Years after the events of the first Silent Hill, Sharon Da Silva is called back to the decrepit town to save her father.
So, I went into this movie already expecting it to be bad. I had seen it once before (in theatres, actually, but that was when I worked at a theatre and saw everything for free), but I didn’t really remember much of it. Somehow it wound up on my movie shelf, the Family Video $1.99 used sticker still stuck to the front of the case. Having watch “Silent Hill” the night before (and being rather split on how I felt), I figured I’d just keep the ball rolling and jump right into the sequel to see what I thought of this guy. Well, it’s terrible. If you’ve been following my 31 Nights of Thrills series, then know that this movie has replaced “Puppet Master” for the worst movie I’ve reviewed for this series, and honestly, I’d go so far as to say it might be the worst movie we’ve reviewed for this site as a whole…
"I didn't really think about it..."
The above quote is from a scene where John Snow- er- Vincent (Kit Harrington, “Pompeii”) is trying to flirt with our protagonist, Heather (Adelaide Clemens, ”The Great Gatsby”). Whilst watching this pathetic excuse for a film with my roommate, Karl, he quipped that the quote could’ve been what the director said to the producers when they asked what went wrong with the movie. Choking on my laughter, I agreed. So what makes this film so bad, so thoughtless and careless? Its predecessor was not a great film by any means, but I defended the film for the gritty, practical effects, the creepy and atmospheric world building, and the shocking violence. So why did this film rub me in all the wrong ways? There are many reasons…
First off, this movie came out in the wake of Avatar. True, two and a half years had passed (Avatar was released in December, 2009), but the 3D craze was still polluting the cinemas in full force, and this piece of garbage was part of that pollution. I want to say right away that I’ve never been impressed with the 3D gimmick; I find it cheap and pretty stupid- I can’t say I’ve ever seen a movie where I thought it added so much to the film that I’d advocate seeing 3D over 2D. That being said, this is one of the worst 2D translations of a shot in 3D movie I’ve seen. There are so many tawdry moments that are clearly meant to pop out from the screen and ‘scare the viewer,’ but in a 2D version of the film, it just looks like horrible framing. What’s worse is that 99% of the 3D effects are unpolished CGI effects (think Wolverine’s claws in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” bad). They look terrible and unfinished; they honestly look like video game graphics at some points.
Second, color grading. Usually this is not something that bugs me terribly in movies, but having just watched the first movie, and having been primarily impressed with the overall look and feel of that film, I was looking forward to that same atmosphere. Color grading, for those who don’t know, is a technique used to change the color of the frame. Making things cooler or warmer in terms of color can affect the overall mood of the film, and Silent Hill is a perfect example of that. In the original film, the colors were all drab and gross looking; the world felt like it was decaying, not only in terms of the design, but in terms of the overall color too. In this film, the frame is almost always oversaturated. Colors are bright and happy; even things that are meant to be disturbing and gross looking are vibrantly colored, to the point where it looks silly. Honestly, I think this is the first film I’ve been so put off by the colors that I’ve felt the need to make a comment- it’s that jarring.
Now, I suppose I can start talking about why the story is horrible. First off, the movie starts with a double dream sequence, one of the most overused, clichéd tropes of horror movies. From there, we learn that Heather (aka Sharon Da Silva) and her father have been on the run for a long time, because her father killed someone in self-defense. Now, right away, this raises issues of continuity with the first film (there will be some spoilers about the first movie in this paragraph). At the end of the first movie, Christopher Da Silva (Sean Bean, “The Martian”) is left alone, his daughter and wife have gone missing. It’s a very bleak way to end the film, and it works in its favor. This movie tosses that ending out the window, and rewrites the ending in a way that feels completely shoehorned. In a random, flashback we learn that Christopher’s wife, Rose (Radha Mitchell, “Finding Neverland”) found a seal that allows one person to cross over from Silent Hill into the real world. Rose uses the seal to allow Sharon to go back to her father, conveniently allowing her character to be the protagonist of this film. All of this feels like a giant ‘Screw You!’ to the fans of original film. I wouldn’t even consider myself a huge fan- just a person that enjoyed parts of it- and I was still irked by the changes. But from there, the movie gets far, far worse.
As we follow Sharon (now calling herself Heather) around in her daily routine, we get glimpses of the horror that waits for her at Silent Hill, but the execution for these scenes is lacking horribly. In one scene, Sharon is in a mall, where there is a birthday party happening in the food court (? Is that something that people do? I was unaware…). Her mind plays tricks on her and the world warps with a kind of distorted effect- literally the screen stretches and bends in weird ways (think of the effect in “Evil Dead II” when Ash starts to loose it- the ‘Who’s laughing now?’ scene). As this distractingly schlocky effect is played out on screen, we’re shown images of children devouring bloody meat… oooo, scary… I hate to say this again, but the effect looks incredibly cheap. What makes it look even cheaper is the next scene is a generally well-done effect where a man is flaying another man. It’s like the director took one look at the crappy kids in the mall scene, realized how horribly he’d shot it, and tried to fix it with ridiculously dated effects in post. There are many different, stupid scenes like this- where suddenly something will pop up for a jump scare, and then it will disappear almost immediately.
I suppose that’s another one of my issues with this movie; it’s allllll jump scares. In the first film, at least there were genuinely disturbing images, accompanied by great music, and wonderful atmosphere. In this film we get none of that- it’s simply a formulaic routine over and over again. Sharon walks down creepy hallway, music gets quiet… ‘BOO!’ loud jump scare, and move on. Any obstacles Sharon faces have no real impact on her. (Again, I’m going to keep going back to the first one, not because that was a good movie, but because this movie makes that one look like a masterpiece) In the first movie, any time Rose runs into something or someone it has real implications. She will bump into a monster and it will send her running in a different direction, making things more complicated for her. In this film, Sharon runs into people, fights them, and moves on; there’s no tension, there’s no consequences, it’s just a quick fight and were on to the next thing (it’s like a video game- fight a boss, move on to the next level).
And of course, to top it all off is the acting. Our lead, Adelaide Clemens, was probably cast due to her resemblance to the video game character, not for her actual acting abilities. Every line sounds stilted, every delivery feels awkward, every action feels overacted. I’m sorry to say it, but the most horrifying thing in this movie, was probably Clemens’s acting. Jon Snow- er- Kit Harrington played his role fine… I can’t see him ever being as big as Sean Connery or Humphrey Bogart, but he can act well enough that I don’t need to hide my face in embarrassment. Malcolm McDowell (“Time After Time”) is pretty laughable- I’ve never really seen him in anything other than “Clockwork Orange” that I truly cared for him. He always seems too theatrical, and he overdoes everything. Sean Bean was fine; he hardly did anything in his scenes. I’m sure he was on set for less than a week, and he probably received a bigger paycheck than Clemens.
This is an abysmal attempt at making a sequel to a film that was already middle of the road. It’s a dry, boring, ugly, flat movie that makes me want my hour and a half back (and the $1.99 I spent to own this crap). If you want to experience Silent Hill, do so with the first one. While that movie has some script, story, and acting problems at least it looks creepy as all get out. I can’t 100% recommend the first one, but I can, with 100% certainty, tell you to avoid this film like you would avoid a flaming building. This might be one of the worst theatrically released films of the last decade.
This is part of our 31 Nights of Thrills Series. Not all of the movies we review for this series will be strictly horror, but all will have something to do with the spirit of things spooky or scary. If you like those types of movies, be sure to check back throughout the month of October!
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