I went and saw Silent Hill today. I’ll try to write a spoiler-free review that describes how I feel about it.
As you might expect, the Silent Hill movie has a lot of elements of the Silent Hill games. In fact, it is not difficult to classify the movie as a collection of such elements. Here’s a few that I thought they did really well:
- Locale. Silent Hill looks exactly like it should. The otherworld looks the way it should. The sets and locations are extremely close to the game, and I liked them a lot. The first 45 minutes or so in particular will really please people who have played the original Silent Hill.
- Pyramid Head. He’s awesome, and they don’t overdo him.
- The soundtrack. They mostly used music from Silent Hill 3, but the industrial booming works just as well in the movie as it does in the games.
- The fog and darkness. With the exception of a couple of extraordinarily bad shots, the fog and darkness are spot on. They really help to convey the “Silent Hill Feeling.”
- The body bag monsters. You don’t see much of them, but they look perfect.
- The sirens. Again, perfect.
- The nurses. A little different than the variations of nurses in Silent Hill (probably closest to 3’s), but they were still very cool.
There were also some elements that I think they could have done a lot better.
- The radio. They used the siren well but totally missed out on the importance of the radio.
- Dahlia Gillespie. They split her character into two, and I don’t think it was really a good move.
- The pacing. This is a difficult problem for any movie based on a game, but Silent Hill breaks down around the middle. It’s too long and it meanders in the middle.
- The story. It’s very similar to Silent Hill 1, but it’s far more explicit and far less interesting. The elements are there but the presentation is not as good. I especially didn’t like the last half.
The reviewers aren’t big fans of this movie, but I understand why: the film is built to please people who’ve played the games, and I think it would seem even less interesting and have even more pacing problems if you do not recognize some of the content. So, if you didn’t play the Silent Hill games, you probably won’t like this movie very much.
However, if you are like me and have played these games to death, there’s a lot to enjoy. As I mentioned before, the first 45 minutes or so are expertly lifted from the games, right down to some of the cinematography used in the games. The otherworld looks excellent and conforms to the regular Silent Hill otherworld rules, and the characters in the game are suitably close to their game counterparts. If you like the game I think you’ll get a lot more out of the film.
Silent Hill was surprisingly the most gory movie I’ve seen in quite a while. Most of the gore is well done and it’s only used in a few key scenes, but it was a bit of a departure from the games’ usually understated and implicit violence. The main failure of the movie, in my mind, is the trap that so many horror movies fall into: explaining everything to the viewer. There are a couple of scenes where the movie just stops so they can go back and explain everything in excruciating detail. The Silent Hill games are very careful to never give too much away; they drop many hints, but putting the story together has always been a job for the player. The movie, however, fell apart for me towards the end because they insist on making everything as brutally clear as possible. There are also some major changes to the story that I thought were bad, and the ending was sort of annoying. Still, the movie was by far the best video game translation I’ve seen, but on the other hand, there’s not a lot of competition in that category.
In short: Silent Hill is enjoyable if you’ve played the games, but probably not if you haven’t. As a film translation of various game elements, it works pretty well. As a horror movie, it’s not all that great.