Cinema Knife Fight: SILENT HILL: REVELATION 3D (2012)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares
(THE SCENE: A strange ghost town, where ashes fall from the sky like snow. L.L. SOARES is standing in the middle of the street with an umbrella, when MICHAEL ARRUDA approaches)
MA: Nice weather we’re having.
LS: Yeah, I checked the Weather Channel. Partly cloudy with a chance of ashes, followed by ash showers off and on all day.
MA: I’m surprised you have an umbrella. I figured you’d be roughing it.
LS: Just looking out for my health.
(The MARLBORO MAN rides by on a horse)
MARLBORO MAN: Holy Onions! This place looks like a giant ashtray!
(He coughs as he continues riding away)
MA: Hey, do you have another umbrella?
LS: Sure. Do you have twenty dollars?
MA: Twenty dollars? That’s a rip off! What are you trying to do, cheat me out of my money?
LS: Yep. I guess I have something in common with SILENT HILL: REVELATION after all.
MA: Ain’t that the truth! This is the second time in two days I’ve been cheated out of some cash!
(MA hands LS a twenty-dollar bill, and LS gives him an umbrella)
LS: Well, I guess the sooner we start, the sooner we can get out of this awful place.
SILENT HILL: REVELATION is a sequel to the 2006 movie SILENT HILL, and I’m surprised it took so long for them to make a sequel. Both movies are based on the video game, also called SILENT HILL.
MA: A movie based on a video game. That’s a bad sign right off the bat.
LS: Do you think?
Let’s go for a walk.
(The two of them stroll down the empty street)
LS: When SILENT HILL: REVELATION begins, teenage girl Sharon (played by Jodelle Ferland in the first movie, and now played by Adelaide Clemens) is having horrible dreams about a strange town called Silent Hill. To add to the confusion, Sharon is now going by the name of Heather, as she and her father Harry (played by Sean Bean, whose name was Christopher in the first movie) are constantly moving around and taking on new identities. Harry has told Heather/Sharon that they constantly move because he’s wanted by the police. But in reality, they’re trying to stay one step ahead of some weird cult that is hunting them down.
Heather goes to her first day in a new school, which is pretty horrible since she’s always the new kid and never has a chance to make any friends. Although this time around, there’s another new kid named Vincent (Kit Harrington), who clearly wants to bond with her. She keeps putting him off, but eventually, a friendship will develop
On her way to school that morning, Heather was approached by a strange man named Douglas Cartland, who appears to be stalking her. He later shows up at her school when she’s leaving later in the day, which seems to confirm her suspicions. She calls her father to warn him and arrange a place to meet (she doesn’t want to lead the guy back to her house). At one point, Cartland corners her and tells her he is a private detective working for some people he no longer trusts, and that he has told them of her whereabouts (something he now regrets). Soon afterwards, he is killed by a monster that looks like a psychotic clown.
MA: I liked that clown. And if you were blinking just now, you might have just missed the only time in this review where I say that I liked something about this movie!
LS: When Heather gets back home, her father is gone, and there’s a note written in blood in big letters on their living room wall that says, “Come to Silent Hill.”
Heather does not remember the events of the first SILENT HILL movie—.
MA: Neither do I! Blocked it all out.
LS:— when she had gone to the town of Silent Hill as a child. She has since been told that her mother, Rose (Radha Mitchell from the first film, who has a brief appearance in this one as well) had died in a car crash (when in reality she had stayed behind in Silent Hill in order to get her daughter to safety).
It’s at this time that Vincent reveals his secret agenda, as well, and he agrees to take her back to Silent Hill to save her father.
It’s never really clear if Silent Hill is a real town, or if it is in another, Hell-like dimension. My impression is that it’s both.
MA: I would agree with that impression. It seems to be both, but imagine if writer Michael J. Bassett actually fleshed out the story, we might know more about this bizarre demonic town!
LS: There’s some kind of eternal fire going on beneath the earth in some coal mines, resulting in the sky raining ash in the town continuously. The residents of the town are also quite odd, looking like a collection of zombies and other monsters.
While she tries to find and save her father, Heather must deal with Leonard and Claudia Wolf (Malcolm McDowell and Carrie-Anne Moss, respectively), the leaders of the strange cult who want to use Heather as a vessel for the rebirth of their god, and they kidnapped her father and brought him to the town to lure her there.
MA: And that’s probably the reason Bassett didn’t flesh out the story. As soon as people start talking about what’s going on, it gets laughable real quick. A vessel for the rebirth of their god? Really? It’s all so forced and contrived. The problem I have with it is if you’re going to write a fantasy, you’d best convince your audience that it’s real, and the folks behind this movie just aren’t interested in doing that. And that’s because this is based on a video game, and if it looks like a video game, and the same characters from the game are featured in the movie, then that’s good enough for the target audience.
But you know what folks? It really isn’t good enough. This is a movie, not a video game, and it needs to be treated as such.
LS: There is also the demonic Alessa (also played by Adelaide Clemens), who is kind of like Heather’s dark side. Alessa lives in Silent Hill and is the one who keeps the cult members confined there (some of them can leave, but only for short periods of time). Alessa is not happy to see Heather again, since she knows the cultists have plans for her that would end their torment under Alessa’s rule. Instead of tormenting the annoying cult members, I wish Alessa had just wiped them out. Hell, I wish all of them would have wiped each other out, and spared us having to sit through this movie.
Along the way, we also encounter various strange monsters, some of which are directly from the Silent Hill video games. One is the ogre-like “Pyramid Head” (Roberto Campanella) who looks like a big, muscular guy who carries an oversized sword and has the head of giant pyramid. He is actually Heather’s guardian in this strange dimension, and he defends her against other beasts.
I had a mixed reaction to the first SILENT HILL movie. I’m not a big fan of movies based on video games, but I thought SILENT HILL was one of the better ones. That said, the plot was confusing and kind of annoying (even though it was written by Roger Avary who also co-wrote at least part of the scripts of Quentin Tarantino’s early films). But the imagery was very interesting. The first film was directed by Christopher Gans.
SILENT HILL: REVELATION is written and directed by Michael J. Bassett, who also directed DEATHWATCH (2002) and the recent film version of Robert E. Howard’s SOLOMON KANE (made in 2009, but only get limited theatrical release this year). Despite the different writer and director, the new movie has much of the same strengths and weaknesses as the first one. In REVELATION, I found the plotline aggravating and pretty boring at times, but the monster effects were kind of fascinating. This series at least has unusual visuals. I find the creature “Pyramid Head” to be especially fascinating (he’s in both films, as well as the games).
MA: I agree that the visuals in this movie were creative, and for a while there, I thought the cool visuals might be enough to carry this movie, but it turned out not to be the case.
I was hoping that perhaps this would be one of those bizarre movies where the visuals were so wild and intriguing, that you could look past the weak story and still like the movie.
Not so. And why not? Because these images were mostly eye candy. Director Bassett didn’t really do much with them. This movie isn’t suspenseful and it’s not scary, and so you’re watching these scenes of weird monsters, but they’re doing things that aren’t so weird. Had this movie pushed the envelope more, really got into the audience’s face, and created some chilling, memorable scenes, then we’d be talking about a pretty cool movie.
Instead, and I’ve said this many times now about movies based on video games, it’s like watching someone else play a video game. And that gets boring real fast.
(A teenager walks by playing a hand held video game.)
TEEN: Come on! It’s fun to watch people play these games!
MA: Really? Do you like watching other people read, too?
TEEN: That’s stupid. The games are fun to watch.
MA: Well, maybe so, but the movies based on these games aren’t.
(TEEN walks on, suddenly surrounded by other teens watching him play, cheering him on.)
MA: It’s strange new world. Remember the games we used to play?
LS: Tie the helpless virgin to the stake and sacrifice her? Ah, the good old days!
MA: I was actually thinking of kick ball.
LS: Is that anything like “kick the severed head into the sewer?”
MA: Er, let’s just get back to the review.
LS: Okay. The acting is pretty underwhelming. While I think Sean Bean has been terrific in things like the first season of GAME OF THRONES (2011) where he played Ned Stark, I found his performance here very disappointing.
MA: And did you notice that sometimes Bean had an accent, and other times he didn’t? I thought it was one of his more disappointing performances. I mean, he’s usually very good. Not so here.
LS: Yeah, I hate to say it, but he’s awful here. And other good actors like Malcolm McDowell and Carrie-Anne Moss are pretty much wasted here. It was actually painful seeing McDowell in this movie. What a waste of his talent.
MA: They probably had to be wasted to say their awful lines!
LS: Kit Harrington (another actor from GAME OF THRONES, where he plays Jon Snow) is okay as Vincent. I did like Adelaide Clemens as Heather/Sharon/Alessa, however. She actually reminded me a lot of a young Michelle Williams, and while her role was underwritten, I thought she was one of the better things about REVELATION.
MA: Clemens was okay, but I think you nailed it when you said the role was underwritten. Like the rest of the movie, I didn’t find her character Heather all that real. She’s pretty one-dimensional, and in terms of acting performances, I thought Kathryn Newton made more of an impression last week in the lead role in PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4.
LS: Definitely. Newton was much more believable as a real teen. If you make a comparison like that, REVELATION is going to come up short! Hell, seeing a movie like this makes me realize how maybe PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 wasn’t all that bad, compared to the other crap we’re forced to see.
The special effects by Brendan Carmody and his crew, and the visual effects by “Mr. X Inc.” are quite good. And I thought the film’s music, by Jeff Danna and Akira Yamaoka was effective as well. But the weak link here is Michael J. Bassett’s script, which starts out okay, but then journeys into the cliché (everything from bad use of occult symbols to demon-possessed people with way too much makeup on) and the downright incomprehensible.
As for the action, I found most of it a yawn. There’s actually one fight scene that I liked, toward the end, where Pyramid Head fights this demon woman who has buzz-saws imbedded in her head. She looks like one of the cenobites from the HELLRAISER movies (so much so, that I started wondering about the originality of the visuals in the SILENT HILL series that I found so interesting). But that big battle lasted all of about two minutes! What a rip-off!
MA: Yeah, I would agree that it started off okay. I found myself actually enjoying the beginning of this movie, before they get to Silent Hill. There was enough initial intrigue to almost hook me in, but then strangely, once they get to Silent Hill, it all goes downhill, and that’s because once there, Bassett felt a storyline was no longer needed.
LS: The 3D effects in this one were okay, but hardly worth the extra money (the movie ticket I bought for the 3D version cost me $16, and I definitely felt cheated). There are some scenes where things come jumping out at you, and the ashes falling from the sky once we get to Silent Hill look pretty good. But it still doesn’t justify the higher ticket price.
MA: The 3D effect ran hot and cold for me in this one. For most of the time, I thought it looked pretty bad, and I remember sitting there thinking, this is some of the worst 3D I’ve seen in a while! And then all of a sudden, the film would make fun use of it, like there’d be a severed body part floating in the air towards the audience, but there weren’t enough of these moments.
All in all, as is the case with most 3D movies I see—and pay more for— these days, I wish it had been in 2D.
LS: Me, too. I would have preferred it.
(They pass a pile of ashes and LS takes out a top hat and puts it on top of the pile. Suddenly, the ashes come to life and look an awful lot look FROSTY THE SNOWMAN)
FROSTY (blinking his eyes): Happy Birthday!
MA: It’s not my birthday.
LS: He always says that when he first comes to life.
MA: But this isn’t snow. He’s Frosty the Ash Man.
FROSTY: Buddy, I’ll take what I can get.
MA: So tell us, Frosty. Now that you’re suddenly alive, do you have anything interesting to tell us?
FROSTY: Are you kidding? I just want to find me a frosty beer before the wind blows this hat away and I turn back to a heap of ashes.
LS: Ah, an ash man after my own heart.
(FROSTY runs ahead of them, looking for a bar)
MA: Well that was disappointing.
LS: Kind of like the movie we’re reviewing, don’t you think?
For its visual sense of style alone, I give SILENT HILL: REVELATION just one knife. But that’s about it. Otherwise, because of the lame script, this movie was pretty forgettable.
MA: I can’t forget about it fast enough.
You know, I’m really starting to hate movies based on video games, and they’re starting to be as painful as all those TWILIGHT movies we’ve suffered through.
LS: Starting to? Where have you been?
MA: I guess I haven’t been paying attention, but after the latest RESIDENT EVIL movie, and now this movie, well, these video game movie-wannabes have my attention now. And that’s what they are: movie wannabes. They’re video games using real actors in their scenes, and they’re not telling stories the way movies do. What bothers me is there are probably people out there who think movies like this without stories are real movies that are worth the price of admission. That’s sad.
You should feel cheated, people!
LS: I think you nailed it with this one. It’s a matter of perspective. People who make movies based on video games seem to think that if the movie looks like a video game, with the same kind of pacing, it’s a good thing. But it’s not. Movies are a completely different medium. How about taking the characters and themes from the video game and beefing them up? Giving them a decent story and motivations that surpass the limitations of a video game? How about giving us a story that actually has some meat to it? Every single one of these movies seems like a missed opportunity. You could take the original concept and use it as a jumping-off point to give us something a lot better. Instead, of using the ingredients to whip up a fantastic entrée, they seem satisfied to give us the same old soup. It’s called lack of ambition.
MA: This movie wouldn’t know a story if it fell from the sky and hit the writer in the head!
So, Heather has to enter an alternate reality world called Silent Hill in order to save her father. How very nice! You know what would make this even nicer? How about some details? Where did this alternate reality come from? Why does it exist? Just who are these strange people living there anyway? And why is Heather the only one their god needs? The world is full of people. Couldn’t someone else do? Why is Heather so important? What makes her so special?
Where did all these creatures come from? What is their purpose?
(A SPIDERY CREATURE pops out of building behind them.)
CREATURE: Our purpose is to kill! To maim! To scare people!
MA: How come you didn’t do any of that in this movie?
CREATURE: I did so!
MA: To a main character in this movie who we actually cared about?
LS: There were no characters in this movie we actually cared about!
CREATURE: You guys are mean! Don’t I look creepy?
MA: Sure, but so does the old lady who lives down the street from me. Big flippin deal!
(CREATURE runs away sobbing.)
MA: If the creative minds behind this movie had given this project even just a little thought, they might have had a real movie here. Instead, they shower us with mindless visuals for 90 minutes, and the end result is about as fascinating as sitting in front of a tropical fish tank. I like looking at fish tanks like the next guy, but not for 90 minutes!
For example, I liked the look of the carnival sequences in this movie. I sat there taking in this amusement park setting, and I thought, “cool!” Now let’s do something with it. Make me feel like I’m inside this place. Give me events in the story which take place here that will really make me remember this setting. Get me to say, “Oooh, the carnival sequence! That’s the scene where the demonic clown terrorized the two girls. That scene scared the crap out of me”!
Instead, we have a cool-looking carnival where a bunch of unimportant things happen quickly to unimportant characters, and nothing that happens in this place resonates with me as an audience member. As a result, by next week, I won’t even remember these images.
And how about just a little bit of suspense, please? A scare here and there? Something that I can sink my teeth into?
Nope. Nada! Nil!
(They pass FROSTY THE ASH MAN, who is blowing the head of foam off a big mug of beer)
LS: Now that’s what I call a frosty one.
(FROSTY goes to drink it, when the wind blows his hat off, and he turns to a pile of ashes again. The beer spills to the ground)
FROSTY’S VOICE: Dammit!
LS: What a waste of beer!
MA: SILENT HILL: REVELATION bored me to tears. I’m giving it one and a half knives. I wouldn’t say that I liked it better than you, because I didn’t like it, but I did enjoy the visuals, even though they got no support from the weak story, uninspired acting, and ridiculous dialogue that pretty much ruined the rest of the movie.
Don’t see this movie, people. Keep video games out of the movie theaters! And I hear people chatting that they want this to become a movie franchise? Come on!
LS: It’s a losing battle, because these movies make money.
MA: And that’s why people shouldn’t see them! Heck, I love baseball, but that doesn’t mean I like all movies about baseball, or even that I want to see movies about baseball. When I’m in the mood for baseball, I watch a baseball game! Why do video games have to become movies? Just play the games!
(Suddenly, giant chunks of ash begin to pour down upon them. MA’s umbrella crumples under the pressure of the ash storm.)
MA: What kind of a cheap umbrella did you sell me?
LS: The kind that doesn’t last. (Pulls out another umbrella) Here, you can have this one for just ten bucks.
MA: Ten bucks? What do you take me for, a fool?
MA (looks at camera): Ask a stupid question—. I’ll just take my chances. (Pulls his shirt over his head.) Okay folks, we’re done here. Thanks for joining us and we’ll see you again next week. Gotta run! (Exits quickly.)
LS: Yep, we’ll see you all again next week. (Exits at his leisure with his sturdy umbrella).
(Behind him, a coughing MARLBORO MAN falls off his horse into a pile of ash).
© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares
Michael Arruda gives SILENT HILL: REVELATION 3D ~ one and a half knives!
LL Soares gives SILENT HILL: REVELATION 3D ~one knife.