What Silent Hill (2006) – a movie adapted from the popular 1999 Japanese horror video game franchise – lacks in cohesive storytelling, at times makes up for it with undie squeezing atmosphere (great use of smoke/fog, or “smog”) and some of the more disturbing and icky creatures/monsters since Hellraiser’s (1987) Cenobites, from which it clearly draws inspiration. (Note: The movie utilizes this and thats from the first four Silent Hill games, might explain the pieced-together feel.)
A ridiculously attractive mom has a young daughter who sleepwalks around waterfall cliffs, even though the kid has been repeatedly told not to go out after dark. (Like that works with kids.) Turns out the little scamp is dying from an unknown cause and a faith healer (my medical insurance only covers Shamans) tells mom for answers to take her daughter to the spooky Silent Hill, a small abandoned town no longer on any map, Google™ or otherwise.
The town of Silent Hill – renowned for witchcraft gone wild – is pretty dang eerie. First, its shrouded in smoke from an underground coal mine that’s been burning out of control for decades. (Probably why everyone left. That, and there’s no 7-Eleven™. Reason enough to pack it up.) Secondly, there’s an apocalyptic horn that goes off every so often, releasing some seriously messed up creatures that come out of nowhere to eat faces clean off whatever head it’s attached to.
Like the video game it’s fashioned after, the monster encounters get progressively hardcore, turning up as walking torsos, twisted body guys, mutant nurses and the impressive level boss Pyramid Head and his 12-foot knife that can cut through walls to get its point across.
Teaming up with a previously encountered female cop, Rose, frantically searches for her kid who wandered off and is seen in glimpses running through a maze of building floors and is heading down into the depths of what sure as hell looks like Hell. And it’s here the story, steeped in evilness, gets muddled.
There’s a ghost religious leader, ghost townsfolk from years gone by, a witch-sacrificing bonfire (no marshmallows, though), and a darker than black demon thing. To tie this altogether would take a LOT of word wrangling as the movie piles the back story on said bonfire during the last 10 minutes. So much so, you can barely keep track, even with a 12-foot knife being pointed at your uncooked (for now) self.
Yeah, Silent Hill plays out in linear fashion like its parent video game. But the creature things — which needed WAY more screen time — are downright delightful.
P.S. The sequel Silent Hill: Revelation (2012) brought back the first one’s better freak creatures, but suffered from a sub-standard plot and a disturbing lack of fun. Sounds like my life.