Wednesday, July 10, 2019

SILENT HILL (2006) Blu-ray Review

Silent Hill (2006) d. Christophe Gans (France/Canada/Japan/USA) (125 min)

Rose (Radha Mitchell), desperate to cure her adopted daughter Sharon (Jodelle Ferland) of her nightmares and sleepwalking, takes her to the town of Silent Hill, WV, much to the dismay of her husband Christopher (Sean Bean). Following a violent car crash, Sharon disappears and Rose finds herself in the custody of motorcycle cop Cybil Bennett (Laurie Holden) amidst an ash-covered landscape. Together, the pair descends into the center of the twisted reality of the abandoned burg’s terrible secret in search of the lost child. Pursued by grotesquely deformed creatures and townspeople stuck in permanent purgatory, Rose and Cybil begins to uncover the truth behind the apocalyptic blaze that destroyed the town 30 years earlier.

Not being a videogame guy, when news hit that a film adaptation of Konmai’s horror/action juggernaut would be hitting screens in the spring of 2006, I was dubious at best. However, after being treated to a few choice R-rated clips at Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors that February, my interest levels spiked accordingly. I still had no idea what the central ideas behind the game were, but I was impressed by the visuals and a competent cast in the form of Mitchell (Rogue), Bean (who I’ve been a fan of since Goldeneye), and Krige (if only the rest of Ghost Story could have been as good as she was). That said, the theatrical release’s critical response did not generate much enthusiasm, so I ended up not seeing it until the following year on home video, where my response read thus:

I’ve heard it’s very faithful to the design and spirit of the video game, which I absolutely applaud. However, that doesn’t necessarily make it a good movie. Kudos to the production design team who conjure numerous hellish visions (Dark Nurses, Red Pyramid, Graychild, The Janitor) and gruesome effects (tearing off the entire pelt of an unfortunate woman and flinging it against a well where it lands with a deliciously wet splat).

Slaps on the wrist to Oscar-winning Pulp Fiction co-screenwriter Roger Avary, who shoehorns a mysterious religious cult storyline into a blisteringly dull progression of scenarios that (surprise!) feel like the characters are simply going different game level to level in order to encounter new antagonists. And it’s too long by about a half hour. Suggestion: Cut the first hundred times that Radha Mitchell yells, “Sharon!” Second Suggestion: Cut the first 100 times that Sean Bean yells, “Rose!”

That initial reaction still holds relatively true upon revisiting it a decade later. I find I have a deeper appreciation for the atmosphere-drenched visuals (even though I still have no firsthand experience with the videogame source material), which are impressively haunting and nightmarish even if they are somewhat hobbled by the limitations of turn-of-the-century computer-generated effects.

This was cutting-edge stuff back then, and while they never feel like anything less than zeros-and-ones eye candy, they’re pretty solid for what they are. That said, while the imagery is arresting, it’s presumably borrowed from the videogame, so… are we still supposed to give points for originality?

Still… wow. That plot. That dialogue. That two-hour-plus running time. Those still leave a mark. It’s fun on some level to see Laurie Holden (The Mist) show up in a pre-Walking Dead appearance, but as motorcycle cop Sybil Bennett, she’s got two flavors: stoic tough and shrieking mimi. Deborah Kara Unger, ten years after her breakout role in David Cronenberg’s Crash, finds herself hiding behind a fright wig, hoping no one recognizes her.

And little Jodelle Ferland, touted as such a revelation, is no more convincing as Sharon’s sinister doppelganger than my six-year-old niece was when she put on her mom’s hat and coat to play a witch in the living room.

Mitchell does her best with a central role that is both underwritten and underbaked, forced to react to characters and threats that are clearly meant to be painted in later while Bean is simply left to twist in the wind with Kim Coates’ country cop (who is clearly not from West Virginia). And then there’s poor Krige, who is slicing so much ham you half expect her name to show up in the final credits under “craft services.”

It’s too bad, because on the abundance of special features lavished on this latest Blu-ray release from Shout! Factory, all of the artists seem genuinely enthused by the project and are puzzled by its ho-hum reputation among fright fans. (especially director Christophe Gans, whose Brotherhood of the Wolf is still one of my personal faves and who is given the opportunity to discuss his career in general and the film in particular at length in Justin Beahm’s terrific feature-length interview).


Disc One:
HD Master approved by director Christophe Gans

NEW audio commentary with cinematographer Dan Laustsen

Theatrical Trailer

Disc Two:
NEW Three-part interview with director Christophe Gans (72 min)

NEW “A Tale Of Two Jodelles” with actress Jodelle Ferland (26 min)

NEW “Dance Of The Pyramid” with actor and movement coordinator Roberto Campanella (36 min)

NEW “Paul Jones: Monster Man” (31 min) and “Paul Jones: Silent Hill” with makeup-effects artist Paul Jones (26 min)

Path Of Darkness: The Making of Silent Hill – A Six-Part Documentary (62 min)

Vintage featurette (15 min)

On Set Interviews And Behind-The-Scenes Footage (5 min)

Photo Galleries – Still Photos And Posters

Silent Hill is available now on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory and can be ordered HERE:


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