Its no secret that movies based off of video games are notoriously bad. In fact, I could count on one hand how many movies based off of games I’ve actually liked. I’m proud to say that Silent Hill: Revelation has made me now have to involve my second hand. And no, that’s not what she said.
To start with, this review is covering only the 2D version of the movie as 3D hurts my eyes, and the glasses over my glasses makes for a plain awkward and uncomfortable movie experience. I also will give as few spoilers to the movie as possible but the review will take some assumptions that you
A: Have seen the first Silent Hill movie
B: Have played Silent Hill 1 and/or 3
C: You have a general understanding of Silent Hill’s story
I will denote spoilers with tags wherever they might appear in this review.
When a person thinks of a video game based movie its understandable that Silent Hill may not have been the first choice to come to mind as a movie to make. There are many reasons for this but in large part that is due to Silent Hill’s method of story telling. The plots for each of Team Silent’s games are often vague and cryptic, with a lot of emphasis put on interpreting their story your own way. Diehard Silent Hill fans agree on many aspects of the series’ story, but there is also wide disagreement on some parts. However, the flip side to the vague story telling is that due to the fact it can be interpreted its own way, the movies can branch out and actually FEEL like an original experience rather than just trying to mimic the game it is based on/inspired by.
I will be the first to admit that I’m not any big Silent Hill fan. However, I watched the movie with my girlfriend, whom is a HUGE Silent Hill fan and this helped bring another perspective to my review. Consider this review one that covers fans of old, and new Silent Hill. (I have however done my “homework” and watched my girlfriend beat Silent Hill 1 (and am in the midst of watching her play Silent Hill: Downpour), beat Homecoming, beat Silent Hill 2, and to get prepared for the movie I naturally completed Silent Hill 3). I only say all these things as I feel its appropriate to understand a reviewer’s perspective on a game so the context of a review can be taken into consideration.
The movie begins with tying the ending of Silent Hill the movie to the beginning of Silent Hill: Revelations. Anyone who has seen the first movie knows that may not be the easiest thing to do, but rest assured the knotting is relatively snug in Revelation. Revelation begins with a few easy jump scares that certainly soured my opinion in the beginning. Silent Hill games have never been huge on jump scares but rather built up a slow psychological horror. Unfortunately, as Revelation is only about an hour and a half long such a build up would be impractical. So, though I can understand the need to get the audience into a terrified mood, I still can’t feel that jump scares are the best solution to this.
As the movie carries on I do feel better and better about it. The attention to detail is quite extensive and the acting on all the major characters is pretty good. I feel that Sean Bean does a great job as Harry in Revelation and Adelaide Clemens made me feel like I was really watching the same Heather from the video game. On the other end, Kit Harington who plays a modified version of Vincent in Revelation and is best known for his role as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones comes off as a very stiff actor in this. His emotions rarely change the way they should and his character feels like a plot piece rather than the dynamic character he should be. The detective Douglas, played by Martin Donovan actually felt just like his character in the game, but his role in the movie is pitifully small and I couldn’t gauge anything extensive in that short time frame. There are a couple of other somewhat famous actors/actresses but they aren’t particularly important for long.
While the movie progresses I can’t help but notice some of the events that the movie rips directly out of Silent Hill 3, and how some it completely discards. For instance a scene near the beginning of the movie that almost identically mimics the car ride to Silent Hill from the game, but with a different character at Heather’s side. And before I forget to mention, the major overall plot of Silent Hill 1&3 (MINOR SPOILERS) is a cult’s wish to get their God born.
The movies take a different stance and want that same cult to get a demon killed. The God from the games and the demon from the movies are the same person. (MINOR SPOILERS END). As you can see the movies take their own perspective on the story but portray it in a way that fits their lore.
Around halfway through the movie I begin to really sit on the edge of my seat. There is a scene with an extremely creepy, and as far as I’m aware, original monster that gives Revelation the legs to stand on its own as a true entry to the Silent Hill franchise. The monster is as unique as it is born of nightmares. The way it is introduced even indicates its creators could add a fantastic lore to it and be born as a great addition into Silent Hill. This monster is in fact the only monster in the whole movie that is entirely CG created. This brings me to my next point.
I’m a stickler for proper CG usage in movies. The slightest misuse or under-use of CG in a movie can completely destroy the mood and atmosphere it attempts to create. Aside from a couple of rather obvious scenes (I’m looking at you shameless 3D shove-in) the CG is used properly and real sets are used in conjunction with or instead of. CG follows my rules of only being used when it looks good, fits the scene, and a real “version” of it would be impractical. The monster I mentioned above looks quite good in CG (it didn’t take me out of the experience) and its movements and mannerisms would have felt far too stiff and unrealistic if done with say, a puppet, or something similar.
Moving on, many Silent Hill fans have complaints about the usage of Pyramid Head in the movies. For those of you who don’t know, (MINOR SPOILERS) Pyramid Head is James’ from Silent Hill 2′s personal “bogeyman”. This sounds fantastic but it’s really not. Just trust me on this one. (MINOR SPOILERS END) Pryamid Head’s role in Revelation is explained as being different from his role in Silent Hill 2. However, the lore dictates that Pyramid Head can only ever appear for James. Its a minor complaint but one that does have to do with the integrity of the franchise. Team Silent was quite good at crafting new psychological meanings and experiences for each different major character in each game and to many die hard fans this feels like a copout. But, this is not made by Team Silent and ultimately Pyramid Head’s role is not just a shoehorn in like in the first movie and so he actually feels like more of a true entity in Revelation and less of a money grabbing tactic.
The movie nears its end now and I begin reflecting on all I have seen. Its quite clear that unlike its video game based movie cousin, Resident Evil, the makers of Revelation really did their homework too. There are many, many references to all of the Silent Hill games. Some big, some small, some obvious, some tucked neatly away. While thinking about this it occurred to me that the makers of the movie really do love Silent Hill and Revelation was there way of giving their own take on a popular story, without bastardizing the source material. And I think that is fantastic. My final note to add is that I really loved the final minute or two before the credits rolled. The hidden, and obvious references at the very end to almost all the other Silent Hill games was almost touching in a way and felt like a great tribute to Silent Hill’s legacy. Some of them I didn’t catch until my girlfriend pointed them out. I can’t wait to watch it again and see what more I missed!
Ultimately, I find Silent Hill: Revelation to be better than its predecessor and an adequate, if not perfect addition to the Silent Hill franchise. It serves as a great re-imagining to Silent Hill 1 and 3 and any fan of the series should find it a worthy watch. However, its more than understandable that non fans, or complete newbies to the franchise might not see it as anything note worthy. I can say this though, is it the greatest movie ever made? No, not by any stretch of the imagination. Is is the greatest movie based on a video game ever? Well, it could be, depending on your viewpoint and game preferences. I certainly enjoyed it very much so! I give Director Mark Tonderai huge props for making a movie based off a video game that is good, feels like a movie, and doesn’t flat out copy its source material or bastardize it.
Author’s Note: This is my first review of this type and I completely understand its not perfect. If any readers would like to leave some constructive criticism on how I can improve my reviews or anything else, please go right ahead. I would love to do more of these and I do feel that my writing and style will get better over time. Thank you all for your time and please leave some feedback on your thoughts on the movie too!