CAPSULE: SILENT HILL: REVELATION (2012)

DIRECTED BY: Michael J. Bassett

FEATURING: Adelaide Clemens, Sean Bean, Kit Harington, Malcolm McDowell

PLOT: Six years after the events of the original Silent Hill, Sharon (now living under the alias “Heather”) returns to the mysterious ghost town to rescue her abducted father and face ancient evils left over from the last movie.

Still from Silent Hill: Revelation (2012)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Christophe Gans’ original Silent Hill adaptation was a combination of campy confusion and apocalyptic atmosphere that hit all the right nightmare notes and was strange enough to worm its way onto the List of the 366 Best Weird Movies. Six years later, with a journeyman director at the helm and no new ideas to bring to the table other than a gimmicky 3D presentation, the novelty has abandoned the Silent Hill universe, at least in its cinematic incarnation. We’re left with characters we can barely bring ourselves to care about rambling through a progression of jump-scare set pieces.

COMMENTS: Some critics are complaining that Silent Hill: Revelation is “baffling,” incomprehensible” and “makes no sense.” They’re analyzing the issue backwards: it’s actually the parts of the movie that you can make heads or tails of that suck. Basically, this is the old story about a girl who’s having hallucinations, flashbacks or dreams inside of dreams every five minutes because she and her father are on the run from a cult imprisoned in an old mining town by a godlike spirit who is actually her evil twin. When her father gets kidnapped by the cult she must journey to the forbidden town so that a crazy old hag can warn her not to go inside to retrieve the other half of the Seal of Megatron (I swear that’s what it sounded like) from a crazy old coot (a slumming Malcolm McDowell). Seal of Megatron in hand, she’s now free to go to the abandoned amusement park so she can get on the carousel and hug her evil half to death before getting a prime seat to watch another character face off against another boss to defeat another ultimate evil. I suspect that this plot actually makes sense to someone who has played all the video games and performed a scene-by-scene analysis of the first movie, but even if you have a copies of all four Silent Hill Official Strategy Guides on your bookshelf and understand Pyramid Head’s nuanced role in this peculiar mythos, the movie has deeper problems than a confusing plot. Primary among these is the fact that Revelation never generates a real sense of danger for Heather/Sharon; the first third of the movie is filled with so many false scares and dream sequences that we quickly become immune to any threat to the girl’s safety. Her adversaries could easily kill her any time they want to, but simply need to lure her to the inner sanctum for the final showdown, which makes her passage through a world of grasping nightmare monsters an arbitrary journey. Given that lack of tension, other problems, like the risible, deadpan dialogue and the unnecessary and underdeveloped love interest fall by the wayside. A set of dual climaxes that simultaneously make you mutter “huh?” and “is that all there is?” cap off an uninspiring effort. Ho-hum 3D effects include severed fingers floating directly at the audience in slow motion; the movie will not suffer a bit on TV or computer screens from flattening the image. It’s not all bad; the movie does at least look like Silent Hill. The settings are atmospheric, if often clichéd (spooky evil clowns, anyone?). Australian actress Adelaide Clemens, who looks uncannily like Carey Mulligan’s younger sister, is appealing, and it’s always nice to see McDowell hamming it up—he seems to have entered that stage in his career where he’ll take any old role (Suck, Zombex, Suing the Devil) just because he loves working and is no longer afraid to look ridiculous. The main appeal is seeing the creepy Silent Hill monsters brought to life. Pyramid Head, a monster who is exactly what his name says he is, is a boogeyman who seems like he shouldn’t work, and yet he is almost inexplicably scary and cool. The busty faceless zombie nurses, also returning from the original movie, add an element of camp but remain frightening as they flail about blindly with scalpels. Revelation adds an arachnid who uses embalmed heads as eyes to the franchise’s effectively weird bestiary. Although Silent Hill: Revelation is nowhere in the neighborhood of a good movie, dedicated horror fans (and particularly dedicated fans of this franchise) will be able to wring a few drops of bloody entertainment from it.

At this writing Silent Hill: Revelation has an abysmal 5% positive critical rating at Rotten Tomatoes, but scores a respectable 6.7 rating on IMDB. This suggests that the film hit a sweet spot for franchise fans—but only for them. Although a few reviewers have prematurely proclaimed that this disaster will effectively kill off any burgeoning Silent Hill movie franchise, Revelation did manage to earn back almost half its budget in its opening week, despite hurricane Sandy shutting down East Coast theaters. It will almost certainly turn a profit, so we could see more of Pyramid Head in coming years.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“British helmer Bassett… shows no affinity for the grotesquely beautiful surrealism that distinguished the vidgame series and earlier feature.”–Dennis Harvey, Variety (contemporaneous)

3 thoughts on “CAPSULE: SILENT HILL: REVELATION (2012)”

  1. If they could make a movie of Silent Hill 4:the room, and could capture that atmosphere, i think would make a great film. the game had that feeling like you were in a lucid nightmare. trying to get out of that room infested with ghosts or demons was quite disturbing.:)

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