The Silent Hill franchise has suffered in silence for around a decade now, and it’s making a big return to both games and movies. The sudden outpouring of support for a property that felt truly dead so recently may be shocking, but there are still elements worth looking back on with concern.
Of all the things announced in Konami’s Silent Hill Transmission, the new film from the director of the 2006 original is one of the most surprising. The director spoke at length about his previous effort and the upcoming film’s relationship to it, but he left the second one Silent Hill film not mentioned, for good reason.
When Christophe Gans directed 2006 Silent Hill movie adaptation, it was one of the best video game movies to date. Since a few entries in that genre have managed to be genuinely good films, it’s not as well remembered as it should be, but it’s a strong horror film. Gans is a hardcore fan of the game series, and he worked with Konami for five years to get the rights. After the relative success of his first outing, Konami and Sony made it clear that a sequel was in the works with both Gans and screenwriter Roger Avary attached. Unfortunately, Avary went to jail on a vehicular manslaughter charge and Gans was cut from the project. Without the director who loved the source material so much and with a studio desperately trying to appeal to a wider audience, Silent Hill: Revelation became one of the worst horror films ever made.
By all accounts, the fault for this disastrous adaptation lies squarely with the studio. Producer Don Carmody, who also produced hits such as The Boondock Saints and whole Resident Evil film franchise, insisted that the first film was just too focused on pleasing the fans. This film was meant to be more accessible. Logically, one would assume that trying to broaden the film’s appeal would result in a more straightforward horror experience. Something with fewer callbacks that live or die by themselves. Revelation decided instead to stake the farm on a terrible 3D gimmick, removing any aspect of psychological horror, and turning the franchise into a mess of jump scares and lazy cameos. Director MJ Bassett has been clear that she didn’t want the film to turn out the way it did, but her concerns were largely ignored by the team that brought the world Resident Evil: Retribution.
Silent Hill: Revelation is an extremely loose adaptation of Silent Hill 3, though only the costume design and character names give that information away. The first movie was a loose adaptation of the first game, so it makes sense as a direction for the franchise, but it also ruins everything that’s great about a great game. The story follows Heather Mason, who travels to Silent Hill to investigate its mysterious past and learn the dark secrets it holds. Unfortunately, the town itself has been robbed of its typical haunting presence and gloomy atmosphere. Instead, it is depicted here as a haunted carnival house where monsters jump out and shout to impress the audience with the 3D effects. The script fails to find the humanity in characters that were so well realized in the source material. The plot of the game has been hacked to pieces and inexpertly stitched together like many of the franchise’s monsters. Above all else, it’s clearly not scary. The film functions solely as a slapstick comedy, and in that area it is quite solid.
Critics and audiences were vicious to Silent Hill: Revelation. The film has a whopping 10% on Rotten Tomatoes, and the best anyone seems prepared to say about it is that it was blessedly short. Every achievement the film achieves is quickly undone by its defining gimmicks. Bassett clearly has some love for the source material as well, but every time her directorial voice shines through, it’s quickly interrupted by another jump scare. Beyond ruining the plot and characters, the real crime of Silent Hill: Revelation is that it simply cannot capture the spirit of the games. It’s one of the best examples of what can go wrong with video game movies available today.
When Christophe Gans appeared on Silent Hill Transmissionhe wisely let go Revelation from the post office. Interestingly, he refers to his upcoming Return to Silent Hill like a reboot. Given that the film is an adaptation of the beloved Silent Hill 2, there’s really only one thing that a reboot can erase. Unfortunately for Bassett and everyone who worked with Silent Hill: Revelation, the game is better off being forgotten. Over a decade later, fans can look back on this movie and laugh, but hopefully the studios that made it possible have learned their lesson and can do better next time.
MORE: New Silent Hill movie not bringing back original screenwriter