The field of art is peopled by so many artists that certain works…like Silent Hill: Revelation 3D…make one badly wish for new distinctions. Simply saying Michael Bassett and Stanley Kubrick are both directors, while true in the literal sense, omits a vast range of expertise. James Patterson and Vladimir Nabokov are both “authors,” for example. I’m a big fan of the English language but here we can agree that it has its limitations (though I do suppose that the obligatory “3D” in Silent Hill’s title may have been a helpful signpost on our way to the DVD player).
That’s all a politer way of saying hoo boy this movie is atrocious.
I’m not the biggest fan of Stanley Kubrick but I mentioned him above to underline the distinction between a real film and a workman’s cock up. Love him or hate him, Kubrick is able to create moods with his films by meticulously placing elements where they need to be and giving them time to affect his audience. The composition of his shots are elegantly planned, the gaze allowed to wander. Scenes go on for as long as it takes to establish his characters, or his sets, their colors matched by music likewise composed. The point is, the man is like an architect or a mathematician or a musician. Just as you wouldn’t trust the building of a house to someone who came at it piece by piece, just as you wouldn’t trust an atomic bomb to a monkey in a lab coat, just as you wouldn’t expect a symphony from someone who hums well enough, you shouldn’t expect a film from someone who is illiterate to the form.
Silent Hill: Revelation 3D stumbles over the same hurdle that plagues many direct-to-video efforts: lack of talent. Now, Silent Hill: Revelation 3D was not a direct-to-video effort but a full-on-theatrical effort. It even stars Sean Bean and Malcolm McDowell (the latter because he seems to have had nothing better to do, the former because this franchise has not managed to kill him yet). Silent Hill: Revelation 3D, like this year’s excuse for an Evil Dead film, can’t be bothered to create a legitimate atmosphere. So what it does is provide quick cuts and close ups.
Even if you do not consider yourself a film buff and can say that you just watch movies without a critical eye, you will know something is amiss – your brain will cry out to you – when you are assaulted by quick cuts and close ups. You see we as an audience like to be drawn into a film, we like to be immersed in it. That makes the characters more real to us and the scares scary. By constantly cutting as Mr. Bassett is wont to do we are led to whatever half-assed jump-scare he’s lined up for us like dogs staring at shuffling storyboard cards.
If you’re still curious, this film is about a girl named Heather who’s really named Sharon who’s really named Alessa.* She’s the innocent part of Alessa’s soul, the little girl who was burned and buried underneath Silent Hill, the haunted American town that is damned by Alessa’s psychokinetic powers. Her father (Sean Bean) is kidnapped to lure Heather back, where she will be sacrificed by the crazy cult that lives in the town. “It sounds like one of those crazy doomsday cults,” says Heather to her friend Vincent. “Yeah sounds like it,” he says.
When Heather starts her first day of school (as an eighteen-year-old) one of the girls in her class asks her where she gets her clothes. Goodwill? Yes, such freeform nastiness is countenanced in high school these days. Heather then gets up on her soapbox to tell her peers that she doesn’t want to know them, she doesn’t have friends, her life is a living nightmare. Later her new friend Vincent tells her, “You’re kind of funny, Heather. You’re pretty fucked up but I think you’re goofy fun inside.”
After a man is murdered and Heather is running away from the mall she tells Vincent, “I can’t talk to you.” “Look you can talk to me,” he says. “No I can’t,” she says.
And that’s all you really need to know about their relationship.
Silent Hill is based on a very successful franchise of survival horror games, the earliest installments of which are terrifying. Silent Hill the game was scary because the town felt real, dilapidated and dirty. It was a broken place of darkness and pain that infiltrated the mind. Silent Hill the film is not scary because every set feels like a set. The lighting is not natural, the acting is horrendous, the dialogue is deplorable. Its garish CGI delineates a clear line between the actors and the green screen and the music, plucked from the game, feels as out of place as Sean Bean. Everything the film does it overdoes and yet Heather faces every monster and grotesquery with blank-faced stoicism – she screams at the jump scares and then is happy to go about her day, leaving the mannequin spiders, mongoloids with axes and cannibals behind her.
The game never makes it explicit just what is to blame for the town’s weirdness. The monsters and the fog and the darkness are manifestations of the main characters’ psyches, making the horror personal and more than simple bloody violence. In Silent Hill: Revelation 3D, because the cult is literally living inside the town the idea that an average joe like Vincent could be born and raised there without access to agricultural products, non-human meat, working educational system, or sanitation services is the least of its boggling plot holes.
Why do they even put people in the nurse room?
Silent Hill: Revelation 3D (2012)
Directed by Michael J. Bassett
*The scene where Heather confronts her demon self is baffling in a film that is a carousel of baffles. Heather is Alessa’s soul, more or less, and Alessa threatens her with death because…? I’ll throw my hat in the ring and say it’s in poor taste for a little girl who was burned alive for the sake of a crazy cult to say “Sacrifices have to be made.” It might have been ironic but Silent Hill: Revelation 3D’s pretty free of irony and other subtle flavors…
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