Saturday, August 9, 2008

Movie: Silent Hill

So after all the hoopla talking about “the new wave of French horror,” here I am, reviewing a film that’s: 1) an American production; 2) based on a video game; and 3) pretty poor. Let’s just go with the assumption I’m working from worst to best.

Now, Christophe Gans is by no means a bad filmmaker; after all, he helmed entertaining, if flawed, Brotherhood of the Wolf. In other words: he’s not Uwe Boll. But this seems to be the fate of French genre directors who make a big splash in their own terroir: they come to the US with stars in their eyes and are blessed with a big-budget video-game adaptations or remakes which still rake in ungodly amounts of money.

Having not played Silent Hill, I’m in no position to judge how faithful the film is to the game, but video games, at least, have an interactive element which allows the player to invest in the character on-screen. Films don’t have that immediacy, so it falls upon the screenwriter to provide that connection. So here’s problem #1: Radha Mitchell—no stranger to genre films herself—has little to do during the first hour of the film except run around and scream “Sharon!” Sean Bean is similarly squandered as he races around in a subplot that screams “Padding!”

Gans does manage to conjure up some striking images, but, unlike the visions of Guillermo del Toro, Gans’ feel shopworn, second-hand. Pyramid-Head might have been more frightening if he didn’t feel like a Cenobite on steroids. The town cut off by sudden, endless cliffs? You can thank Michele Soavi’s Dellamorte Dellamore for that. The uniform worn by Officer Bennett (Laurie Holden, whom you might remember from the X-Files as Marita Covarrubias) seems as if it were designed by Tom of Finland. The tightly choreographed Rockettes-of-the-damned scene (nurses in latex!), however, is something that I’ll give Gans credit for, but for every interesting moment, there are at least two that will leave you shaking your head: the trip-hop showdown march, the grainy explanatory flashback, the cryptic crazy lady. I kept shaking my hand at the TV screen, hoping a cursor would appear so that I could click Radha Mitchell into a different part of the movie.

Apparently Gans is slated to direct the movie version of the game Onimusha next. Wake me when he gets to World of Warcraft.

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