone to go with. Women I asked were afraid of the movie or simply not interested in the movie. Friends were put off because it was based on a video game, which historically translates into an incoherent jumble and thus a waste of the viewer’s life. Movies like Mario Bros., Street Fighter, Wing Commander, The Resident Evil series and the recent theatrical bomb called Doom come to mind, each an atrocity on celluloid in their own right.
As I could not find anyone to go see it, I did the only thing I could think off, I downloaded it off the net and watched it for free on my laptop. Yes, you heard me. You overpriced movie theatres can all go to hell! You hear me? HELL!
What did I think? Director Christopher Gans created a visually perfect adaptation of a world first portrayed by a bunch of mentally deranged game designers. Bravo! Quite a spectacle to behold and if a feast to the eyes is your thing, you could do much worse. Too bad the same cannot be said about the script, which in true video-game-turned-into-film fashion is a mess. Something about witches, a little girl’s soul desire for vengeance and the fate of the surviving town folk. The plot gets so convoluted at times that I was not sure what was going on-screen.
The screenplay also fails by committing the cardinal sin of having characters act stupidly in order to move the plot along. Or worse, subject us to painfully obvious statements over and over. At one point (55:55min), after the town is enveloped by a never receding fog, has been cut off the rest of the world by a bottomless chasm that appeared out of nowhere and a zombie attack, two main characters chat:
-‘They used to say this place was haunted.’
-‘I think they were right…’
Duh. Someone please kill that first character off. Luckily, someone eventually does. Thank you.
The problem is video game plots have yet to be able to carry the weight and length of a movie. Since a gamer is generally too busy playing the game to be concerned with secondary things like plot. As a result, during the script writing process writers are forced to fill in gaps normally filled in by the player. So far with mostly life sucking side effects to the audience. Sadly, Silent Hill is no exception. This is the course of the video game movie.
I really wanted to like this movie. Visually is one of the better movies I have seen this year, watch for the scenes where the town is absorbed into the nightmarish and rusting ‘Otherworld.’ A Dante’s Inferno inspired vision that is almost worth the price of admission. The musical score, from soft piano pieces to industrial clatter is a big factor and right on and adds to the perversely bizarre pictures on the screen. The plot and dialogue cannot match the rest of the film and are a let-down.
The movie was so close to breaking the video game course that it could almost taste it. Alas, that coveted title will not go to Silent Hill. But compared to the pile t came before it, we can at least take solace in knowing it could have been much, much worse.
Now, if I could only get another zap to lend me their Xbox.