McMillan’s Codex #36 By C.T. McMillan
Videogame Movie: Silent Hill: Revelation
The only revelation in Silent Hill: Revelation (SHR) is the movie is garbage. Some years ago I watched the film out of curiosity and then once more to make sure the movie was not a delusion conjured by my subconscious. Now I find myself having to watch this detritus again for analysis.
Explaining SHR requires a brief summary of the game from which the movie draws inspiration: Silent Hill 3.
Picking up 17 years after Harry escaped the town, a reincarnated Alessa, now named Heather, lives an ordinary life as a teenager in Portland, Maine. While at the mall, she finds out the cult that used her to bring their demon god into reality has returned to give the summoning ritual another try. At the same time, the remnants of her power bleed out and turn her surroundings into a nightmare world as she struggles to stop the cult.
Silent Hill 3 is arguably the best of the original four games. A consistent feeling of doubt enhanced the trademark psychological horror. You never knew what was really happening or why, even when the grotesque imagery was blatant, and were constantly on edge. The story was told in much the same subtle fashion where you had to pay attention to what characters said and read the memos available throughout the levels.
Regardless of how the film fares as an adaptation, SHR does not work as a movie. At least the first tried to be a film and a love letter to Silent Hill fans. From start to finish everything in SHR is terrible and I will do my best to articulate points of note without the bringing up minor infractions.
The first issue is the use of jump-scares. In fact, the word “scare” is redundant because loud noises and orchestra stings are not scary. They are startling and work well with a proper build-up, but they are also cheap and devoid of creativity. Scary things are scary because they inspire discomfort and anxiety by simply being. Xenomorphs, the Thing, and Michael Myers exude elements of terror to induce a sense of fear. SHR has a jump-scare maybe every other scene of things that are not scary. A bloody bunny mascot’s head turns, people wearing skin masks look up, a cenobite knock-off monster drops into an elevator, and a ghost girl looks at the camera. There was no craft or effort, capitalizing off lazy methods to establish a superficial fright.
The grotesque imagery goes overboard to the point the grotesquery is nonexistent. The nightmare world environments are just dirty with scraps of plastic bags hanging from the ceiling and layers of grime spread across the floor and walls. In the last movie the environments had a distinct industrial feel to contrast the normality of the decayed world before the shift in reality. Everything was bloody and rusty with a consistent aesthetic instead of some garbage the production glued to the sets. They are also not particularly well lit because SHR has more lighting than an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The last movie used darkness to convey a sense of isolation and hide as much of the set as possible, but SHR is more concerned with showing everything and killing tension.
The monsters are not scary either with the cenobite creature mentioned before, a muscular Power Rangers villain made of skin, a CG manikin spider that appears for one scene, and some clown children eating meat. Granted, I am slightly desensitized from all the movies and games I play, but with the first Silent Hill movie, the production was smart enough to copy and paste designs from the games because those monsters actually worked. For some reason, SHR went with original creatures and imagery that tries way too hard to be scary. I found myself rolling my eyes when I was supposed to be disgusted and appalled.
The story telling is the movie’s biggest problem. The narrative is easy to follow and somewhat similar to Silent Hill 3 (give or take a handful of inconsistencies), but how SHR conveys information is that of an amateur writer. With film you have the ability to tell the audience everything without saying a word. Through acting, visuals, and action you can express all manner of detail without one line of dialog. The writer(s) of SHR obviously did not understand this because there are about three exposition dumps where characters regurgitate what we already learn in previous scenes. Rather than reveal this information overtime like a normal story, the movie is frontloaded with narrative that is later repeated.
The first dump happens when the movie establishes a retcon in a flashback where Sharon is returned to reality with Christopher. Appearing in a mirror, his wife Rose says he needs to keep Sharon safe because the Order is looking for her to escape Silent Hill with a thing called the Seal of Metatron. The Order is apparently the same Puritan cult from the last movie, but they worship a demon now.
The next exposition dump occurs when a private investigator named Douglas confronts Heather at a mall and repeats the same dialog from the previous dump. Douglas is a major character from the game and he shows up for two scenes and dies when the movie does not need him anymore.
Afterward, when Chris is kidnapped by the Order, Heather travels to Silent Hill to get him back. On the way she reads his journal with intricate details of the town’s origins, the Order, and how they sought a child to birth their god into existence. This dump also pokes holes in the movie’s world and logic, saying the Order found Alessa, tried to purify her with fire so she can be resurrected as their god’s vessel before she transformed the entire town into a nightmare.
Besides the fact this contradicts the multiple dimension concept established in the last film, this is a classic case of a retcon gone wrong. Too many additions to the first film fail to gel with the follow-up to the point the revisions do not work logically. The Puritan cult was very much killed off and there were no inklings that they worshipped a demon. Did they change their minds after the end of the first movie? Were there survivors or other residents who chose to worship the demon? That would work, but the movie heavily implies that the Order is the same cult from the first movie, which was massacred at the conclusion.
Instead of a retcon, the smartest choice was to follow the route of the games. The first Silent Hill was about a demon-worshipping cult, but the second was about people travelling to Silent Hill and exploring the darker side of their pasts. That would have been a great idea because the fan base of Silent Hill 2 is massive and the story easier to write without poorly executed plot changes.
If one were to turn off one’s brain, Silent Hill: Revelation makes a great comedy. As a failed horror movie and a bastardized adaptation, the many inconsistencies are great material for a riff party. The jump-scares, bad sets, poor effects, and debouched writing are the mistakes of B-movies, not a production of practiced individuals. At face value, Silent Hill: Revelation is a failure as a film and adaptation, something other videogame movies have in common. To quote Silent Hill 2: “For me, it’s always like this.”
C.T. McMillan (Episode 169) is a film critic and devout gamer. He has a Bachelors for Creative Writing in Entertainment from Full Sail University.
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