Before we get into this you guys should know that I am not at all the intended audience for Silent Hill: Revelation. I love horror of course, and I appreciated the gore (of which there’s plenty) and makeup designs in the film. I understand that this world has significance to some of you and I can sort of see why, it’s a pretty original aesthetic. So while I can’t grade this film on how well it matches up to the games, the mythology or whatever it is you need out of a Silent Hill movie, I can grade it as a standalone film. And there it does not succeed.
Even if we assume that Silent Hill: Revelation is a complete success in terms of world creation (which I doubt, it’s surprisingly small in scope with much of it taking place in a warehouse/prison type environment), it’s still a mess of a movie. And not an enjoyable one. In fact, I wonder if the film would have been better off being even more insular – keeping outsiders completely at bay. At least then I could wonder if there was something I missed that kept me from being invested in the characters. Instead, this sequel politely opens up its doors to newcomers with an easy-to-follow plot and “characters” whose histories are thoroughly explained. And that’s where the film’s reach exceeds its grasp and it truly reveals itself – it’s not an actual movie.
From the painful expository breakfast table banter between Heather (Adelaide Clemens) and Harry (Sean Bean) to the cardboard cutout cliches of her classmates at school, everything that’s supposed to take place in the real world rings even more maddeningly false than the shenanigans at Silent Hill itself. The dialogue is so unbelievably stilted I couldn’t help but wonder if this was actually a first draft. Perhaps writer/director Michael J. Bassett felt that he needed to cut to the chase and get to the action (which he tries to shoehorn in as early as possible with a couple of substandard waking nightmare sequences that make the 2010 Nightmare On Elm Street look like a Bunuel film by comparison), but there’s really no excuse for these inhuman exchanges. These aren’t characters, they’re ciphers. And their inability to behave or speak like humans is perhaps the film’s most consistent element. We’re literally in a film where a father gives a daughter a white vest for her birthday because “he saw her looking at it in a mall.” I can only guess this vest is an identifiable part of her wardrobe in the game.
The film is in a dead heat to get to the actual town of “Silent Hill” but keeps tripping over itself to get there. An unnecessary private detective character and at least three scenes between Adelaide and her new friend Vincent (Kit Harrington) that begin and end on the exact same notes as their predecessors clutter the proceedings. It got to the point where I was dying for them to get to “Silent Hill.” A burning desire that I later regretted.
Once Heather and Vincent get to the town things get boring. Quick. I found myself longing for the film’s clumsy version of reality because there, at least, I had something to hang onto. Aside from some cool ash-ridden vistas that look pretty great in 3D, this film’s version of “Silent Hill” seems to be comprised entirely of the aforementioned dank warehouse/prison and a smallish fairground just outside. Here Revelation becomes so visually monochromatic it’s hard not to fall asleep. And this is where I’m guessing being a fan of the games might actually help you out, because if you can fill in the blanks in logic that this film has chosen to omit you might just have a satisfactory experience. No such luck for me though. Malcolm McDowell shows up for a bit as Leonard, hamming it up as Malcom McDowell is apt to do these days, and it’s a scene that manages to be both so confusing and so predictable that I was actually kind of impressed by its goofiness.
Things continue until the inevitable and anticlimactic end (which basically features a cenobite, odd in a movie whose other creatures are so distinctive). The denouement provides another impossibly inhuman exchange that, in any other movie, would be treated as a life-shattering event. Here, this potentially profound loss is met with a shrug. Which is pretty much how I felt on the way out of this film. I wasn’t angry with it for wasting my time, just perplexed that this collection of creative choices actually exists as a film. I really hope it makes some of you happy.