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The Silent Hill Movie is Awesome

When I say the Silent Hill movie is awesome, I’m being completely sincere. Any time the topic of Silent Hill is broached, I nearly always ask for opinions on the Silent Hill movie, just so I can hear the various views on it. To my continuing surprise, a lot of people tend to give me generally good feedback, but it would be a lie to say that the good feedback is universal because, let’s be honest, the movie has more than a few problems. I am, however, of the mind that most of these problems are buried beneath the good bits.

A little while back, we discussed Silent Hill’s 20th anniversary, and in that piece I mentioned the Silent Hill movie, saying, “The film cost $50 million to make and brought in $97.6 million at the box office. Christophe Gans, in the eyes of many, didn’t bring much to the setting for his movie, allowing studio intervention to alter the vision that he originally had. Although, luckily, we were given Radha Mitchell as Rose Da Silva and she performed incredibly.”

Ritualistic Burning.

We really were lucky to get Radha Mitchell as Rose Da Silva, her role as the main character, Rose, is wonderfully performed and alongside Laurie Holden, who plays Cybil Bennett, the two brought some real character to the leading ladies. Sean Bean as Christopher Da Silva is just ridiculous; he barely has a role in the movie and his brand of acting just feels at odds with what’s going on. Granted, you could argue this is intentional given the very real divide between our reality and Silent Hills’ other world.

Jodelle Ferland as Alessa Gillespie’s dark side and Sharon Da Silva is definitely a weak point in the cast. Near constant moaning, high-pitched screaming being counterbalanced with generic “I’m the devil” dialogue make for a weak driving force in the narrative. We’re lucky that everything around her shines in comparison. Using her to play both Alessa and Sharon is a visually interesting idea, and Director Christophe Gans was keen to have her play both roles, but she’s at her best when she doesn’t need to give lines.

While the movie’s telling of the story is somewhat stunted and diverges from the canon material, the town of Silent Hill is represented marvelously. Peeling walls, foggy streets and abandoned homes, it’s all there, but the sets are designed to feel both decrepit and diseased at the same time. When the darkness comes, the world takes on a feeling of being damp, the pallette leans into red and orange, or muted blues and greys, changing from area to area. There’s a tangible sense of organic decay. But this would all be for nothing if there were no monsters to populate the world.

Chinese dancer, Yvonne Ng, is a specialist in the art of Butoh dancing. Butoh requires flexibility that borders on the uncanny, allowing for movements and contortions of the body that can look positively uncomfortable.

Yvonne was brought on to the movie to play the part of the Grey Child, which was brought to life through her movements, a full prosthetic suit, and some digital reworking. It includes multiple separate movements on screen that were overlapped in post production where they were needed allowed the Director to have Rose chased through an empty park by a writhing horde of Grey Children.

Another monster brought to life by the film was Gans’ version of Pyramid Head, referred to as the Red Pyramid in the production documentation and commentaries, but called The Fiend by the members of the church in the movie.

Brought to life by Italian actor and choreographer Roberto Campanella, the Red Pyramid was another practical monster, with Roberto wearing a prosthetic suit and reverse jointed stilts (that the crew nicknamed Roberto’s Kermit Legs) that let him stand at the impressive seven foot tall height that was required for the monster.

Roberto also served as the Lead Choreographer for the movie, directing the Nurses found in the Hospital and the Armless Men found in the streets. When talking about the Red Pyramid, Gans has said, “The big change in Red Pyramid for me was not his head as much as his body. In the game he has a very deformed body almost a hunchback. Instead we decided to make him a tall, powerful character a little like the Warrior God in Stargate that Patrick Tatopoulos created. Why? Because for me there is a little of Anubis, the Egyptian God of Death in the Red Pyramid. Of course we consulted Konami and Akira Yamaoka with before signing of the new design which they were very enthusiastic about.”

An interesting point that I find makes for good conversation is how this adaptation makes use of the story elements. Director Christophe Gans has repeatedly said that he is a big fan of the series, enjoying Silent Hill 4: The Room the most. When the movie opens up, we see Sharon standing over a sheer cliff face, about to pitch herself over the edge while muttering “Silent Hill” to herself. The camera leans over the edge and zooms downwards, showing us a brief glimpse of Alessa standing among bursts of fire in a metallic environment that, to me, gives of the feeling of a forge. I posit that this is where Alessa’s dark side “makes” the nightmares and creatures that roam Silent Hill.

But that’s just my own little theory. I’m more inclined to believe that we are supposed to view this area as the underground layers of the Hospital where Alessa lies in wait, viewed from above and surrounded by fire to symbolize her ritualistic burning.

Aside from seeing the monsters, of which there are a few we didn’t touch on, the movie is permeated with the usual haunting soundtrack that one can expect to hear from a project using Akira Yamaoka’s music. The original plan was to have Yamaoka compose all of the soundtrack, but a stipulation in the production contracts dictated that a Canadian composer be involved with the project. To that end Jeff Danna was taken on to rework the tracks that Yamaoka produced. He went on to serve as the composer on the film’s sequel, Silent Hill Revelation. Terrible name, right?

I’m going to suggest you give Silent Hill a spin again, I’m not saying it’s a masterpiece, but it’s a damn good time if you let it carry you along through its wobbly story. But don’t watch the sequel unless you want to see Kit Harrington at his worst, bad CG monsters, and forced 3D camera angles. In the words of its director, “It was just a nightmare dance and I couldn’t do it, so I’m very sorry to everyone who didn’t like the movie.”

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