Movies based on video games have never been a widely-respected genre. From 'Super Mario Brothers' and 'Street Fighter' to 'Mortal Kombat' and 'Resident Evil,' I have found myself consistently appalled by the entire bunch. Then, several weeks ago, I caught a trailer for "Silent Hill". It looked dark and atmospheric, with maybe even a chance of capturing the creepy, utterly disturbing mood that made the games so nail-bitingly tense. Unfortunately, this is another spectacular case of great marketing attempting to cover up the shortcomings of a lackluster product.
For everyone unfamiliar with the story, "Silent Hill" is more of a mystery than anything else. Radha Mitchell plays Rose Da Silva, a mother who is worried about her daughter, Sharon's, strange sleepwalking episodes. She decides to head to the source of the problem, a creepy, little town called Silent Hill where things are not exactly what they seem....
I'm not sure if the acting, writing, or a little of both are to blame, but one of Silent Hill's most glaring problems is its laughably-bad dialogue.
I found myself chuckling at serious moments where characters speak and act with such ignorance that one cannot help but wonder if the screenwriter actually thought this sounded believable. Kim Coates was probably the worst offender as a ridiculously melodramatic detective while Laurie Holden, as a police officer caught up in the strange goings-on, was about as believable as Gilbert Gottfried playing 'Rambo.' Even the usually reliable Sean Bean cannot escape unscathed, as Radha Mitchell's worried husband, he works his way through dialogue as if he were half asleep.
As if the writing wasn't bad enough, the viewer also has to deal with a painfully incoherent plot. With hardly any exposition, we are thrust straight into the story. We get action, clues, exploring, and gore. Character development...who needs it? A believable story...no sir. The only things that director Christophe Gans seems to have a penchant for are choppy pacing and annoyingly overused dissolves that cut out all suspense every time the movie actually seems to be hitting a climax.
Fortunately, all is not completely lost. "Silent Hill" does have some redeeming values in its visuals. The video game's unsettling locale has been gorgeously recreated with some of the most grotesque monsters this side of 'Hellraiser.' The camera work does its best to accentuate the landscape and add a ponderous, plodding feel to the film. A word of warning to the weak of stomach, Silent Hill does contain some surprisingly sadistic and violent scenes that I found excessive, even for this genre.
Overall, "Silent Hill" simply does not contain enough appealing qualities to warrant seeing this film in the theater. It really is quite unfortunate in hindsight. We've seen the comic book genre grow by leaps and bounds in the last ten years, isn't it about time that video games do the same?