After all this time, there are a number of movies I’ve wanted to write a review for, but for some reason, I went back to a sequel of one I’ve already written about, because I was craving a bit of Silent Hill. Silent Hill is one of my favorite movies, and Silent Hill soundtracks accompanied me a great deal through the editing portion of Deep Down.
Silent Hill: Revelation is not nearly as good, which doesn’t seem to be all that important, because I’ve watched it more times than I should watch bad movies, so there must be something bringing me back, other than familiarity. Like most bad movies I watch regularly, I think what draws me is potential. Underneath all the roughness, there’s a gem, even if the people responsible for mining and shaping it utterly mangled the job.
Part of the problem was the same thing that drew Silent Hill down, which was the shoehorning in of men where they didn’t need to be. Sean Bean once again plays the part of Sharon’s father, and he technically has more screen time, but his role doesn’t really get any more useful. Then we see a young Kit Harington, youthful and a bit too Raphaelite for the setting, intended as a love interest of sorts, but Laurie Holden and Radha Mitchell had more chemistry without actually being love interests. But goshdarnit, we gotta have a man in here. And if Sharon’s going to be eighteen, goshdarnit, she’s gotta have a love interest. (Why it has to be Kit Harington, only the casting director knows.) Then throw in a PI and two cops who seem to belong to other movies altogether and disappear after the first part of the movie, completely irrelevant to the story. Malcolm McDowell has a notable cameo, but he was criminally underused in an attempt to bank on his horror legacy.
Perhaps I’m looking at it all wrong. Perhaps I should be encouraged that, although there’s more testosterone on the soundstage, they’re taking on roles typically saved for women—the husband waiting at home, taking care of the kid; the father getting kidnapped and held hostage; the stale, two-dimensional love interest that doesn’t rise beyond a few flat notes.
But frankly, the women aren’t much better. Whereas the original featured a strong core of complicated, fleshed-out female characters, here we have Deborah Unger reprising her role as Alessa’s mother in a far less necessary expositional cutscene. She literally brings nothing new to the table, and the makeup budget didn’t support putting her in her full original get-up, so I don’t even know why she was brought in at all.
Then we have Carrie-Anne Moss, whose motivations are all over the place and who’s more interesting when she’s the Missionary (i.e. Less Carrie-Anne Moss) (parenthetical #2: Not that the Missionary made much sense). Her brand of underacting doesn’t lend itself to the dramatics that the role required of her. I got strong hints of her channeling Miranda Richardson from Sleepy Hollow, but frankly, Richardson might have been a better fit. The role itself, however, was thankless and criminally under-considered, because an undeveloped villain gives our hero no real foil.
Adelaide Clemens, as grown-up Sharon, does a passable, committed job, although I wouldn’t call it a breakout. Clemens’ vulnerable strength and eerie similarity to Radha Mitchell make her an adequate inheritor of the lead adventurer’s role. (True, Sharon was adopted, but children often grow to look like their family anyway, biological or not.) She and Bean are the anchors in this otherwise churned-out, effects-driven money-grab.
The beginning stumbles, even more awkward than the original, with EX-PO-SI-TION! as tell-y rather than show-y as it gets. It felt like a cutscene from a video game, but the original Silent Hill worked best when it nodded to the games rather than tried too hard to fit into them. If an audience needs that much explanation for things to make sense, your story is in desperate need of some doctoring. Conversations through mirrors, special symbols on a secret box, half an arcane seal… Not even Bean could make this dialogue less cringe-y. You ever get the feeling the script was written in a day and never edited? There’s even a part where we’re EX-PO-SI-TIONED! that Silent Hill was built on ancient Indian burial ground. Seriously? Seriously?!
When a movie goes this spectacularly wrong, in spite of a wealth of potential built by the first movie and a squandered budget, I like to look at what could have been done to make it better. I think, for all the deviations from the story set up in the original (most notably, the ending), a sequel would have been better served by being a completely different story with completely different main characters. Then we wouldn’t need so much freaking explanation to try to fit it into movie- and game-universe at the same time. However, if they absolutely had to bring Sharon and her dad into the story, they would have benefited by not going back to Silent Hill, but instead focusing on how Sharon brings Silent Hill wherever she goes, because (spoiler) Alessa came out with Sharon at the end of the first movie.
The school scenes had some interesting elements and could have been even better with alterations. For instance, I couldn’t tell why Sharon’s outfit was any different than the rest of her classmates enough for the requisite popular kid to deride her for it. I mean, I’m not much into fashion, but Sharon was rocking trendy layers, so I’m not sure where the loss in translation happened. Chalk another one up to the cringe-tastic bad script and a wardrobe mismatch?
But there was something about the school scenes, especially with the disorientation within the windowless halls, as well as the mall scenes that reminded me of Nightmare on Elm Street. They really could have played up her hallucinations to show us how Silent Hill is just beneath the veneer of reality and Sharon/Alessa makes the barrier between them weaker. Rather than the Missionary as the primary antagonist, I would have her be the secondary, trying to destroy Alessa or possess her for her own power, while Alessa herself was Sharon’s primary antagonist—Sharon’s personal reality crumbling and bringing the rest of the world with her. It would have been far more interesting to see Silent Hill bleed into the real world than just go back to the town, which was somehow the same Silent Hill and another version of Silent Hill at the same time. The filmmakers couldn’t agree on that, so it ended up not working as either one.
If they were going to make it the same Silent Hill, they should have made it feel more like the original and less haunted carnival/underground cult/insane asylum. If they were going to make it different, they should have committed to that. Not going one way or the other led to disjointed filtering and a complete annihilation of anything approaching reality rules. Also, with so many versions of Silent Hill represented, the filmmakers never got to focus on any one, so the creepy creatures felt just as throwaway and disjointed as the characters and setting.
The original Silent Hill worked because it knew what its world was and what its rules were. If it had creatures, it focused on ones that had a specific, unsettling purpose to each scene—a kind of burned, decayed, mummified poetic justice, even if we didn’t know what it all meant at the time. Three-dimensional characters had a purpose at every part of the story, and the filmmakers took their time to show rather than tell.
The sequel, on the other hand, tried to be too many things and succeeded at none of them and couldn’t ground itself in any theme or plot line. It lurched from element to element, performing back-breaking gymnastics to try to fit them together, and left me nothing but good music, a few good visuals, and a serious hunger for better.