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Hands are scary, because you
don't know if they washed
thoroughly after they wiped.
Review written by: Alex Sandell
It's about time a horror movie comes along that isn't
self-referential, mocking the genre it's a part of, or pretending to be above it
all. Silent Hill reminded me of
released in the late 70's and early 80's, before Jason, Freddy, Chucky and Pinhead
became SNL parodies of themselves.
Imagine the first A Nightmare on Elm Street fucking the original Hellraiser and giving birth to The Others. Then pretend it was made in Japan and didn't really give a damn whether or not you enjoyed the plot. Yes, I'm aware the writer and director of Silent Hill were not Japanese, but thanks to staying reasonably faithful to the Japanese games, it felt like a Japanese horror film. And a good one.
Unlike most movies based on games, Silent Hill never lowers itself to using cheesy death metal music, slo-mo camera work, mega-fast edits and half-naked women with a chip on their half-naked shoulders. It doesn't dumb itself down for an MTV audience, even though they're the crowd that will be in the front of the line, money in hand.
It's too bad it couldn't find a way to advertise to adults. A 30-year-old is more likely to enjoy this film than his 15-year-old cousin. If the teenagers sitting behind me were any indication, the movie was so hard to follow for them, they would rather spend time sending text messages to their friends two screens down, in Scary Movie 4. One of their buddies messaged them back, "Wish you were here!" That's funny, because, after an hour of hearing them jabbering on about finals, I wished the exact same thing.
*Spoilers start here, and end where it says, "Spoilers end here"*
Silent Hill isn't an easy movie to understand -- even for those not text-messaging throughout. The film is not Saw II for Dummies. Numerous people missed one of the main themes of this movie. The mom, the daughter and the motorcycle cop were killed during the chase during the beginning. They were dead the rest of the movie, as were most residents of Silent Hill, and in a sort of Limbo that Catholics wouldn't approve of anymore than they are feelin' the love for The Da Vinci Code.
Some hardcore gamers scream, "This can't be true! It isn't just exactly like the games!" The movie took a lot from Silent Hill 1 & 2 (the games), but it wasn't faithful to either of them. In the movie, Silent Hill IS Limbo (that's actually stated in the film). And to get there, the characters had to be rotting like Rodney Dangerfield. It's the only reason they needed the car crash scene in the first place. Otherwise, they could have just ended the chase by getting lost in the fog. Or they could have avoided the chase scene entirely, and put some gratuitous nudity in its place. That would have had those kids taking a break from their text-messaging.
Even this interpretation is debatable (and has been debated numerous times, since I first mentioned it in a forum for the film). A character does state in the movie that no bodies were found. If that is true, how could they be truly dead? Personally, I just think it's a way to leave the movie open for a sequel starring the same actors. It's also a way to get the living characters, like that dude from Lord of the Rings, to keep on searching for his wife and child. If the bodies were splattered all over the road, there wouldn't be much reason to keep looking for his family.
Whether the characters were living or dead is, in a way, inconsequential. What is amazing is that this is a mainstream Hollywood horror film that makes you think. A thousand ideas bounce back and forth in your mind, once you leave the theater. A million times you have that "Aha!" moment, only to be foiled again by some other plot point.
*Spoilers end here*
No matter how you interpret the film, it's nearly impossible to deny what a beautiful work of art it is. The look of the movie replicates that of the game to a startling degree. The cinematography by Dan Laustsen is the kind of shit that would win Academy Awards, if the Academy gave major awards to movies that deserved them, every so often.
The film doesn't lower itself to cheap scares in an attempt to make teenage girls jump out of their seats while saying, "Holy crud! I didn't expect a hand to pop out of the back of that Buffy chick's head!" By the gruesome finale -- while drastically different from the game -- Silent Hill was twisted and sick enough for even the most diehard horror fan to appreciate.
Silent Hill is the horror movie true horror fans have been waiting for. And waiting for. And waiting for.
It is deliberately paced in that Stanley Kubrick Shining sort of way, and it is more about atmosphere than funhouse scares. It's the kind of movie you watch when you want a story to stick to your ribs, rather than to quickly be digested and shit out. It's old-school terror and, despite the lame-ass dialogue (and occasional flat acting), it should receive boatloads of credit from horror fans for giving them what they've been asking for over the past couple of decades.
Silent Hill isn't a silly ride at the carnival. It's not some pale corpse jumping out of a bathtub and screaming "Boo!" as strobe lights flash wildly, lighting up the auditorium like a rave. It can be taken in so many different ways. It's a symbolic film. It's about memories. It's a cautionary tale warning us what would happen if the Religious Right took complete control of a city, state or country. If you're a fan of horror flicks, and you miss this, you're not a fan of horror flicks. Period.
And despite what Roger Ebert claims -- Horror video games are art, and if he doesn't get it, he's too old. His current worldwide tour discrediting games as art is even more nonsensical than his calling the Government to censor slasher flicks, back in the early days of Halloween and Friday the 13th.
There's nothing this movie critic likes more than discussing movies with fellow film fanatics. He's even getting better at replying. Agree? Disagree? Doesn't matter. Let's talk film! Email Alex!
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