Monday, October 22, 2012

Silent Hill (2006)

Director:  Christophe Gans
Studio:  Davis Films
Starring:  Radha Mitchell, Laurie Holden, Jodelle Ferland, Sean Bean
Tagline:  We've Been Expecting You; The Silence Will Be Broken
MPAA Rating:  R
Genre:  drama, mystery, psychological thriller, satan, cult, religious occult
Scare score: B
Rating:  B

Plot overview:  Curious and concerned as to why her adopted daughter Sharon (Ferland) has been shouting the name "Silent Hill" during her dangerous sleepwalks, Rose Da Silva (Mitchell) takes Sharon to go learn more about the town and the girl's past.  Soon learning that Silent Hill is an abandoned ghost town following a horrible coal mine fire that still burns, Rose's suspicious behavior causes dedicated police officer Cybil Bennett (Holden) to follow the mother and daughter into the barricaded lands belonging to Silent Hill.  When the mysterious figure of a girl crosses the road in the dark, Rose swerves out of the way, thereby crashing her car and knocking herself unconscious.  When she comes to, Sharon is missing and Rose must set out into the town, which is coated in a snowfall of ash and a frightening, supernatural darkness.  Rose's husband Christopher (Bean) is simultaneously investigating the mystery of Silent Hill's dark past although police and other officials warn him to stay away.  As Cybil and Rose counter the terrors of the small town together, they must face Silent Hill's dark monsters: both real and human in form.  To save Sharon, the women also have to right the wrongs of the town's predominant cult through a sick game of revenge in which no one may leave atoned.  

This film was really very interesting.  Although it wasn't the greatest horror I've ever seen (not by a long shot), that doesn't mean it wasn't a good movie.

I didn't realize for some time how long the movie is; at a whopping 125 minutes, viewers with a short attention span may not care enough to stay on to see whether or not the film resolves itself.  To the film's credit, even though I was aware of how much time was passing outside of my computer screen, only a few scenes actually dragged on.  

The plot is pretty complex during most of the movie, but the action and acting keep the events moving. I was a big fan of Holden in the role of the rough and tough police woman who may look sweet but means business.  During the fight scenes she was constantly a step ahead of the bad guys, and as far as acting went she was also fun to watch.  Mitchell should be commended for the daunting role of Rose, who I found myself getting a little bored of as almost the entirety of the film's 125 minutes feature her running around trying to find her daughter, getting trapped by horrible nightmarish monsters, and escaping again only to continue desperately searching for her daughter.  In some scenes the acting was not so convincing, and I had to rely on the promise of plot development to get me through.  Lastly, I really can't say I was a fan of the young Miss Ferland who was frankly very annoying as Sharon but more charming in her persona of Alessa/ manifestation of evil.

This film isn't necessarily full of scares, and the scarier scenes are more plentiful in the beginning.  After a few scenes of ugly and freaky monsters/ mutants, the type of terror that Silent Hill throws at us begins to change and become more psychological, with some added gore towards the end.  Lots of points to the creative, nightmarish monsters.  They were certainly gross and added a bit of terror to the film during their select scenes.

Let's talk about plot.  Stemming from the 1999 video game of the same name, it makes more sense why so much information had to be packed into the running time of a movie.  I found myself constantly trying to piece the puzzle together myself, but it was admittedly tougher than your average horror mystery.  This truly is a complicated piece, and given that, I really enjoyed the viewer-friendly explanation that Alessa gives Rose towards the end.  Then, while enjoying the denouement of the film - thinking I now understood everything - I suddenly realized that there were many questions left unanswered, but I believe this is done on purpose to keep the audience thinking, even after the movie is over.  


I'm still trying to decide what I think.  This might be unclear but here's my take: Rose is already dead following the car crash she endures upon entering Silent Hill.  Likewise, Cybil dies following her motorcycle crash.  Since I'm not sure that Sharon was ever actually a real person, but more so a physical spirit, the lasting, living goodness of Alessa, I won't say she 'died,' per se, but rather that she returned to whence she came.  If you don't want to say that they are actually dead, I will also accept that they are now in some dimension alternate to our human reality, but still one that borders ours (as we see Christopher can still 'feel' Rose's presence when they are 'near' each other).  Clearly the Silent Hill that the main female protagonists experience is different than the reality Christopher and the police are exploring.  The men are in the real, human world where Silent Hill is truly abandoned.  Our leading ladies, on the other hand, have entered the limbo or hell-on-earth that Silent Hill has become following the curse of Alessa (and her pact with her look alike who we can only assume is the devil).  While the darkness period of the day is a manifestation of hell, monsters of ash and fire (all relating to how Alessa was made to suffer), the seemingly 'light' part of day is basic limbo where all of the surviving members of the cult are trapped, perhaps thinking they are alive although Rose hints to the very annoying cult leader Christabella (Alice Krige) - and wow how hard are we trying to invoke some religious notion behind the name/ role - that she is aware of their fate and hiding it from the rest of the cult.  Anywho, they are stuck in this limbo of sorts basically awaiting a 'second coming' of Alessa, who, having 'sold her soul' (more or less), is now in control of the cult's "reality."  By revealing to Rose the truth behind the town's fate (or what we're supposed to believe is the truth), Alessa gets the help she needs to enter the cult's safe haven church and seek her revenge.  Obviously, as the film ends and Rose thinks that she and her daughter are returning home, they are still clearly in the foggy realm they have been in the whole time; and whether or not this is death, they are certainly in a parallel dimension to reality where Christopher is waiting at home alone.

Wow!  Psychological thriller, much?  Lots to think about and chew on, so assuming the plot interests a given viewer, I think that person will be happy.  On the other hand, if you're not into this stuff, you may be really bored for 2 hours and then upset afterwards.  I enjoyed all of the psychological projections (of Alessa, as we learn) which manifest themselves into the realm that our female protagonists experience.  While these created monsters and deformed, mutant like humans add plenty of scares to the film, we realize the true monsters are the members of the cult and especially their awful leader, who is a master of mob mentality.  I usually am not into splatter fests, but I have to say Christabella couldn't have gotten what she deserved in any better way.  That penultimate scene got pretty silly pretty fast, but I do admit I enjoyed it.

Final critique:  Again, while this isn't your typical horror, what Silent Hill lacks in scares it makes up for in content - and I don't mean a concrete plot beyond a horror movie, I mean layers and layers of psychological and even religious depth.  Can't say I was crazy about all of the forced religious motifs, although I realize they were important for one of the 'overall messages' of the movie.  Very creative monsters, or whatever you want to call them.  I'd recommend this film to anyone looking for something deeper than your average slasher film.  Warnings go out to all of those who scare easily because if anything this movie will probably make you uncomfortable and even grossed out during the scenes with said monsters and additional gore.  If you don't like being scared or subjected somewhat graphic material, my advice is to stay away from this one.  Overall, I did like this movie although it wasn't quite up my horror alley.  A good watch, especially if you have someone to talk about it with afterwards.

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