Sunday, October 28, 2012

Movie Appraisal: Silent Hill: Revelation 3D (2012)

Pyramid Head! What are you even doing here in this movie? Shouldn't you be tormenting James in the REAL Silent Hill 2?


Or Alex in Silent Hill: Homecoming?


Or Rose and Cybil in the original Silent Hill movie?


Honestly... why are you always there, Pyramid Head? Wait... are you... are you operating... a... a...

...carousel? What?
Why...? Why are you operating that carousel, Pyramid Head? Why do you have fish hook looking thing attached to your nipples for some reason? Why do you make it all spin? Why do I feel like I'm losing my mind?

Look the reason Pyramid Head is here is because Pyramid Head is a marketable character/creature. He has basically become the FACE (Uh... Awkward Head?) of the Silent Hill series. Now, how you feel about that can vary. Many think that his being used in every little thing involving the franchise sullies his name, makes his role in Silent Hill 2 lessened, and makes him an incredible gimmick... as well as making him less interesting/terrifying and actually making him a boring character when he actually does show up. But on the other hand, the dude with the pyramid-shaped head is hella awesome. And marketable. AND WE LOVE YOU, PYRAMID HEAD! You are recognizable and I feel comfort in noticing things.

My opinion quite obviously veers to the former. He shouldn't be in this movie. His presence, although decently well-explained away, is somewhat baffling nevertheless. He does very little towards the end and seems to have much of the same role that Valtiel has in the original Silent Hill 3, a guardian and a watcher. This becomes incredibly apparent as he makes the carousel near the end of the movie go around or when he chops men's arms off who are actively attacking and grabbing out for Heather. He is a much more active guardian than the observing Valtiel, but in some ways that works nicely... and in others it's a big, odd gimmick that never really fits or finds a place to feel comfortable in. Once you let Pyramid Head out of the bag like the first movie did, you really have no choice but to use him again, just as Homecoming did. Pyramid Head is a trap, and one this franchise seems to keep falling for. Using him once was incredible. The movie using him in the wrong context was confusing. Using him in a second game for no reason was creatively unacceptable, and bordering on self-plagiarism, and using him here just points out how far this franchise will go to pound that familiar pyramid face into the ground. It's disheartening. Even if he were used well it would be disheartening. And here he is used acceptably, but that doesn't excuse that he's being used at all.

Now, even though this is the second Silent Hill movie, it is actually based upon the third game, Silent Hill 3, which also happens to be one of the games I am not overly fond of. Most of my problems with that game stem from its paper-thin plot, its weak characters, and the motivations behind it all. I don't just mean the motivations of the characters or writers, but I also mean the motivation of the creators making a direct sequel to the original game because they were under a lot of pressure to do so. Silent Hill 2 was initially panned by critics and reviewers because it was no true sequel, rather a self contained story with nothing to do with the first game other than aesthetics. And it worked well. Silent Hill 3, to me, felt like more of a cop-out than an original plot. But I'll get to my opinions when I review the game (if I ever review the game). Right now I'm just telling you that the game this movie is based upon is one I am not overly fond of.

So, imagine my surprise when this movie starts working for me. Imagine my surprise when I found myself enjoying it. Imagine my surprise when I found myself engaged and wanting to see more. Wait, I was supposed to save that glee for later. Dammit. Now the cat is out of that locker. It's wandering the school and probably being hunted by monsters.

The movie, directed by Michael J. Bassett, who also directed Deathwatch, follows the same basic premise as the third game. Heather Mason (played by Adelaide Clemens) is a seventeen year old teenager who lives with her father Harry (Sean Bean). Heather and Harry move around a lot because they are avoiding being found. Heather tries to start another new life just as things all go to hell. While the plot is basically the same as the game major and minor things are changed all over the place, with some things added and some things taken away. Douglas Cartland arrives to meet and greet Heather, but not in the mall like he did in the game, but rather in front of her school bus. He waits for her, somewhat pesters her, and then follows her, trying desperately to warn her of the impending shadow of the Order. Movie Douglas, unlike his game counterpart, dies. He dies in the mall Otherworld sequence. He never even makes the drive with Heather to Silent Hill proper. While this is slightly disappointing, I'm not overly surprised. Douglas is not my favorite character, and the plot flows in a similar manner with or without him there.

Replacing Douglas and his role for the rest of the movie is Vincent (Kit Harrington), who is easily my least favorite character (or actor) here. He is no high school student, looking more like he's in his mid-twenties than his teens. And he can't seem to hide that British accent. He was obviously not from West Virginia is my point here. Sean Bean has similar problems disguising his accent, and seems to forget completely about disguising it at all. Why not? He's still good in the role. Why have him be American when he can be anything he wants to be? Sean Bean also, for some odd reason, will not die. The man, an actor who is known for playing characters that die by the end of the movie, survives this film... somehow... even when Harry, in the third game, is explicitly dead by the middle of it. It made some sense, truth be told, to not have him die, but it was surprising as well.

Vincent and Heather also have this whole romantic subplot going on throughout the movie. I have to mention it because it was creepy. At least one person in the theatre agreed with me. I heard a hearty "Ew" when he kissed her. I concur, person in the theatre!

Most of the movie is fluff. I can't even hide that. I can't say most of the movie is even worth anything at all. The plot is a mess, paper-thin at best... although again, the third game's plot has similar problems. The characters are barely there. The actors are only needed for scary reaction shots and some decent dialogue. Most of the plot and characters could have disappeared and I wouldn't have cared. Hell, the entire movie could have been monster encounters, and I would have been happy. We could have called it Silent Hill: Encountering Monsters, and although fanboys would have hated it, the movie wouldn't have changed much in content.

I loved some of the imagery and designs though. Unlike the first movie, a great deal of the images from this movie seem to be straight from the games. Also, there seemed to be a great deal of trying to make the interiors of buildings look convincing when they are all decrepit and abandoned in the Otherworld, because they succeed a million times in aesthetics. I can't say just how much I loved that the decaying buildings actually looked like decaying buildings. And throughout the movie this was true, with every building having its own unique look and layout. I was impressed.

The monster designs were also really well done. Yes, there were some returning monsters from the last movie, but most here are new, at least somewhat. The Missionary is the really big new monster. She is even a match for Pyramid Head in a fight. She appears throughout the film until she is revealed to be Claudia somehow. This takes fetus-eating right out of the picture, and for that I am truly disappointed. Instead we get Missionary Claudia fighting Pyramid Head. And you know what? It's fun. I liked it. I'm a dumb man who liked watching the monsters fight, okay? And other "monsters" appear as well often faceless, with stitched seams or fleshy... uh... bits all over. They're all kind of hard to explain. Some of the moments in the movie with the monsters are almost hilarious... and I wonder if they were purposefully meant to be funny. I kind of have the inkling they were meant to be humorous. Maybe that's just me.

Two new monsters were absolutely amazing though. The first was a mannequin spider creature who looked absolutely stunning. The idea was brilliant. I loved watching it, and it was almost frightening and horrifying in a way. It had easily the best and most serious scene in the entire movie. And for that, I am seriously glad. I needed that monster. It kept this movie interesting and moved everything along nicely. It was the highlight of my experience except for a moment at the end, which I'll get to shortly. The other "monster" that I really enjoyed was more a collection of monsters. They were under the floor grating, these heads and hands, almost making a floor underneath the floor. I have no idea if they were people, monsters or something else, but I loved the look of them.

As for everything else... Well, Heather merges with Alessa eventually, like in the game. And they do it on a carousel that Pyramid Head is inexplicably operating. Maybe there is symbolism there? Or maybe it's just dumb. I have no idea. I just know I was laughing so hard at Pyramid Head and his ridiculous nipple piercings... His operating of that carousel was less horrifying and more incredibly and ridiculously amusing. I laughed for a while and made jokes underneath my breath constantly.

And I guess that's the BIG PROBLEM of this flick. It never feels serious. It's made for the fans. That's obvious. If you are not a fan of the games skip this movie and never see it. It's not made for people who don't like the games, pure and simple. The moments ripped directly from the games, the jump scares, the decoy characters and plot points, and the gameplay mechanics basically shown in the movie are all there for the fans. My favorite one of those has to be the nurses. Yes, they also make a comeback, but they are impressive. They're there arguably more than the first movie, and they work well. They are intimidating, well acted, and relentless. In every way they were really one of the highlights of the film. And their sequence with Vincent and Heather works incredibly well, being both tense and effective.

But the rest of the movie has hilarious moments scattered throughout, and I have no idea if they were intentional or not. All I know was that I was having a great time. I made fun of the movie, I enjoyed sequences of the movie. I loved the imagery of the movie. And I had a grand old time. Were there problems? Yes. But none of those problems ever took away from my enjoyment of the feature. None of them ever made me want to walk out or stop enjoying what was in front of me. Some character decisions were baffling though... like Heather continuing to run into the darkness under the mall for some reason rather than staying in a populated area where she could yell for help. Yes, I know the nightmare world was nearly there (or maybe was actively there) but it would have made more sense for her to hold back. Vincent running off for some reason near the end of the film is also baffling. No idea why he did that. "Promise (Reprise)," a very good song from the second game, also seems to play constantly throughout the movie, no less than five times it seems. While it is a good song, you would think that thy would have more song selection than that to choose from.

Malcolm McDowell and Carrie-Anne Moss also are in this movie... but I can't really say much about them. McDowell is obviously a bad guy. And Carrie-Anne Moss seems to be both albino and a monster some times. It made literally no sense and I would rather not attempt to parse it.

Now, my favorite scene is the very end of the movie. Vincent and Heather have left Silent Hill for good. They hitchhike on a semi truck. The semi truck is driven by none other than Travis Grady. I called it out before it happened. "Travis?" I nearly shouted. "Travis, what are you doing here?" I was so excited! I have no idea why but that little nod to another game made me happy. And then the next nod made me honestly giddy. I love Silent Hill: Downpour, so when a few police cruisers and then a convict bus speed by the semi as Silent Hill gets all foggy again, I was basically ready to give the movie a standing ovation. Seriously. I don't think I've been as excited for a little nod from a filmmaker to me as a fan as I was here. It made me feel good.

So, overall, this was my best movie-going experience possibly ever. I loved this movie. I loved the parts that were great and the parts that were less great (and there definitely were some of those). I loved almost everything here except Kit Harrington and some of the more boring scenes that seemed to do nothing for either plot or character. I guess I should also mention that this is not a scary film. The first movie is a much more horrific experience. Although I found myself taken in by the plot here, I never found myself scared even a little bit, although I did find myself very engaged. I would call it a suspenseful experience, but not a scary one. While there were jump scares, most were predictable and none had a lasting impact. If I had cared about the plot or characters more maybe I would have cared about the scares more... but this movie wasn't about the plot or characters... it was all about the fans, the imagery, and the games. And I can't argue that. It was a wonderful homage to the games... even if as a movie it did seem to suffer under its own weight. I will stand by the fact that I loved this movie... that neither makes it a good movie nor enjoyable for everybody though. Be ready to go in there expecting the worst if you're going to see it. Be ready to poke a little fun at the movie. And be ready to just enjoy the ride. I did, and I'm nearly as happy as I could be. I would have been happier if the movie were actually scary, but I can't complain.

If you are a fan of the games, check this movie out... just don't take it too seriously, okay? I mean, Pyramid Head is pierced through his nipples... how can anyone see that and not laugh? Also, this is the first 3D movie I have ever seen. My opinion? Gimmicky, and not my favorite thing ever, but it worked a few times in more atmospheric moments. I still would have preferred to not wear the goofy glasses.

(Okay, and now I have a special second part of the review. This is unheard of for me and this blog, but I'm going to introduce a guest reviewer: my girlfriend who bravely sat through the movie with me, expecting to absolutely hate this movie. She knows almost nothing about the series of games, although she has seen the first movie, the first half of the second game, and bits and pieces of Downpour. So, here are her thoughts, as a non-fan of Silent Hill or horror:)

 Okay, so I just saw Silent Hill: Revelation 3D. I will preface this by saying that horror movies put me entirely out of my element. I do not often watch them! I am not the expert Justin claims to be, and I don't know much about the Silent Hill series outside of what I've seen played of SH2, SH3, and SH Downpour.

Inexpertise laid bare, I had fun watching this! I was never really scared, and I am a self-proclaimed weenie about this stuff. It did have some decent jump-scares in predictable places, but jump-scares don't mean much as far as horror goes. There were tense moments, but nothing actually horrific. My heart never really jumped from fear. It was a thriller more than a horror- and, being called a thriller, I thought it was actually pretty entertaining!

The story did nothing for me. Going in nearly cold to this film and not having the Silent Hill nostalgia driving my interest, the plot came across as dry. Very dry! It made sense, especially when explained, but that didn't stop the protagonists' actions from being poorly motivated. I'm sorry, but Vincent, what did catching the Brethren's attention in the amusement park do for you? Why the hell did you kiss Heather? Heather, you're disregarding everything your father has ever told you and blatantly ignoring common sense when you dive headlong into the venture. 'Oh my dad has literally bent our lives around hiding from people chasing us and telling me to never go back to Silent Hill no matter what- so let's just make that little trip, shall we?' It seemed.... shallow. I mean, I get it, but it still came across as much more of a game-reliant plot and movie than one really meant to stand on its own, which was slightly disappointing for someone without that game experience to draw from.

I never really connected with Heather, either. It's hard to, especially when the first major speech she makes is one literally meant to drive everyone away. Effective as a troubled high-schooler, not so much as a movie protagonist I'm supposed to emphasize with. Or is that not a thing for horror movies, and the protagonist is meant really only as a scream-generator? I don't know. I might be off-base.

I liked Robbie the Rabbit. I now want a little plushie.

The monsters in the movie were... interesting. The new ones, anyway. I liked the mannequin-spider-conglomeration! It was creepy, new, and parasitic, while still keeping to the pieced-together-mannequin monster theme in other Silent Hill pieces (the double-legged monster in SH2, for instance). Probably one of my favorite monsters (except for when it opened its head, I would have preferred to not have CGI shoved in my face like that)- and the girl Heather rescued there was pointless. I knew the instant she got ripped out of that plastic thread-sac that she was a moot character, only meant as a forced kind of monster feed to generate screams. That came across as shallow to me, as well. Pointless.

The nurses are a Silent Hill staple- I think they're overused, but at least this time they were used well. They responded to the noise made, and only when noise was made! That part, with Vincent lying on the gurney and trying to silently escape, was a well-done tense moment, in my opinion.

Pyramid Head was... I'm getting tired of his cameos. His original purpose was to be James's torment in SH2, and he's been bastardized from that ever since. What is he doing turning a demonic carousel, chained in place with nipple-clamps? And couldn't he take them out any other way than by ripping them?

VINCENT IS NOT A BRITISH HORMONAL TEENAGE BOY. That seemed fan-service-y to me. I'm not a fan of that.

The rot effects were very cool. They reminded me of every single abandoned building Justin and I have ever explored- especially the Knight Hospital. That, overall, was probably what spooked me the most, the ties to my urban exploration; not the ties to the Silent Hill series, which shouldn't really be the case, I think.

Again, as horror, this movie seems to fall flat even to someone as inexperienced as me. It was thrilling, again, but never really that scary. The scares they tried to pull were predictable, at best. ...Also, it might not have helped that Justin and I were cracking jokes about Pyramid Head's nipple clamps the entire time.

The best part, for me, was actually at the very end. Silent Hill: Downpour is the game I know the most about, save for SH2, so seeing the bus and police escort pass the truck as they were leaving the town was a great stinger for me. I guess we'll see if they follow that up well!

Last note? I HATE 3-D EFFECTS.

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