Hello! Welcome to our new feature: A Focus on the Frightful. In Focus on the Frightful we’ll be doing reviews of books, movies, games, visual novels and whatever else wanders through my brain. We’re also going to be looking more in-depth at them as well. Which means that there will probably be some spoilers. If there are it will be announced before diving into the post so you guys will have ample warning.
This week we’ll be diving into the movie of Silent Hill. If you’ve been around here for awhile you’ll know of my love of the series. I will probably talking about the rest of the series at a later point but this post only focuses on the movies and the first and third game. I was very interested to hear Lilyn’s opinion on the movie as someone who hadn’t played it and was coming to it with an open mind.
Her review is very fair and (contrary to my poor family) I tried to keep my mouth shut while she was watching it. Because, trust me, gamers are just as protective of their favorites as a bookworm can be. Here is her opinion of the movie and I really can’t add anything to it as she reviews the movie very fairly and I don’t have any real disagreements with it in the main and what is shown within the movie. Beneath I’ll give my analysis of the changes between the game and the movie. What I thought worked…and what I hated in the changes. Because there are two main complaints that I was surprised by and a bit displeased about. I’ll turn the floor over to Lilyn now:
Lilyn’s Review of Silent Hill – Spoiler Free
“Silent Hill is a great movie. I know from my co-host’s repeated ravings that it is a quite good game. I also know that she thinks it’s a solid adaptation. But I’ve not played the game, and I have no desire to, so when I judge it, it’s on it’s strength as a horror movie alone. (Not that I think the game would suck, mind you. I’ve just got a cowardly streak a mile wide.)
I love the visuals in Silent Hill. The cinematography is fantastic. The lighting is perfect. It really feels exquisitely shot and beautiful in its own, twisted way. From the way the walls rust suddenly in such a way that you think they’re bleeding at first to the gruesome approach of the Lying Figures*. Those burning children things that appear early on would haunt my nightmares for a few nights. Its the sort of imagery that just stays with you when you close your eyes. Actually, I think that’s something to be said for many of the monstrous scenes in Silent Hill. There are many that I would love to have high-definition stills or artists renditions of. It makes you admire the twisted minds that originally came up with the creature designs.
Even though the coloration of the two point of views (Christopher’s / Rose’s) is fairly typical given how the story works out, it doesn’t make it any less effective. I loved how they took scenes that you’d seen before in other movies, but twisted them just enough to add a fresh “Oh, f****!” level to them. Like the scene where Pyramid Head (again aptly named. How does he SEE?) thrusts his ‘knife’ through the door. We’ve seen that a hundred and one times. But when the knife is suddenly the size of one of the women? Nope. Nope nope nope nope. And the nurses? There’s a reason people still dress up, draw, etc, those nurses 11 years later. Cripes!
As for the actual plot of Silent Hill itself, well… its better than most of the horror movies produced in the last ten years. You root for Rose and Christopher both even as you get a sinking feeling in your gut that tells you there’s little to no chance that everything is going to work out well for everyone. I instinctively disliked the little girl in the beginning because something about her just seemed too sweet and innocent. By the end I just felt sorry for her. I think that says something too, considering just who Alessa/Sharon is. That you could feel sorry for her. Also, the ending is one that will send a shiver up your spine.
Overall, I honestly can’t think of a single place where Silent Hill makes a misstep. Something I really didn’t think I’d end up saying, considering the whole movie is based basically on one child’s suffering. It’s worth owning, and pulling out for a watch every other Halloween or so.”
I really can’t add much to the general tone of Lilyn’s review. The cinematography is beautiful and I truly believe that Christopher Gans approached the movie with the right spirit and an obvious love of the franchise. Unlike some other video game adaptation directors *cough*Uwe Boll*cough*.
I really do love this movie.
Buuut, as I said above, gamers are just as picky about their adaptations (and Cthulhu help you when they’re combined, we’ll never shut up!). That being said, let the games begin!
There are spoilers ahead, mostly in the plot section for where the game and movie plots regarding the characters of Dahlia (game and movie) and the character of Sharon/Alessa (movie) and Cheryl/Alessa (game) converge
Most of the music, except for the intro music, is from Silent Hill 2 which was an excellent choice. The soundtrack for the first game is mostly industrial-type grinding ambient music. It works well within the game to heighten your tension but trying to sit through an hour and a half long movie’s worth would probably make your ears bleed. An original score would feel jarring. Silent Hill 2 has some very beautiful piano pieces that flow well with the beautifully shot scenes.
In general I cannot fault them for appearances. Where possible the movie characters look a heck of a lot alike to the game characters.
Rose – This was one of the first changes that made me a bit…meh. I wasn’t irate, I knew that the director wanted to focus on the mother/daughter relationships in the movie. But what miffed me a bit was that the director (and I will fully admit that the translation may have given me the wrong impression) seemed to be saying that part of the reason he switched from male protagonist to a female protagonist was that he thought that Harry exhibited more female attributes throughout the game. I didn’t quite understand this. I liked that Harry was a caring father and was much different than the usual action-oriented ‘hero’ saving their child. Harry has no clue as to what is going on and spends much of his time being used as a pawn by both Dahlia and Alessa. That being said I did like Rose’s character. Some of the decisions she made were questionable, such as fleeing a police officer for no reason. It just seemed like a very awkward way to get Rose and Cybil both into Silent Hill.
Cybil – I like her character both in game and movie. Her game actions can sometimes be a little wtf? Like blithely handing Harry a gun two minutes after meeting him for the first time. Cybil’s movie actions can be a bit strange at times as well. She’s concerned for Alessa’s welfare but when Rose tells her that her child is missing she decides to walk Rose to Brahms (the next town over) and then come back for her. You’d think she’d be a bit more worried. Her reaction to the void in the road has always cracked me up as well. Seeing the road cut off she is amazed for a moment then it’s like, “Whatever, keep walking.” Thankfully, for the rest of the time Cybil is a much more even character.
Christopher – Gans really didn’t want the husband to appear much in the movie at all, just the few minutes in the beginning. While I see where he was going with that I think that the scenes with Christopher and Officer Gucci add some needed backstory without putting it all on the characters of Rose and Cybil. I also do love the addition of Officer Gucci. I love the actor that plays him. And, you know, Sean Bean is always nice to look at. Plus it makes sense that he would go after them.
You’ll notice that I didn’t mention two of the principal characters (Sharon and Dahlia) in the People section. Well, there’s a reason for that. Their characters are so linked into the plot that I thought it would be easier to discuss them here. This is also where the majority of the spoilers are.
The two major failures of the movie are the characters of Dahlia and Sharon (Cheryl, in the game). I’ll give you a quick rundown of the plot of the game:
While vacationing in Silent Hill, Harry and his wife find a baby on the side of the road (literally) and adopt her, naming her Cheryl. Harry’s wife passes away sometime after. When Cheryl is around the age of seven she starts begging Harry to go to Silent Hill. He gives in and takes her there. On the way, Harry sees a figure in the road and crashes his car. When he wakes up he finds that Cheryl has disappeared. He sees hints from her and follows the clues until the end. Along the way you’re helped by a mysterious woman named Dahlia. She says that Alessa has taken Cheryl and Harry must stop her from making the Mark of Samael around town and trapping the town in the Otherworld. The mark is actually the Mark of Metatron and Alessa is using it to conceal herself from Dahlia.
Still with me? It gets more complicated.
Along the way Harry meets a few more people, a doctor named Dr. Kauffman and a nurse named Lisa. Kauffman is an ass, and there seems to be something mysterious about Lisa. You also find out that there’s a drug ring working out of Silent Hill that Dahlia and Kauffman are a part of to fund their cult activities. A few prominent people who got close to the ring died mysterious deaths thanks to Dahlia’s daughter, Alessa. Alessa has very powerful psychic powers.
I can’t stress this enough…Alessa is not evil. She was around seven when these deaths happened and she only did it to please her mother, Dahlia. The cult believes that by using someone with Alessa’s powers they can summon God. Dahlia wants to ‘borrow’ Alessa’s powers (how I’m not sure) but then she has a better idea. To hurry the process along Dahlia does a ritual and lights Alessa on fire.
You read that right. She set her own freaking daughter on fire. She’s an evil, evil bitch. Pardon the language but, trust me, that’s the lightest epithet I can fling at her. And the movie turned her into a sympathetic character. Grr. Anyways…when this happened Alessa split off a part of her soul (not a good or evil part, just a part) to prevent the God from being born. This is the baby that Harry and his wife found and named Cheryl. So for seven years Dahlia has kept Alessa in constant pain and suffering to get her to call her soul back so that God could be born. Seven years. Eventually it works and Alessa (unwillingly) calls for Cheryl. From the time of the crash on the road Alessa has fused again with Cheryl.
In the final confrontation Alessa kills Dahlia, not with barbed wire (unfortunately) but with a lightning zap as the God takes over her body. Harry defeats the ‘God’ (I’m going by the canon ending). After the battle Alessa dies but gives Harry a new baby…thus leading to the events of Silent Hill 3 (And the crappy movie Silent Hill: Revelations 3-D).
You can kind of see where the plot diverges a bit. I actually get why they simplified it but I really, really hate how they made Dahlia a somewhat sympathetic character and made the other part of Alessa basically a demon. Alessa is not evil. Her actions may seem evil since she is trying to kill Harry to prevent him from finding her. But when you consider the fact that she’s trying to prevent the end of the world it’s kind of understandable. So, yeah, I have an issue with Alessa being half evil and Dahlia was just ‘tricked’.
Silent Hill was pretty well received on release and it is definitely one of the best video game adaptations I’ve ever seen. If you’re morbidly curious about the second movie by all means, watch it. And I will say this for it: The girl they got to play Heather is perfect. The effects are pretty good. However, the plot cannot make up its mind whether it wants to go by the plot of the game (Heather/Cheryl/Alessa birthing the God) or the plot of the first movie (Burn the witch!). They also screw up so many characters and the script is just…cheesy. One of its most mocked scenes is using a Pop-Tart to try to force a jumpscare.
The movie also influenced the later games, starting most notably with Silent Hill: Origins and Silent Hill: Homecoming. Particularly the ‘peeling away’ of reality effect. It’s very cool and fits much better. The previous transitions were usually accomplished by the character passing out and awakening to the Otherworld. I think that was due mostly to the limitations of the hardware available.
A Bit of Trivia:
Most of the monsters used in the movie are kind of split between the franchises. The Grey Children and Nurses are from the first game. The Nurses are a regular throughout the series. The Lying Figure and Pyramid Head are from Silent Hill 2. A lot of fans are torn on Pyramid Head’s presence in the movie. He really shouldn’t be there but his presence is used to good effect. I have to love his presence for the one scene alone. Also, the helmet really justifies the name in the movie as in the game it’s more square looking.
Lisa from the game also makes a quick appearance in Alessa’s hospital room. I won’t go into her game story here, it’s kind of long. But I loved the nod to her character in the movie. As an extra bit of trivia, Lisa’s appearance in the game is based on the Nurse Amy from the movie Exorcist III. They also added a lot of great detail from the game. Sharon’s coloring book is exactly like the one Cheryl clutches in the car scenes. Fortunately the words ‘Cowinger Dinok” do not appear on it to throw fans into even more of a theory tailspin. The static that also appears when monsters are nearby is from the game. The first scenes of Rose in the alley are shot-for-shot from the game. One of the interesting bits of trivia is the fog that has come to be such a signature part of the series was originally a technical function. The system had issues rendering the entire town on-screen so they used the fog to cover it and now it has become an iconic part of the game. Also, because I’m a dork (and some people are confused by this) there are different ‘layers’ to the town of Silent Hill (game). The first level is the normal, everyday town of Silent Hill. A tourist town. The second layer is “Foggy Silent Hill” which is where those who get drawn into the town’s power are cut off from reality. There are a few monsters and things are a bit weird. Then there’s the Otherworld which is the rusty, bloody f*cked up part of Silent Hill.
Thank you for reading! If anyone has any suggestions on what to look into farther be it book, movie or game let me know down below! If at all possible I will do my best. Next week’s post will be looking a bit more closely at Shirley Jackson’s ‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle’. It often gets overlooked in favor of the more well known Haunting of Hill House. There are a lot of interesting things to check out in ‘We Have always Lived in the Castle’. If you’ve read it, do drop by and let me know your opinions on my theories and deductions. If you haven’t the book is short and there is an excellent reading of it. Following the link below may take you to Merricat.