Silent Hill

In an attempt to find a cure for her daughter’s sleeping disorders, Rose takes her to the ghost town of Silent Hill (No, really.  That’s what she does and why.  I’m not kidding.)  Once there, the daughter disappears, and Rose is surrounded by some of the most seriously disturbing undead and demonic creatures ever to hit the screen.  Luckily, Rose is joined by an obsessive policewoman with a pistol.  Unluckily, she doesn’t have many bullets.  And speaking of a lack of luck, the only “people” in the town that can carry on a semi-coherent conversation are fundamentalists that hide out in a church and shout about “the evil one” and “witches.”  Rose has to find her daughter, avoid the monsters, and get out of town before the fundies do something that makes the flesh-ripping guy with a pyramid head appear pleasant by comparison.

In the world of Silent Hill, God is absent.  So is the Devil.  But Hell…Hell is doing just fine.  Demons that unleash hordes of giant cockroaches, walking cinder-children, crawling corpses with razor wire across their eyes, and hideous armless forms that spew lava—they’re all here.  Oh yes my children, Hell is open and you’re all welcome.

Silent Hill is a fast-paced ride that takes its job of scaring and shocking its audience very seriously.  It doesn’t make much sense for most of its running time, and once it does, you’ll wish it never tried to explain things; but who cares?  This is seriously creepy stuff.  And it alternates methods of disturbing its audience, so you don’t have a chance to become desensitized.  It starts with surrealistic insanity.  Buildings mutate, monsters appear and disappear, and the air is filled with snow-like ash (it’s quite lovely…in a gothic poetry sense).  Then there are moments of pain and cruelty.  A man is crucified on a wire fence, and turns out to be alive (kind of).  Another is tied in a bathroom stall with the earlier-mentioned razor wire.  Then things get gory.  And once we’ve digested all that, a new kind of horror is put into play: the fundies.  While the minions of Hell would drive any sane man crazy, the fundamentalists, who live in a church and show no concern for a girl’s skin being ripped off because she broke the rules, are far worse.  These are enemies you can despise.

Interesting in a film where the religious are the villains (too rare in movies, yet everything they say in this picture I’ve heard from people I’ve met…except for the screams of “she’s a witch”) that faith has power.  The fundamentalists are safe, barricaded in their church and praying.  They aren’t safe because they have the power of God on their side, but simply because faith, in and of itself, is a powerful thing.  But it isn’t a good thing.  Faith in Silent Hill, much like in our world, is the ultimate evil.  Alice Krige (the Borg Queen in Star Trek: First Contact), who combines beauty (watch the otherwise unwatchable Ghost Story) with full blown psychosis, is perfect as the self-appointed priestess of the fanatics.  You’ll loath her within thirty seconds of first seeing her.  This is a film that will have you siding with Hell (I can’t say “over Heaven” since there is no mention of such a place).

I would have liked more background on the church-goers.  A lot more.  They seem out of time.  Why did this group have power in the 1970s?  It’s an important question if you want to take the movie seriously.  Do you need to take it seriously to enjoy it?  No.  The cinematography, effects, frights, gore, and action guarantee a good time.  But some clarification wouldn’t have hurt.

It also would have been nice to eliminate Sean Bean, who does his best with an unnecessary role.  As Rose’s husband, he walks around with an incongruously oblique policeman and hammers you over the head with story points that were pretty obvious already.

For horror fans, this will be a very satisfying film.  I can’t say what gamers will think as I’ve never picked up the Silent Hill video game.  Perhaps everything will make sense to them, but you don’t have to have a joystick to be entertained.