31 Days of Fear: Silent Hill

SilentHill-FIW

Out Of Time

by Brody Rossiter


 

It isn’t difficult to argue that Silent Hill is the greatest video game movie adaptation ever made. Now in fairness that isn’t much of an accolade when held up against its woeful competition, however, the this doesn’t hide the fact that Christophe Gans’ visually breath-taking journey into gaming’s most infamous town perfectly captures the eerie spirit and corroded aesthetic of the franchise, whilst also forming them into a successful standalone horror film.

Early entries into the Silent Hill franchise highlighted that video games, in this case the survival horror genre, were capable of showcasing irrefutable and deeply immersive artistry. They fostered a profoundly unnerving atmosphere and preyed upon our weaknesses and frailties, highlighting that game designers were just as accomplished, if not more successful, at forming unique stories and a sense true dread than film directors. Obviously these games wore many filmic influences upon James Sunderland’s green jacket sleeves, Jacob’s Ladder proving a key inspiration behind Silent Hill 2’s plot and creature design. Nevertheless, the games’ influence today upon numerous forms of media from film to television, games to books, is vast but perhaps also vastly overlooked.

Following a near death experience in which her daughter Sharon nearly sleepwalks off the side of a cliff, Rose Da Silva decides to investigate the place which her child inexplicably screams out during her nightmarish episodes, Silent Hill. Defying her concerned husband (Sean Bean) Rose journeys to the “ghost town” alongside Sharon. However before they arrive, bizarre happenings cause Rose to career off the road and crash her SUV. When she awakes Sharon is gone, and the world around her bears no resemblance to anything she’s ever seen before.

The balance Gans strikes between appeasing gaming nerds (like me) and enforcing his own gothic vision is both delicate and accomplished. The early introduction of Akira Yamaoka’s familiarly beautiful scoring – a reprieve from the pounding, grinding soundscape present – acts as a clear identifier that the director has the best of intentions. As Rose awakens in Silent Hill, the falling ash that blankets the wide abandoned streets quickly gives way to an aching mechanicalness as the distraught mother descends into the town’s rusted underground bowels. This introduction acts as a whistle-stop tour of the town’s various incarnations throughout its time on consoles. Revisiting the many notorious locations of Silent Hill and witnessing its famed use of impossible space on the big screen is endlessly rewarding – especially for fans – not to mention visually stunning. Unfortunately, at times the special effects already appear somewhat dated (practical effects are hideously effective by comparison), specifically when it comes to creature design. However, the bleak exterior and grimy interior locations, accentuated by desolate widescreen cinematography, still stand proudly as unique and bewildering monuments to the franchise’s original vision and the film’s progression of it.

Rivalled only by the first Resident Evil film – another picture which benefitted greatly from its celebrated survival horror source material – Silent Hill is a hellacious yet surprisingly cathartic picture that bears the twisted scars, bloody visages and incendiary themes of the its gaming precursors in the process of presenting a thrilling, horror infused narrative. Silent Hill is a video game adaptation that should be celebrated for its authenticity and admired for its contribution to cinema.

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