Video Game Adaptations: Silent Hill Revelation

Silent-Hill-Revelation-poster

I swore that I was never going to do another one of these after the misbegotten Mario Brothers adaptation sapped my will to live. However, when I saw Silent Hill 2 was announced, the sequel to arguably the only remotely successful adaptation, and that Solomon Kane director Michael J. Basset was helming, I resolved to not only watch it, but provide the review as a nice symmetrical bookend to this series- I started with the original so there’s a nice sense of order to finishing with the sequel. So, is this series going out with a bang or a whimper?

Contains strange pink rabbits and severe spoilers below.

Silent Hill 2 the game is not fit for the screen. It’s an inordinately complicated psychodrama, and much of the interpretation of the game is to do with the disturbance in the main character’s head and his struggle to come to terms with his guilt. It’s also got nothing at all to do with the original Silent Hill other than a shared location. Silent Hill 3, on the other hand, has far more potential for cinema, but more importantly is a direct sequel to the original featuring the same plot, same villain, and many recurring character. As such, I can see exactly why they chose this as the model for Revelation. It is also, and this is important for horror, probably the single nastiest game that I’ve ever seen with a climax that is truly, truly repugnant. I have to say, I was curious as to how they were going to handle this, frankly repellent, scene.

Alessa's smoking habit had got so out of hand smoke was pouring out her arse as she walked along the street.

Alessa’s smoking habit had got so out of hand smoke was pouring out her arse as she walked along the street.

Meet Heather (Adele Clemens). Heather is a spiky and alienated teenage girl who is on the run with her father Harry (Sean Bean, still sporting a terrible American accent), and is plagued by nightmares of horrible monsters and Silent Hill. She thinks that it’s from the cops, but in reality, they’re hiding from the evil Silent Hill Cultists who are absolutely desperate to get Heather back to Silent Hill. Heather, it turns out, is Sharon all grown up, and Sharon is the “good” part of Alessa, vengeful demon of Silent Hill. The Cult needs her to reunite with Alessa so that they can kill her and thus escape Alessa’s curse, which seals them into the misbegotten hell that is Silent Hill.

On her first day in school, she tells her class to do one, and sort of makes friends with new transfer student Vincent (Game of Yawns’ insufferable Kit Harrington, sporting a much better American accent). She’s also stalked by shady Private Eye Douglas (Martin Donovan). Harry, in the meantime, is kidnapped, while Heather fends off a variety of angry monsters and mad cannibal types. Eventually, she picks up a sigil (stupid symbol thing straight from the game), and for reasons too dimwitted to go into returns to Silent Hill with Vincent to see his Grandfather Leonard (Malcolm McDowell slumming again) to unite the sigil, before a confrontation with Alessa and eventually a demented Claudia (Carrie Ann Moss), the lunatic cult leader.

Wabbit.  Scary pink Wabbit

Wabbit. Scary Pink Wabbit.
Where’s Elmer Fudd with a shotgun when you need him

Other shit happens on the way. But it’s mostly inconsequential stuff- above is the meat of the narrative, and it was damned hard to distill into something coherent, so be bloody grateful. The most important side encounters are with Dahlia (a returning Deborah Kara Unger) and Pyramid Head, who is revealed as Alessa’s Guardian.

*takes deep breath*

As an adaptation of the game, this is nigh on perfect. It hits all the major points from the game, and includes all the major sequences and images. It’s even got the same fucking structure with the dream of the pink rabbit populated amusement park from hell (actually, when you return to it, this is one of the most annoying pieces of any game of all time). They make some clever changes, notably to Vincent’s character (I am at a total loss as to what the fuck he was doing in the game), and significantly alter the climax so that Claudia doesn’t have to ingest Heather’s miscarried foetus to birth the demon god. As a knock on effect of this, it also means that the anger trigger to the darkness makes much more sense in the film than the game- it’s the dark side of Alessa in the film, but a kind of sub-par Star Wars knock off (anger feeds the dark side) in the game. Not all the changes are successful, but more on this in a minute.

The NHS cutbacks really messed with the hygiene standards.

The NHS cutbacks really messed with the hygiene standards.

Firstly, the casting is fucking perfect. Perfect. Clemens is a dead ringer for Heather, and I’ve no idea if she was the little girl in the original, but she looks highly credible as an “adult” Sharon. DKU was always the ace in the hole in the original, and is still note-perfect as Dahlia. Carrie Ann Moss, surprisingly, is also a dead ringer for Claudia (I didn’t see that coming), although the character is terribly underwritten, and Harrington and Donovan could have stepped straight from the game. McDowell is a far more expanded character, being little more than an end-of-level boss in the game, but it does make sense to enlarge his role. The acting, bar Bean, is so so, and I actually quite like Clemens in the lead. Plaudits go to Deborah Kara Unger’s damaged Dahlia, though. It’s a small role (as is Radha Mitchell’s returning Rose), but film stealing in its own way.

Adapting Silent Hill 3 to the screen was always going to be a massive challenge. As such, the dialogue is OK, and the writers (Michael J. Bassett and Laurent Hadida) bust a gut making sure that the film crams in as much from the game as it possibly can. In terms of direction, it’s totally over-directed (which is a shame), and there’s a LOT of terrible CGI work in there. On the plus side, though, almost all of the the key Silent Hill 3 imagery (notably the pink rabbits) makes it to the screen wholesale. They really did put in an inordinate amount of work making sure this was as faithful to the game as they possibly could.

No. I've been twice now, and it's a shithole. I'd almost rather go to Wales.

No. I’ve been twice now, and it’s a shithole. I’d almost rather go to Wales. Well, it’s not quite that bad.

And here’s where the problems lie, and boy there are lots and lots of problems. So many, in fact, that I’m even going to ignore the shitty “poke things at the screen” 3D nonsense that the film is riddled with. Feel free to insert the Werewolves on the Moon standard fuck off 3D disclaimer here, by the way, if you want. The first half of the film is a bonanza bundle of confusing and tedious exposition as Bassett attempts to jam in every single thing that you need to know for the second half of the film to make a lick of sense. Which it doesn’t by the way. I watched this with Mrs. Jarv, and it felt like we had to pause the bloody film every two minutes so I could explain to her, with reference to the game, what the fuck was going on. In all honesty, if I didn’t know the game backwards, I’d have been completely lost.

Watching this for me, armed with knowledge that most don’t have, became a bit wearying, in all honesty, as I eventually stopped really paying attention and started to play spot the reference. Including the penis-monster thing jumping out of the mannequin beast in the doll factory. I have no idea why they stuffed this monster in, as the best effect in the film was the transformation of girl to dummy that took place just before it, and it was jarring and rubbish CGI. I suppose it did jump at the camera, and was an end of level boss, but really, it’s totally needless.

'orrible mannequin monster thing. It's head sprouts a penis demon monster thing as well. It's still rubbish

‘orrible mannequin monster thing. It’s head sprouts a penis demon monster thing as well. It’s still rubbish

The major challenge is one of time. Silent Hill 3 takes a minimum of 24 hours to complete totally. Silent Hill 2 the film has a run time of under 2 hours. The problem is that there’s an awful lot of information required to turn the story into something resembling coherence, as such, it’s an inordinately difficult task to compress this into 94 piddling little minutes. To make matters worse, they’re so intent on hitting every touch point in the game (the demon carousel with the bondage freaks is laughably shit) that the film devolves into a series of individual scenes. Or, in games terminology, cut scenes. I’ve already seen the fucking cut scenes, because I saw them in the game. I do not want to see them again.

Not only did they need to take more liberties with the game (not something I usually say), but the changes they made to make it palatable for the average viewer actually serve to add to the confusion. The joined sigil, for example, allows Heather to “see” the true form of people- i.e. Alessa’s Darkness world. This, while  not a hideous idea, does require exposition to explain, and if there’s one thing this film did not need 60 minutes in, then that’s more exposition. The other attempted piece of cleverness is repositioning Pyramid Head from unstoppable killing machine into Alyessa’s guardian and pet executioner. Shit idea. Full stop. They only do it, because in the game when it enters the shadow world there’s a Demon in the background (forgotten his name) who manipulates levers and wheels and so forth- he’s meant to be operating the shadow world for Heather to navigate. Here, they make a nod to this by placing Pyramid Head at the controls of Satan’s merry go round. Not only is it a crap idea, but it’s also totally needless, and they only did it because of the presence of the Demon in the game.

Mother, Grandmother, make your fecking mind up.

Mother/ Grandmother, make your fecking mind up.

The next problem that the film can’t get over is the subtext of the game. A lot of it is metaphorical “onset of sexuality” stuff, particularly in the imagery and the monsters she fights- yes, it’s all about the cock. The film approaches this “dark” sexuality in the most predictable and unimaginative way it could with the monsters being fetishised nurses, bondage freaks and so forth, while the main human baddies are gas-mask clad perverts called “The Brethren” (no idea where this honking idea came from). Given that it’s quite an ugly film, it doesn’t take long for Silent Hill Revelation to feel like a third rate Hellraiser Sequel (that’s all of them not called Hellbound), a problem exacerbated in the main monster design.

Then there’s the climax. Look, I totally understand why they didn’t go with the vomiting miscarriage thing. It’s minging. It makes absolute sense to co-opt Claudia and maker her into the effective End of Game Boss, as that’s sort of what happens in the game, except in a far more repugnant way. What doesn’t make sense is to pull some sort of ludicrous Scooby Doo reveal, and have her transform into the third rate cenobite that’s been plaguing Heather for the course of the film. It makes even less sense for Pyramid Head to get involved and duke it out with said Cenobite while Heather sits there and does feck all.

"The Missionary" was livid that she wasn't in the Hellraiser remake.

“The Missionary” was livid that she wasn’t in the Hellraiser remake.

Finally, as I’m aware that I’ve got a bad dose of waffle-itis here, there’s the main character herself. I’m not sure why this was a good idea, but she’s reduced to a damsel in distress, and not a particularly interesting one. In the game, Heather was quite the little badass, but here she’s just not capable. She only kills one monster for fuck’s sake, choosing to run away or let others handle the rest (I’m not including overcoming Alessa on the merry go round). This, therefore, diminishes her and makes her a touch shrill, whiny and unlikable. She does look like she’s going to go all bad ass, by grabbing a pipe to smack a beast (doesn’t go through with it), or getting tooled up, but she never (Leonard excepted) makes the step that the likes of Ripley make- she doesn’t move to being a capable heroine. It’s a shame, actually, because it rips the heart clean out of the film.

Overall, if you’ve played and like the game, then you can get something out of this. Nevertheless, as a film, it’s pretty terrible. The flaws in the adaptation are too many and too insurmountable, and it’s an ugly film with an overabundance of poking shit at the screen. When you throw in the lousy CGI, crappy monster design and mountains of exposition, Silent Hill Revelation becomes an ugly and boring pain in the ass that’s nowhere near as good as either it’s source material or the (many) films it rips off. I do not recommend this one, and I’m going out on a low note. Silent Hill Revelation is, in fact, shite.

Silent-Hill-Revelation-rating

And the soundtrack blows when it isn’t using the Silent Hill theme.

Series over, and I have to say that it’s been emotional. If the emotion is pain and rage.

Ciao,

Jarv.

Video Games

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About Jarv

Workshy cynic, given to posting reams of nonsense on the internet and watching films that have inexplicably got a piss poor reputation.

26 responses to “Video Game Adaptations: Silent Hill Revelation”

  1. Jarv says :

    Probably didn’t deserve this long a review. Still, that’s me not doing another. I think it made money worldwide, and will on DVD etc, so we may get another sequel- which it makes allowances for.

    Bassett needs to go back to Solomon Kane.

  2. Judge Droid says :

    Think you mean McDowell, not Mclaren.

    Anyhoo, on with the reading.

  3. Judge Droid says :

    Shitty film I’m afraid. I wanted to like it, simply because of Bassett, but it’s just plain crap.

    It does look shit, especially compared to the first one. But he was working with two thirds less budget or thereabouts, and he had to make it for 3fuckingD. So it’s somewhat understandable in a way. Not an excuse. Just understandable.

    • Jarv says :

      I think he used the budget in the wrong places, though. There’s really no need for this film to have oodles of CGI. As such the darkness world is totally neglected in favour of a handful of set pieces with a lot of flashy and shit CGI.

      The amusement park, for example, is pretty much perfect. Were I to chang this, then I’d give it 1.5.

      However, I’m making an inordinate allowance for the fact that I’m so familiar with the game that I wasn’t lost. I suspect Mrs. Jarv would Orangutan of Doom it.

      • Jarv says :

        Case in point is the needless scene with Alessa walking through the streets of Silent Hill using her shadow power to obliterate the town’s residents. No need.

        To do this, I think he needed to rely on spooky locations (the game has a few crackers that he didn’t use), and the Shadow world. Pity.

      • Judge Droid says :

        It also could’ve used a slightly slower pace. Less shit happening one thing after another. More eery creeping around trying not to be seen. It’s just too frantic. That and everything looks like a set.

        Take a note of a movie like Sinister. The best and scariest scene in that movie is one guy creeping around a house.

      • Jarv says :

        House of the Devil/ The Innkeepers pulls that off.

        The first half is just a rush of exposition. Solidly it’s the characters explaining information you need to know. But it comes so thick and fast that it’s really difficult to pay attention to. I think they looked at the big problem in the first film and tried to just get it out of the way.

        The second half is then a series of set pieces that are barely joined together.

      • Judge Droid says :

        Yes, HOTD is a good example.

        There’s a shitload of exposition, but it still doesn’t seem to make sense. Plus, there’s not a great reason to care since the characters aren’t very interesting or likeable. So it doesn’t seem worth paying attention.

      • Jarv says :

        The game, actually, handles the dissemination of the information really, really well.

        It doesn’t reveal a damned thing until you get to the motel in Silent Hill (the film nails this image as well, actually), but then in the hospital and the church she gradually pieces the story together from fragments.

        Very effective, because the game basically breaks down to 3 sections which can then be subdivided:
        1) Going Home
        2) Investigating Silent Hill
        3) Discovering the Truth.

        The divisions are- in going home:

        1. Mall
        2. Underground
        3. Flat

        In Investigating Silent Hill

        1. Motel and Streets
        2. Mannequin factory/ offices
        3. Hospital

        In Finding the truth

        1. Amusement Park
        2. Church

        This is almost the exact structure of the film, but messed around with.

      • Jarv says :

        There’s a shitload of exposition, but it still doesn’t seem to make sense. Plus, there’s not a great reason to care since the characters aren’t very interesting or likeable. So it doesn’t seem worth paying attention.

        Yes. This is the problem. You just don’t care.

        For example, the “how sharon got back” stuff is just solid exposition and doesn’t make a lick of sense. Then there’s Vincent explaining how he got out, Douglas (major character in the game killed too early- Vincent takes his place) explaining the cult, Harry’s box, and so on and so forth. It’s forced and inorganic.

        You can’t develop an affinity for the characters, because there’s no character work. They may as well be staring straight at the camera yelling “PAY ATTENTION THIS IS IMPORTANT”.

      • Jarv says :

        The reason it’s forced, though, is because they have to explain so fucking much.

        We have to know about Silent Hill and the Cult or the last third is inexplicable. We have to know how Sharon got back, because who the fuck is Heather then, and once they made the call to “seal” Silent Hill in Alessa’s wrath, we have to know how Vincent got out (nasty scene this).

        What they should have done, and they kind of dabble with, is Heather’s rage triggering the darkness, which she can do because she’s “near” Silent Hill (thank you Vincent). Except don’t explain it. Allow her to discover it naturally like the game does.

        Sort of like evil Hulking-out.

      • Judge Droid says :

        I think one of the reasons why the first film worked (kinda) and this one didn’t is the exposition. The first one just told a story until it reached the 2/3rds mark when it spontaneously combusted under the realisation that it had to explain everything all at once. The second film tried to rectify that by front loading the shitload of exposition, but this resulted in no one caring.

        The lesson here? At least the first film was watchable for 2/3rds.

      • Jarv says :

        Basically, yes. This is also more complicated than the first one. There is more to explain.

        The lesson is to drip feed it and don’t front end load, or cause the whole thing to derail.

      • Judge Droid says :

        The lesson is also to show, don’t tell.

      • Jarv says :

        Yup. If you do have to tell, then find a way to seep it in gently.

        Otherwise, as you said- show don’t tell.

        Also, when adapting, try to remember that it’s an adaptation not a reproduction- see also Watchmen.

      • Judge Droid says :

        Like Heathers dream at the beginning of the film. The dream in the amusement park tells us absolutely nothing, except for setting up a few characters. So it’s a waste of time. But if it’s a dream that tells us something that we need to know. Shit, have the dream be about Alessa torching the town or something. Then we get some exposition and its still a nightmare.

      • Jarv says :

        The Dream is straight from the game. Straight from it- and is only there to reinforce the sense of creepy deja vu when you hit it in the game.

        The dream should have been the Alessa exposition. That’s a creepy idea for a nightmare, and would have explained Silent Hill and the Curse without the exposition.

        Bear in mind they did handle this by Heather reading a letter, FFS!

      • Judge Droid says :

        I don’t know the game, so I wouldn’t get anywhere near 1.5. I’d probably give it .5, because it’s mercifully brief.

      • Jarv says :

        Yup. You really do have to be ridiculously familiar with the game to piece it together.

        Anything that relies on in-depth knowledge of source material like this fails.

      • Jarv says :

        The other film we got from Lovefilm was Rust and bone.

        Looking forward to that.

  4. rajat0412 says :

    Reblogged this on rajat0412 and commented:
    xciting…

  5. ThereWolf says :

    This is based on Silent Hill 3? I own the game but never played it.

    Honestly, I thought Revelation was rubbish. Only saw it a couple of weeks ago and i’m struggling to remember what happened beyond Pyramid Head v Cenobite finale.

    Nice one, Jarv.

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