Friday, October 24, 2008

Double Review: Silent Hill (The Movie) and Silent Hill: Homecoming (PS3)

I've always been a fan of the Silent Hill games. The first one used a limitation of game hardware at the time (not being able to see very far) and turned it into an atmospheric trademark of the series (oppressive fog and darkness). It was subtle and creepy. You could wander around in the fog, encountering nothing for long stretches of time, but what made it scary was knowing that a monster could pop out of the fog or darkness at any given moment.

When the monsters did start coming, each one was a major threat. The difficult controls and crappy weapons available to the character were pretty ineffective, giving the game the feeling of a hopeless nightmare. That oh-my-god-something-is-trying- to-kill-me-and-my-legs-won't-move-and -I'm-going-to-die feeling. The monsters themselves were creepy representations of other story elements, purposefully woven into the game.

The thing with both the Silent Hill movie and Homecoming, the latest game, is that both of them ditch the subtlety. In the game, the main character is immediately thrown into a creepy run-down hospital full of monsters. In the movie, the main character is in town for about 30 seconds before being jumped by a hundred monsters. Horror is about building up tension, and both of these Silent Hills fail in that sense. They are also less coherent. Like, why are there zombie nurse things standing around? Just because they were creepy in the game so they had to be thrown in there somewhere?

This artwork for the movie also makes no sense. The kid never loses her mouth anywhere in the movie. The only reason for this poster is "LOLOL get it??? It's called Silent Hill and she's silent cuz she ain't got no mouth LOLO LROFLOL!! !11!"

The movie is also comically bad in other ways. The characters reactions to the horror around them makes little sense. After finding out the road they drove in on has turned into a crater, being attacked by burning ghost babies, and shooting an armless monster that tried to cover them with goo, all they can calmly say is "I think something weird is going on in this town." Then there's Sean Bean, who spends the entire movie running around doing absolutely nothing. He literally plays no role in the plot whatsoever.

I still recommend both Silent Hills despite these criticisms. The game gets considerably better after getting out of the run-down monster hospital. And the movie may not have gotten the feel of the early games right, but it did get the look right, which is worth seeing. And some individual scenes are pretty fantastic.

I've got some more horror movie reviews coming up. Just watched Fright Night for the first time ever (I know, I suck), and look what just came in the mail that I totally forgot I even ordered from Amazon:

Ignore the sweet, sweet 2001 Blu-Ray for now...because that's friggin Troll AND Troll 2! Two movies on one disc! They even crammed some special features on there (trailers for BOTH movies!!)! As you know, Troll is one of my favourite movies ever, and while I haven't seen Troll 2, it's widely regarded as on of the worst/best movies of all time.



Anonymous said...

I never really liked any horror movies.

But for some reason, I did like Silent Hill, but I never played the games.

The reason I liked the movie was the use of dancers for the creepy characters (armless man, nurses) instead of just CGI. It made for much more creepy movements.

I guess as a dancer, I'm just biased that way. I think that until they hire movement analysts *ahem, jobless PhD here* to CREATE CGI movements (instead of just recording movement of actors), I don't think CGI will ever portray or mimick the subtlety of real human movement.

Phronk said...

Yeah, the special effects were great. CGI still doesn't look quite right. That's part of the reason I love old 80s horror movies...Fright Night is a good example of amazing practical monster effects.

Ubersehen said...

I agree on all counts with Silent Hill. The character problems were glaring, but I ultimately wound up enjoying the movie for its look, anyhow. Another movie that uses live people instead of CG to excellent effect is Pan's Labyrinth. Highly recommended. That dude with the hands still gives me the creeps every time I think about him. You'll know who I mean.

Phronk said...

I do. I love Pan's Labyrinth; the effects are great in it. If you want to see more of that, Hellboy 2 is awesome too. It takes the sparse fantasy elements from Pan's Labyrinth and stuffs a movie full of them.

Ubersehen said...

I thought that Hellboy 2 was really cool to look at, but I didn't find the plot all that compelling, particularly the added backstory. It just didn't sell me the way the first one did. I imagine it would have been a little more effective if anything like hidden communities of supernatural critters had been hinted at in the least in the first one instead of injected into the second. It felt kind of like what adding a sci-fi space adventure element to a Harry Potter sequel would have. I think it's difficult to convincingly introduce an all new mythology and form of environment in a follow-up film.

Also, something about the selective way those tooth fairies diced up the red-shirts right away but took their sweet damned time with the main characters didn't help.

Alas, as an ex-movie rental outlet employee, I have become snobbish and picky.