Zombos Says: Good
Dear Mr. Ebert:
I am aghast that you, as mentioned in your review for Silent Hill, cannot describe the plot for this movie. I, as you, have not played the video game, but even so I think the plot woefully obvious. Allow me to illustrate it, with as much brevity as possible, so you can better appreciate the nuances of this gripping horror story.
But before I begin, I was wondering what you use for a light source when you take notes during the movie? I've tried various book-lights and pen-lights, but they're either too bright, annoying those sitting around me, or too awkward to position, or uncomfortable to hold for long periods of time. I was lucky with Silent Hill as there was an Exit sign which cast just enough reddish light for me to see what I was writing. Of course, I had to sit on the floor next to it, but it wasn't too uncomfortable; except for the occasional person stepping over me to go to the bathroom or concession stand. It's a good thing I don't review Disney movies as I'd have had the little monsters and their rude parents incessantly running back and forth, trampling me.
Getting back to Silent Hill, the plot is a simple one, often repeated in horror and science fiction movies. It even reminded me of the Star Trek episode, And the Children Shall Lead, where Gorgon, an evil alien who appears to children as a friendly angel (played by real-life attorney Melvin Belli), takes advantage of their naivety to further his evil plans. He uses them as a conduit for his nasty powers. Now instead of an evil alien, in Silent Hill we have a kid, Alessa, who's being used by a malevolent demon to exact malicious mischief and revenge on the titular (I always love using that word: it sounds so naughty) townspeople that did her wrong.
Now—oh, wait a minute—is it a demon that is using the girl as a conduit or is it actually the dark half of the girl that's taking revenge on the townsfolk? The convoluted explanation toward the last quarter of the movie, oddly done in an inappropriate grainy faux-home-movie-styled flashback, describes how badly the poor kid was mistreated, and how she eventually split into a dark half who curses and destroys the town and everyone in it, and a good half the dark half sends away, only to call it back after nine years.
But then why bother to send the good half away, only to have it return after nine years?
I missed something. I better start over.
Dear Mr. Ebert,
I'm surprised that you, as mentioned in your review for Silent Hill, can't describe the plot for this move. I, as you, have not played the video game, but even so, I think the plot fairly obvious. Allow me to illustrate, with as much brevity as possible, so you can better appreciate the nuances of this atmospheric horror story.
Alessa, born out of wedlock, is tormented by her classmates, victimized by the school janitor, and cooked like a hot dog by a wacky religious cult. The poor kid, amazingly, survives all this rude treatment and, naturally, develops an evil personification that can reach out from her badly scarred and bed-ridden body to maliciously destroy her tormentors. No wonder there.
Then again, you could look at it this way: a demon from hell takes advantage of the poor girl’s revengeful, hate-filled state of mind to kill everybody in town and lock their souls into a very imaginatively depicted hell-like limbo filled with endless horrific punishments.
After wreaking chaos and horror on the townsfolk, she realizes she's been acting rather badly and decides to create a good version of herself—pre-nastiness and all that, which she then sends away to live with total strangers until precisely nine years pass. Demon Alessa—or just a hell-spawned demon along for the ride—then summons pre-nastiness Alessa (now Sharon) back to town to…to...what?
And what’s that weird, confusing backstory about a witch burned by townsfolk and the town being on fire for years and years?
Oh, bugger! I thought I had it this time. I have to start over.
Dear Mr. Ebert,
I'm not surprised that you can't describe the plot for Silent Hill. It can be confusing to those not all that familiar with horror movies. Allow me to explain, with as much brevity as possible, so you can better appreciate the nuances of this visually stunning and creepy movie.
But first, I must give kudos to the art direction.
It's a wonderful creaturefest of makeup, CGI-enhanced sets and coloration, and icky-monster costuming that's quite a treat to watch. The creatures are nightmarish, in that nifty damned-to-hell kind of way, and the sounds and music when Alessa's mom goes deeper into that cursed town—especially when the siren blares a warning that the town is going ‘into the darkness’—is goosebumps inducing, evoking quite a horrific mood; and those embers glowing on the damned creatures’ bodies, and all that falling ash and pall over the town—again, Dante himself couldn't have done any better.
The script is another matter entirely.
The dialog, for instance, is atrocious. Many of the lines are eye-rollingly bad. The acting also needed better acting, especially during the climactic Barkeresque Hellraiser-styled confrontation in the church between Alessa’s mom and those evil cult members.
Mom does manage to walk through a congregation of crazed, kid-roasting individuals with amazing ease, doesn't she?
And the verbal showdown between them is so contextually dry; I wish I had Visine to squirt in my eyes each time they rolled around those groaners.
While I'm at it, what's with the black, skin-tight, leather uniform on the female motorcycle cop: I mean really, could you get it any tighter? How DOES she get on the motorcycle dressed in those tight pants? All she needs to complete her ludicrous ensemble is a pair of stiletto heels. Her weak acting during her own barbecue scene in the church is also very disappointing, especially when she’s the one being barbecued. A little more Ouch! or Ooh! would have provided more drama.
But before I go off on a tangent, let me explain the plot.
Alessa, a poor kid born out of wed-lock and who winds up roasted like a turkey by an evil religious cult while HER mom puts up little resistance, takes revenge on the townspeople of Silent Hill.
Though I'm not sure if this occurred before the fires broke out in the mines or afterwards. I'm also not sure how the witch burning, thirty years beforehand, fits into the events with Alessa. There seem to be a few storylines going on here and little explanation to tie them together.
Anyway, from her hospital bed, the badly scarred and immobile Alessa, either through sheer malevolent will power, or by the assistance of a hellish demon (maybe the witch’s familiar?) destroys the town and its citizens, forcing their spirits to ‘live’ in a nightmare world that puts Dante’s Inferno to shame. They must endure not only the hellish Limbo they've been caught in, but also the Darkness that brings Pyramid Head (you need to have played the video game, but a guy with a pyramid on his head) and his agonies (give or take a few like in the video game) to torture them if they're unlucky enough to be caught outside their only sanctuary, the church.
Alessa, for some reason, sends off a good version of herself as a baby, now named Sharon, and then summons Sharon back to Silent Hill after nine years. Since Sharon sleepwalks and blurts out "Silent Hill" in her sleep a lot, her mom, casting caution to the wind, takes her to Silent Hill.
Not exactly sure why since Sharon’s scared sh+tless of the place. Perhaps her mom is just taking that confronting your fears thing a little too seriously?
Yes, Silent Hill! The one with all the well-known, evilly-cursed stuff attached to it. A place so notorious, Sharon’s father reads about it on the web at www.ghosttowns.com. This is the ABANDONED place that has had toxic fires burning beneath it for years, so much so that ash continually falls from the sky, and deadly fumes reek forth so badly not even a Glade Plug-in Air Freshener could cover it up.
So her mom takes her there, AT NIGHT, hoping to find out why her daughter keeps sleepwalking and saying “Silent Hill” a lot and seems so frightened of the damned place.
Along the way they're almost stopped by a dominatrix-looking motorcycle cop who dresses in impossibly tight leather motorcycle garb (minus stiletto heels, though), but her mom is determined to bring Sharon (really Alessa) to that deserted, fires-still-burning, town (that nobody else wants to go near)—in the middle of the night no less—so she puts the pedal to the metal, promptly crashing her car in the process.
Mom wakes up, finds her daughter missing, and heads into town on foot. The motorcycle cop follows them, promptly crashes her motorcycle, and heads into town on foot, too.
Now, Mr. Ebert, here is where the subtlety begins.
You see, Sharon (really Alessa), her mom, and the motorcycle cop are actually dead, but they don't realize it. They died in their respective vehicular crashes. This is why they can be affected by the creatures and hellish darkness of Silent Hill while her husband, and the others searching for her, walk through the town unaffected and unaware.
Now Alessa, as Sharon, has her mom and the cop go through quite a few trials and tribulations to find her so she can use them to get into the church to send those evil cult members to Hell—well, more Hell that is, seeing as they're all ready knee deep in it. Much gore ensues as Alessa gloats and tears them apart in a scene of ripping butchery that Pinhead would be proud of. Sharon as Alessa--or Alessa as Sharon--and mom then walk back to the car, buckle themselves in for safety—this time—and head home.
Of course, there's the confusing sequelization-antic ending (my term for forcing a sequel: clever, huh?), where the husband is home as they return home, but he can’t see them and they can’t see him. The scene shifts between husband in his nice sunlit home and them in their bleak, ominous-looking home. Sharon-now-Alessa, or the demon posing as Sharon-now-Alessa, gives us that sinister, look, so common in horror movies these days, to tip us off that it isn’t over until the franchise says it’s over.
With them being dead, though, how, exactly, does dead Alessa benefit from taking over now dead Sharon’s body?
And they (the script writers, I mean) still haven't explained why the witch was burned or why the fires started in the mines in the first place.
Oh bloody hell. I thought I finally had it right this time. Crap.
Dear Mr. Ebert,
Never mind. You were right as usual.
PS. We miss you.
They're not dead. They're simply in the dimension that Alessa created. If they were dead, their bodies would have been found in the "real world" along with Rose's car that Officer Gucci found.
Posted by: Henry Evil | October 16, 2007 at 02:33 PM
Purgatory/hell dimension makes sense. Let's see what they do with it in Silent Hill 2. Thanks!
Posted by: Iloz Zoc | July 11, 2007 at 02:41 PM
I've never played the game either but, everyone I know who has, said that the movie captured the atmosphere of the game perfectly. That may be so but this movie bored me to tears. It had some great visuals but the story was confusing and not too interesting. The only thing that kept me interested was the hot mom and cop.
As for the ending, I was told that they got stuck in purgatory.
Posted by: Mr Chin | July 11, 2007 at 02:14 PM
Maybe I can help?
Alessa started the coal fires in her initial revenge, I think. Of course, that doesn't explain how they happened 30 years ago and Sharon is only 9, but I think that the real cause of the tragedy is Alessa, and the world at large simply assumes it was a random coal mine fire. Maybe the demon created Sharon as an afterthought, long after the fact, just to throw a wrench into the mix?
Possibly the demon created Sharon knowing she would eventually return and add some chaos (and in the end, give the demon a physical form).
As for them being dead, I don't think they are. If that was the case, wouldn't her husband and the police find everyone's bodies in their vehicles?
I think it's intended that they managed to go into the hell dimension in which Silent Hill resides, by virtue of their proximity to Sharon and the demon letting her in. After 'resolving things', the dimension doesn't let them go, so the entire world is like Silent Hill to them.
Posted by: Teri | July 09, 2007 at 09:44 AM