The Cinefessions crew loves sharing their opinions on films, but not every movie can get the attention it deserves with a full review. Enter the Cinefessions’ Capsule Reviews. These capsule reviews cover five of the most important aspects of a film, which allow the crew to deliver their opinions on any movie clearly, decisively, and with brevity. These are not our full thoughts on any film, just a highlighting of the major pros and/or cons.
Title: Silent Hill (2006)
Director: Christophe Gans
Runtime: 125 minutes
Radha Mitchell and Laurie Holden lead the way in Silent Hill, and both do a solid job. Holden plays the cop, Cybil, and it’s clear why she goes from this to playing the “hang with the boys” character in The Walking Dead. Radha Mitchell has a difficult time hiding her accent at points, but it isn’t terrible, and doesn’t really ruin her character by any means. Sean Bean plays the father figure, and though his accent bothered me as well, the real problem with this role is the character itself. Towards the end of the film, this man’s wife and daughter are missing, so what does he do? Accepts a “plea bargin” of sorts and leaves the town that he knows his missing family members still remain to head home, shower, and sit on the couch. I just don’t get any second of it, and I dislike the character because of this. Jodelle Ferland plays Sharon, the missing daughter. She doesn’t have much heavy lifting to do in terms of acting, but is definitely believable when she needs to be.
Story & Script
Here is where Silent Hill falls apart as the story just doesn’t make sense. I’ve seen this in the past, and I still have a difficult time following along. The basic premise is that this little adopted girl starts sleepwalking. While sleepwalking she talks about this place called Silent Hill. Her mother does some research and finds out that Silent Hill is located in West Virginia, which is where they were told the little girl was originally from before they adopted her. So, against the father’s wishes, the mother takes the girl out to Silent Hill, West Virginia, which is a town that was ravaged by a big fire years ago. When they get there, they get into an accident, and I guess it propels them into a different dimension or something because every so many minutes the town turns from day to night, and these nightmarish creatures start to appear and try to kill everything in their path. The story turns into something about witches and burning kids like pieces of bacon over fire pits. I don’t know. The whole thing gets convoluted as hell, and even when they sit down to spell it all out to the viewer, there are still inconsistencies and the puzzle pieces never fit together. It is an incredibly frustrating film to watch because it doesn’t add up at all. I will just ask this one question: if Alessa had a daughter, Sharon, only nine or ten years prior, why are the flashbacks shown as if everyone is in the 1950s, driving around in old cars and wearing clothes from that era? It just doesn’t make sense! Maybe those who have played the video game series will have a better understanding, but the story doesn’t work for me at all. And this script comes from Roger Avary, the man that helped create the script to Pulp Friggin’ Fiction?! It just doesn’t make sense.
Director Christophe Gans doesn’t have a long filmography, and his movies are usually released many years apart. Take his last three films, for example: Brotherhood of the Wolf came out in 2001, Silent Hill in 2006, then Beauty and the Beast in 2014. If Silent Hill is a good example of his work, then I can see why I had never heard of him prior to this film. The man has a great eye for cinematography as some of the wide shots from the beginning of the film are breathtaking, but that is more likely credited to cinematographer Dan Laustsen, who has a solid resume, than the director. I loved the sets used, and the flying ash that looked like snow is an excellent touch that played well on screen. Otherwise, there’s nothing special about Gans’ directing in Silent Hill, and he isn’t a director whose work I would seek out in the future.
Holy CGI, Batman! As I read recently, CGI, like anything else in filmmaking, is not a bad thing. It is simply another tool that an artist can use, and the result can be positive or negative. Unfortunately for Silent Hill, the result is negative. Gans relies almost entirely on CGI throughout the whole film, and while some of it is really good, most of it is not. I understand this comes from the years when CGI was just starting to look good, but some of the monsters are just laughable. This is a huge disappointment because, otherwise, the monsters in Silent Hill could have made this one of the best horror films of the past decade. Pyramid Head, for example, is excellently done, and even the faceless nurses look great (most of the nurses were practical effects, though, from what I could tell). It may have been a better choice to do less monsters if they could have made them all look as good as Pyramid Head.
I’ve seen Silent Hill a couple times before, but I can never remember very much of it after it’s over. After watching it this time, I can safely say that I dislike the movie, and don’t plan on watching it again in the future.
Silent Hill could have – should have – been an excellent movie. The monsters that come from this world are things of nightmares if done correctly. Unfortunately they’re not done well, and though Pyramid Head looks great, the rest of the monsters just don’t have any menace behind them. The story is confusing to follow, and the movie is longer than it needs to be. Silent Hill leaves a lot to be desired, and I’d recommend sticking to the video game instead.
Branden has been a film fan since he was young, roaming the halls of Blockbuster Video, trying to find the grossest, scariest looking VHS covers to rent and watch alone in the basement. It wasn’t until recently, though, that Branden started seeking out the classics of cinema, and began to develop his true passion for the art form. Branden approaches each film with the unique perspective of having studied the art from the inside, having both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in acting. He has been a film critic since 2010, and has previously written for Inside Pulse Movies, We Love Cult, and Diehard Gamefan. His biggest achievement as a film critic, to date, has been founding Cinefessions and turning it from a personal blog to a true film website, housing hundreds of film and television reviews, and dozens of podcasts.