Sunday, October 28, 2012


(Canada/France - 2012)

Written and directed by Michael J. Bassett.  Cast: Adelaide Clemens, Kit Harington, Sean Bean, Carrie-Anne Moss, Malcolm McDowell, Deborah Kara Unger, Martin Donovan, Radha Mitchell, Peter Outerbridge, Roberto Campanella. (R, 94 mins)

Directed by Christophe Gans (BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF) and written by Roger Avary (PULP FICTION, THE RULES OF ATTRACTION), the 2006 film version of the video game favorite SILENT HILL wasn't exactly a model of narrative cohesion, but it was a triumph of atmosphere and mood and has found a devoted cult following in the years since its release.  It's doubtful that anyone will ever be looking back fondly on the belated sequel SILENT HILL: REVELATION.  Written and directed by Michael J. Bassett (WILDERNESS, SOLOMON KANE), SILENT HILL: REVELATION is based on the SILENT HILL 3 video game, but also has to function as a sequel to the Gans film, so some characters from the game end up having their roles filled by characters from the first film, which is a reasonable liberty.  I was a little rusty on the first film and revisited it the day before seeing the sequel, and even that doesn't make REVELATION's plot any more coherent.  Bassett's script has the characters spouting pages and pages of exposition to get the viewer up to speed on who's who and why they're important, but you almost have to be equally familiar with the plots of the video games to figure out what's going on.  The end result is a chaotic, unfocused, and boring film that relies heavily on tired genre cliches and jettisons the atmosphere and mood for dreary, ugly visuals, graphic gore, noise, and mostly uninspired 3-D.

Several years after the events of the first film, the nearly 18-year-old Sharon Da Silva (Michelle Williams-lookalike Adelaide Clemens, replacing Jodelle Ferland) is going by the name Heather and is on the run from the Silent Hill cultists with her widowed father Christopher (Sean Bean), who's calling himself Harry.  Sharon was adopted by Christopher and his late wife Rose (Radha Mitchell) and, as Bassett's script mentions multiple times in case you forgot, she's the manifestation of the good inside Alessa, a girl who survived being burned by the witch-fearing residents decades earlier for being born out of wedlock, bringing forth an otherworldly, supernatural darkness over the West Virginia coal mining town.  Rose, as explained by Mitchell who returns for a ghostly cameo, is trapped somewhere in the Silent Hill netherworld and had to sacrifice herself in order to save Sharon and return her to Christopher in the real world.  Sharon/Heather is plagued by nightmares and horrific visions, and when Christopher is abducted and taken to Silent Hill, she and new friend Vincent (Kit Harington, best known as Jon Snow on GAME OF THRONES) must travel to the cursed town to rescue him.  Of course, it's all part of a plot to lure her back to Silent Hill--being that she's the pure, non-evil part of Alessa--for the fanatical cult to rid the town of its sin.  Or something like that.

The foggy town and the constantly raining ash--both visuals carried over from the first film--still look effectively ominous, but that's about all that Bassett gets right.  What may work in the confines of a video game doesn't always translate to the screen, and SILENT HILL: REVELATION has no drive, no momentum.  It's practically incomprehensible, and where Gans was concerned with the atmospheric elements, Bassett goes in the other direction, focusing on splatter, dismembered body parts, steam-filled corridors in an abandoned factory, bodies hung upside down, flesh sliced off, cooked, and eaten by a bunch of grotesque, suture-faced demons that look like rejected Cenobite makeup designs from HELLRAISER.  The iconic "Pyramid Head" character reappears here, but in a heroic capacity, which makes no sense in reference to how he was portrayed in the first film (the video game apparently explains that Pyramid Head feels compelled to protect Sharon/Heather because she's a double for Alessa and he can't tell the difference).  It's hard not to leave SILENT HILL: REVELATION with the feeling that they simply made this up as they went along.

With less than half the budget of the first film, SILENT HILL: REVELATION looks a lot cheaper, and much of that money must've gone towards squandering an overqualified supporting cast, most of whom, with the exception of Bean, appear for a few minutes to proclaim some impossibly confusing exposition in about the same amount of time it would take for their agents to verify that the check cleared.  Mitchell probably left her car running while she ran in to shoot her scene.  Deborah Kara Unger returns briefly as Alessa's mother.  Carrie-Anne Moss sports some Johnny Depp pancake makeup to play the cult leader before she's transformed into a creature and faces Pyramid Head in a battle to the death.  Martin Donovan, looking homeless and sporting a comically oversized fedora, is granted an early exit as doomed private eye Douglas Cartland (a major character in the video game, but killed off quickly here).  Most embarrassing of all is the great Malcolm McDowell as a blind asylum inmate who holds the other half of an amulet that Sharon needs to defeat Alessa.  McDowell, onscreen for about three minutes tops, likely arrived prepared and with his lines memorized to enable a quick exit (no way he was on the set for more than a day) and, gracious raconteur that he is in his elder statesman years, probably entertained the cast and crew with tales of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE and CALIGULA, but when he starts ranting about Alessa and "the Seal of Metatron," you just feel bad for him.  He's kept in chains for the duration of his role, and it probably had less to do with his character and more to do with keeping McDowell from fleeing in despair.

Of the two stars, Clemens seems like an appealing young actress.  She's not given much to work with here, but perhaps better offers will come her way (she should be on standby if there's ever a film where Michelle Williams' character has a little sister).   It's interesting for GAME OF THRONES fans to see Harington briefly reunited with Bean (Harington's Jon Snow is the illegitimate son of Bean's Eddard Stark on the show's first season), but the young British actor is pretty bad here, with a West Virginia accent that sounds like he's attempting the world's least successful Aasif Mandvi impression.

Being a fan of the 2006 film as well as a fan of Bassett's earlier work (WILDERNESS is a gem waiting to be discovered), I had high hopes for SILENT HILL: REVELATION, but between its terrible pacing, incoherent script, abandoned plot threads, and the obvious disinterest of its slumming cast, among other major issues, it's really hard to find anything worthwhile about this depressingly dismal sequel.

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