Written and Directed by: Michael J. Bassett
Starring: Adelaide Clemens, Sean Bean, Kit Harington
Rated: R for violence and disturbing images, some language and brief nudity
The “Silent Hill” series of video games is enormously popular among a select crowd of fans – their complex mythology and survival-horror genre (meaning combat is less important than finding a way to survive long enough to escape) are very engaging to the right kind of person. The film franchise is notably less celebrated, and seems to aim for “visually impressive b-movie horror flick” rather than “quality horror movie” of any genre. The latest installment, “Silent Hill: Revelation 3D” succeeds when taken on what seems like its own terms. Taken on almost any other measure of film quality, it’s a failure.
The story manages to be somehow simple and convoluted at the same time. Sharon, the child from the first movie, is almost 18 now and she (Adelaide Clemens) and her father (Sean Bean) travel around constantly, trying to evade the cult from Silent Hill. Sharon doesn’t remember the events of the first film, but keeps having nightmares about the metaphysically-ravaged town. Before long, Sharon’s nightmares and her reality seem to be merging, and she comes home to find her father gone and a message in blood demanding that she come to Silent Hill.
The town, where ash falls from the sky like snow, is mostly deserted — except when The Darkness descends and demonic creatures roam the streets. Sharon has to search for the other half of the seal that let her escape Silent Hill as a child, find her father, and evade the agents of The Order, who want to use her as a vessel to incarnate their deity.
The “daughter seeks father while eluding group of nasty people” plot is a simple one, but the details of it come at the audience fast and furious. If you have no familiarity with “Silent Hill” (movie or games), the shorthand non-explanations and constant passing references may leave you confused.
The two things “Silent Hill: Revelation 3D” does solidly and well are jump-scares and creepy monsters. There’s a spider-like thing made of mannequin parts, monstrous children, the iconic Pyramid Head (who plays a part in the plot rather than just being scary), and of course the inhuman Nurses. All are rendered with top-notch effects, both CGI and prosthetics (the one genuinely bad piece of CGI in the film comes early on and isn’t monster-related), and the pacing and filming of their sequences are delightfully gross and creepy.
The Nurses are worth a special mention: they are highly sexualized, with revealing outfits, sky-high heels, and prominent breasts, but also corpse-pale flesh and twisted, featureless faces. They react to sound and try to kill anything that moves, all while sighing and cooing like they’re trying to seduce their victim. The camera zooms in on their assets to a degree that borders on but somehow can’t quite commit to being satirical — and that, ultimately, is emblematic of the movie’s problems.
It’s too badly-written to be a good movie, but not quite campy enough to be a gloriously terrible one. Nobody in it seems to be taking it all that seriously, but they don’t seem to be in on the joke with the audience, either. It’s not coherent enough to make it clear whether the filmmakers thought they were making a good movie or not.
Ultimately, whether you can enjoy “Silent Hill: Revelation 3D” depends entirely on how you feel about the balance between the visuals/atmosphere and the awful script. Personally, I enjoy the aesthetic a great deal, and found the script only mediocre rather than mind-bogglingly terrible, so I enjoyed it. If you can’t enjoy a movie with underdeveloped characters and a plot full of details that make no sense, stay away. If you adore the “Silent Hill” look and don’t care if it’s good, don’t miss it.