‘Silent’ and deadly

Dotty Burns
May 11, 2006
Filed under Features

Movie adaptations of books and video games often fail to translate effectively to the silver screen.
In the case of the film “Silent Hill,” directed by Christophe Gans and inspired by the critically acclaimed Kanomi video game, the adaptation is seamlessly accomplished. Having played all four installments of “Silent Hill,” I’ve walked under the ash-clouded sky of the vacant industrial town and battled the disfigured creatures that roam the streets of Silent Hill several times, and can therefore confirm that Gans’ film creates the same heart-stopping experience as the riveting game.
The film is beset with the same melancholy piano and cello sound track, imaginative environments and hair-raising villains.
The premise, which is an incorporation of various elements from all four plots, revolves around Rose Da Silva (Radha Mitchell) and her adopted daughter Sharon (Jodelle Ferland), who is being terrorized by nightmares that feature the mysterious town of Silent Hill.
Compelled to help her daughter cope with her night terrors, Rose seeks out Silent Hill, even after a Google search reveals that the town from her daughter’s dreams became condemned 30 years ago after it was ravaged by a coal fire that still burns under its surface. Of course, Rose encounters some restraint from a no-nonsense motorcycle cop, Cybil (Laurie Holden), who engages in a full-blown car chase with Rose as she nears the town.
The chase ends with the dramatic scene displayed in the previews. A disheveled figure suddenly appears lurching across the highway, and Rose swerves off the road to avoid hitting it. The subsequent accident leaves Rose unconscious. Once Rose comes to, she almost immediately realizes her daughter is gone, leaving nothing behind but an open passenger door.
As Rose embarks into the small industrial town desperately seeking her missing daughter, she slowly draws in the surrealist environment with the rest of the audience.
Yet, the gray abysmal sky and the ash descending over the ruined and desolated buildings only alarm her momentarily. She quickly moves on, calling out for her daughter.
The veneer of the ash-smothered town soon deteriorates with the sound of a siren, which sounds like a drill for a nuclear attack. As it wails into the atmosphere, Rose is shrouded in darkness.
With her flicking lighter she continues frantically looking for her daughter until she is besieged by some of the many distorted creatures that commonly spring forth when the town falls into the seedy and decaying “Otherworld” at the sound of the siren.
Rose escapes their grasp, as on many other occasions, for they disappear once the town transforms back into a soot-filled ghost town. Rose eventually joins forces with Cybil, who remerges on the scene once she recovers from her motorcycle crash.
As Rose explores Silent Hill, she takes on the same task common of the protagonists from the games, which consist of collecting artifacts and probing the secrets that plague Silent Hill in an effort to find her daughter.
It doesn’t take an avid fan of the games to find the film enticing, for the film’s plot often makes more sense and covers its tracks better than the complicated and elusive premise prevalent in the games.
The intensity of some scenes in the film is often more satisfying than even the dark plot that progressively unveils itself. One scene, for instance, depicts Rose taking on a legion of faceless nurses; this scene caused a woman in the theater audience to simply scream out after the suspense became overwhelming.

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