The Sunday Review: Silent Hill

Sunday 23 April (2006)

silent hill will scare the hell out of you

Okay, what the fuck? What's going on? Nothing makes sense here. How in the hell did a crappy little 15 rated horror movie based on a computer game end up like this? It should have been the worst movie of the year, but have no doubts, Silent Hill is fantastic.

I haven't played any of the games, despite the efforts of some, so I don't know anything about the Silent Hill mythos. I don't know if that matters, for all I know the movie has nothing to do with the games, but luckily you don't need to rely on prior knowledge to enjoy this one. It is that rare thing; a horror movie that not only has a good, sensible plot, but actually fucking scares you. And I mean scares you – my girlfriend was the stereotypical horror-movie-terrified, hanging onto my arm and covering her eyes asking "Is it safe? Is it safe??"

In fact, it's so downright scary that I'm surprised that it's only rated 15 here in the UK. Sure there's no nudity, and it's relatively profanity free (you'll hear more effs on Curb Your Enthusiasm) but the simple graphic images are very disturbing – far more so than Hostel which I reviewed a few weeks back, which was rated 18. Whilst I was watching it I was constantly thinking "twenty years ago, this would have been outright banned" and perhaps you will too – the religious nature of some of the scenes should surely be a source for outcry somewhere, and the plain simple horror of others borders on the "should we let them see this kind of shit?" territory.

And that's an interesting point – we do see that shit. I always followed the rule of 'nothing is scarier than your own imagination' – ie, not showing you the monster or whatever – and I firmly believed that that was true until this movie. One scene – I won't ruin it, but if you've seen it you'll know what I mean: Colin – is absolutely horrifying, and as for that guy with the ten-foot sword… Jeez, he's right out of fucking Hellraiser (I mean that in a 'good' way.)

But horror aside, this is a clever movie in its own right. There are plenty of moments where you have no idea what the hell is going on (like a lot of horror, seemingly) but the movie more than adequately explains itself as it progresses. It's a simple formula – show you things for an hour, leave you with lots of questions, then proceed to take another hour giving you all the answers. I like it, I didn't feel baffled at all – at least not for long, and not in an infuriating way. And the two hour or so running time is another bonus; I was expecting this to be another ninety-minute washout.

Of course, there are a few minor niggles. Like the cop with the enormous rack who creaks around for the first half an hour looking like some leather-clad dominatrix. And Sean Bean's Yorkshire accent hasn't been entirely eradicated, especially in some of his more intense scenes such as when he phones the archive office for information. But, as I said, minor niggles, and they don't spoil what is an otherwise fantastic movie, and a really good addition to the horror cannon. Sure, I haven't seen most of these modern horrors – The Ring (at least the remake), House of Wax, that one with the water… you know what I mean – but I'm pretty confident that none of them are even close to being as good as Silent Hill.

Yeah, I can't recommend it enough – especially if you can go and see it at midnight in a brand new eleven-screen cinema with the most incredible sound system you'll ever hear, like I did 😀


3 Responses to “The Sunday Review: Silent Hill”

  1. sallymae Says:

    Yeah it was great and everything, but in my book no-one below 18 should be allowed to see this. What were the BBFC thinking?! And I wasn’t THAT terrified…..
    (‘Enormous rack??’)

  2. Remi Says:

    PS: The games are scarier, though I did enjoy the movie a lot too.

  3. Hi everybody!

    Silent Hill has never been about action or running around shooting things; doing that would effectively destroy what made Silent Hill so darn creepy and great. In many ways, RE4 proved that you can’t have it both ways; the game simply didn’t have the atmosphere of the previous games and the gameplay got incredibly repetitive. In my humble opinion, I think the major reason for RE4’s drastic changes was because Capcom was in a financial slump at the time due to a string of high-profile flops and needed something that would appeal to Joe Average more than their fanbase. Not to mention Mikami’s less-than-intelligent prospect of releasing the remake of Resident Evil and Resident Evil Zero only on the GameCube also contributed to the misguided notion that people were getting tired of the series when, the low sales of those two games can be attributed to being on a third-place machine.

    I know that Silent Hill 0rigins is using an over-the-shoulder perspective, but I’m banking on it purely as a design choice considering the game is being released on a handheld. I still doubt that Konami would be silly enough to blantantly rip-off RE4 when each and every Silent Hill game has sold quite well on its own. I doubt money would be an issue since they also create the Metal Gear games, which is practically a liscense to print money.

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