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Silent Hill (rewatch)

Posted by martinteller on July 14, 2013

I considered writing this as a “guilty pleasure” review.  But guilty pleasures are movies (or music or books or whatever) that you recognize as “bad” but forgive their flaws because of whatever simple pleasures they provide.  And the thing is, I don’t think this movie is bad.  Why should I feel “guilty” just because it has a 29% rating on Rotten Tomatoes or Roger Ebert gave it one and a half stars?

Now, I’m not totally blind to Silent Hill‘s faults.  The story (more specifically the backstory) is quite difficult to comprehend.  It helps to have played the videogames, and even with that advantage I must admit it wasn’t until this fourth viewing that it finally made a reasonable amount of sense to me.  Granted, I’m not one to quibble over story, but the difference between this and something like, say, Last Year at Marienbad is that here they go through so much to try to explain the story.  If they’d just left it as a vague “some weird shit happened” scenario, it would be easier to overlook the narrative fumbling.

And okay, some of the dialogue stinks.  And there are other things that are certainly nitpick-worthy.  But honestly, I don’t think there’s anything that terrible about the movie.  I even retract my earlier gripe about its humorlessness… humor would just interfere with the oppressive mood of sorrow, decay and suffering that the film so perfectly evokes.  There’s no lightness in it, no comfort to be found from the first frame to the last.

Above all else, it’s a masterpiece of art direction.  Gans gives each “world” a distinct feel.  There’s the realism — although still a bleak realism — of the “actual” world.  There’s the chilling emptiness of the “shadow” world, all cold, foggy grays with decrepit structures and ash in the air like slowly falling snowflakes.  And there’s the nightmare of the “darkness” world, with barbed wire and exposed framework and corrosion.  The creatures of this world are not so much horrifying (except perhaps “Pyramid Head”) as they are unsettling, like nature gone awry.  Not just true to the games, but brought alive to the cinema with fine craftsmanship (a couple of the CGI effects are starting to show their age, but nothing too distracting).

It’s mostly the look and the feel of the movie that captivate me, but that’s enough for me to love it.  And it’s not like I don’t enjoy the story or the horror elements… the creative gore and hellish scenarios.  I don’t think that one day people will regard Silent Hill as a maligned masterpiece, but I do think it’s a good movie.  I always get sucked into it, without a shred of guilt.  Rating: Very Good (86)


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