J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Silent Hill: Revelation—Pyramid Head Takes Another Hack



Heather Mason’s teenaged years have been difficult.  Her name is actually Sharon Da Silva, but she and her father Christopher, currently known as Harry, constantly move to new towns under assumed identities.  Supposedly, he is on the run from the law, but it is really to keep a step ahead of a bizarre death cult.  Yet, they constantly call her back to their shunned ghost town through supernatural means.  There will be a macabre homecoming in store for her in Michael J. Bassett’s Silent Hill: Revelation 3D (trailer here), which opens today across the country.

Considered one of the better film adaptations of a video game, the first Silent Hill struck some chords with viewers by seriously addressing themes of faith and sacrifice.  To save her daughter, Rose Da Silva accepted banishment on the other side of Silent Hill’s dimensional portal.  Her husband has done his best to protect Sharon/Heather.  However, when Rose sends him a Candyman-style inter-dimensional warning, it may already be too late.  Sleazy gumshoe Douglas Courtland tracked down the Da Silvas before he fully appreciated the nature of his clients.  In order to save her father, Sharon/Heather resolves to give her tormentors the showdown they want.

Those who have played the survival game will know there is a complicated backstory to Silent Hill, involving Alessa, the all-powerful witch-girl, whose curse holds the cult’s powers in check.  There are also a number of monsters living in this netherworld, including fan favorite Pyramid Head.  Apparently, one of the knocks on the first film was his relative lack of screen time, so it is rather odd Revelation also uses him rather sparingly.   However, Malcolm McDowell has a long and unleasant scene as blind bogeyman Leonard Wolf, the former cult leader committed by his own daughter.  Gee whiz, it has been quite a while since his career-defining work with Lindsay Anderson, hasn’t it?

Frankly, it is pretty easy for non-gamers to follow Revelation’s first two acts, but once Sharon/Heather arrives at Silent Hill, all bets are off.  Sure, there is a clear narrative chain of events, but the underlying logic of the how’s and why’s is rather vague.  In fact, it is rather like watching someone playing a videogame when you do not understand the rules.

Adelaide Clemens is perfectly credible horror heroine, even delivering a promo-reel worthy speech early in the film.  Of course, Sean Bean certainly knows his way around a special effects-driven production by now.  As Da Silva, he helps elevate the proceedings with his earnest everyman presence.  In contrast, McDowell and Carrie-Anne Moss do not exactly make classic villains as the Wolf family cultists.

In all honesty, Revelation still probably represents the high end of the bell curve for video game adaptations.  Good and evil have very real meaning here.  While as a gamer Bassett was reportedly already steeped in the game’s mythos, he loses control of the third act, letting the film descend into poorly lit mayhem.  There is a measure of payoff, but it comes after a head-scratching sojourn through the titular town’s sub-basements.  Only for diehards franchise fans, Silent Hill: Revelation 3D opens today (10/26) in New York at the AMC Kips Bay and Regal E-Walk, obviously scheduled with Halloween in mind.

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