Let me get this out of the way first: Silent Hill: Revelation 3D is a bad movie. A bad, bad, bad, bad, stupid, pointless movie. This is not the part of the review where I tell you that it’s “so bad it’s good,” or even admit that there is some aspect of the production that deserves special credit for overcoming the film’s otherwise inherent incompetence. This is the part of the review where I tell you that Uwe Boll makes better movies than this. Occasionally he does, anyway. Did you ever see Far Cry? I wish I’d seen Far Cry again instead of Silent Hill: Revelation 3D.
I typically find myself taking bad video game movies (i.e. practically all video game movies) personally. I’ve discussed this in nearly excruciating detail before, and will probably have many opportunities to do so again, because when it comes to video game movies, Hollywood’s brain shuts down completely. It’s like they just met a cute girl and all their college education vanishes in a puff of inarticulate vowel sounds as they try to make their move. What is it about adapting a video game, even one with a halfway decent story like the early installments of the Silent Hill franchise, that makes the film industry think that characters, plot, themes, pacing and reason are completely unnecessary? Do they think we don’t care? Because if the box office returns for these movies are any indication, we clearly do.
Movies like Silent Hill: Revelation 3D speak volumes about how much respect the movie industry has for the video game industry. Remember how in the 1950s, Hollywood produced a series of films demonizing television like they were terrified of their young, upstart competitor? A Face in the Crowd, The Twonky, these were designed to make you question your alternate source of entertainment. Maybe that’s what’s going on here. Maybe this is all a clandestine plot to convince movie-going audiences that video games are an inherently inferior artistic medium. “These games are so bad,” films like Silent Hill: Revelation 3D tell us, “That we can’t even figure out how to put them on screen without losing our own credibility.”
Silent Hill: Revelation 3D picks up years after the events of the last Silent Hill movie. Sean Bean is on the run with his adopted daughter, now played by professional Michelle Williams lookalike Adelaide Clemens, but she doesn’t know that the real reason is because a psycho religious cult needs her in order to lift a curse on the haunted town of “Silent Hill.” When her father goes missing, she wanders around aimlessly for most of the movie, occasionally getting interrupted by people with no character to speak of who drone on and on about plot points that usually don’t have any serious connection to what we’re looking at. The movie manages to cram about two hours of exposition into its sparse 97 minute running time, and it still feels padded, because the information isn’t parceled off as we need it. It’s just shoved down our throats betwixt more and more scenes of Adelaide Clemens looking at spooky stuff.
The first Silent Hill, though not a classic by any means, wasn’t bad. It kind of missed the point of the imagery that it presented, and it threw way too many explanations at us right at the end, but it was at least driven by an understandable emotional need. A mother trying to find her missing daughter and understand the psychological damage that keeps her child from living a normal life; that was enough to press the movie forward, so even the occasionally pointless horror interludes felt at least like obstacles in the hero’s journey.
Silent Hill: Revelation 3D claims to be about the main character uncovering the truth about her identity, which could have worked. It could have heightened the anxiety and pushed the film through its trouble spots because, well, who hasn’t felt insecure about their identity? The protagonist of Silent Hill: Revelation 3D, that’s who, because she has a big dramatic moment at the beginning of the film in which she expresses her utter confidence in who she really is.
You can’t do that. That’s like adding a monologue to the first act of Scream in which Neve Campbell convinces us that she’s completely moved on from her mother’s death, but then playing the rest of the movie exactly the same. You can’t base an entire movie around a psychological hang-up that the protagonist doesn’t even have. It prevents any kind of genuine audience involvement, and that’s something every movie needs, especially a horror movie in which the heroine is constantly threatened on a variety of levels. We don’t care that she’s about to get turned into a mannequin by that spider-type mannequin monster, because we don’t care about her at all, even if Adelaide Clemens really does appear to be trying her darnedest to overcome the many deficiencies of the script.
With the whole point utterly neutralized, we’re just left with a plot that only pops up in fits and starts, usually dumping way too much information on us at once and then ignoring it for long stretches because Adelaide Clemens has to walk down a dozen more hallways. The characters keep dropping mythology on us like we know why it matters. “The Seal of Metatron?” What does that even mean? Why should we care? Why is it one of a half dozen MacGuffins in a movie that could have easily gotten by on just one if the characters knew why it mattered to them? Or at least if the audience did? It doesn’t matter if it’s in the video game, there needs to be a good reason to put it in the movie.
This movie hurt me. Not because I expected it to be amazing, but because I expected someone would at least try harder than this to make a competent film. Silent Hill: Revelation 3D is a faulty product, like a lawnmower that has no actual impact on your lawn or a cable box that only offers you the Spike network. We shouldn’t have to settle for this, and we shouldn’t have to blame the source material for this level of ineptitude. I’m sure the filmmakers are very nice people, but they did a very poor job of actually making a film, and since that’s kind of in their job description, we need to take them to task for it.
Hollywood, this isn’t good enough. Silent Hill deserves better. Audiences deserve better. Video games deserve better. And frankly, the film industry deserves better, because if Hollywood can’t make a single decent movie based on a video game after this many tries, they may have to finally admit that video games can tell superior stories. “Can,” at any rate.