There’s a sword fight between Pyramid Head and another monster. No, I’m not kidding. Silent Hill: Revelation (3D) eschews any sense of pacing, subtly, or even horror, managing the seemingly impossible task of taking forever to make, while being farted out like it were one of the Paranormal Activities, Saw, or other recent horror movie perennials.
While the Christophe Gans adaptation of the video game franchise had its fair share of problems–the script’s wimpy explanation of Silent Hill and ditching the oppressive isolation it built up in its first half–it did have a grasp of the series’ roots in Lovecraft and David Lynch. Furthermore, Silent Hill’s major departures from the plot of its source material (like Radha Mitchell’s Rose replacing everyman Harry Mason) brought a maternal resonance to the scares rarely seen in the horror genre. The creatures represented the protection of children, or, in the case of Pyramid Head and the Janitor, a failure to protect them. Gans also had a feminist motif, relegating Sean Bean (as Rose’s husband, Christopher, also returning) to a frustrated supporting role where he wouldn’t be saving the day.
B-movie director Michael Bassett (Deathwatch, Solomon Kane) ditches that subtext, or any subtext for that matter, in favor of schlock and gimmickry. Blood spatter (in 3D), severed parts (in 3D), and screeching monsters (in 3D). Such loud, obvious ploys for easy startles (as opposed to the Silent Hill games’ psychological terror and existential angst) brings to mind Paul W.S. Anderson’s Resident Evil movies, but with a cursory glance at Francis Bacon. It’s a gorgeous-looking movie–smartly importing the production design (along with Akira Yamaoka’s melodies) from the Gans movie–but Bassett uses it for spinning the camera around, Wachowski-style. He might as well have made the dumbed-down remake it is at heart.
If Bassett understands that Silent Hills 1-4 were about their respective protagonists’ identity crises, he doesn’t seem to care. His lead, the third game’s Heather, played by Adelaide Clemens, is on the cusp of adulthood but still has doubts about herself: her father, Christopher, moves her from place to place in fear of Silent Hill’s cultists, the Order, and she has nightmares about the town and its demon-child overlord Alessa. She gets vague hints about her connection to the town, mostly a warning: “Do not go to Silent Hill.” When Christopher is abducted, she and another loner, Kit Harrington’s Vincent, go there to confront her past. None of this is explored mind you, it just pops up as exposition. Weirdly, Bassett wastes most of Silent Hill: Revelation on people talking (in 3D). As a result, good actors like Bean, Deborah Kara Unger (as Dahlia, Alessa’s mother), Malcolm McDowell, and Mitchell (who gets the worst, “my love,” dialogue, “my love”) are wasted on cameos explaining the same three plot points about the Order, the “Seal of Metatron,” and Alessa’s twin souls. All gobbledygook. The games and Gans had their share of such nonsense, but never made it the focus like it is here. References to Silent Hill’s actual conceit (alternate realities, psychological/sexual dysfunction, and personal hell) are brought up and discarded with little concern for implication.
This disinterest in theme extends to Bassett’s treatment of the creatures: in the games (and the first movie, to a lesser extent) they were Silent Hill’s manifestation of people’s psyches. Some characters didn’t even see them as monsters. Here, not so much. The monsters instead are just different flavors of Resident Evil’s nasty critters. Where the first film had the Janitor (a symbol of pedophilia that was as pitiable as it was disturbing), Silent Hill: Revelation has a mannequin spider (which is there to kill an extra and look “cool”). There’s no purpose.
Such problems existed in the first movie, of course. Gans and writer Roger Avary stumbled in Silent Hill’s back half, overloading on soap opera exposition and gore effects (all magnified in the sequel). What they did, and Bassett doesn’t, is give Silent Hill a presence. The town (as in the series) was an eerie, dreamlike, and uniquely American place of industrialization, religion, and bourgeois fashion. Every building implied some dark secret and sordid history, from the hotel to the hospital. The only thing missed was the game’s dash of quaint tourism; Bassett adds that back in with an amusement park scene, but overlooks how it’s another symptom of psychosis. Instead, he has made a sideshow attraction.
With gutless shock and no substance, what Revelation leaves is empty, soulless product. In 3D.