I don't play video games, so I went into this film with no pre-conceived notions or expectations. I came away pretty impressed and a little disturbed.
Rose and Chris Da Silva are worried about their adopted daughter, Sharon. Little Sharon has been sleepwalking and speaking, while still asleep, of a place called Silent Hill. When Sharon nearly falls to her death during her latest sleepwalk, Rose decides to confront the issue head-on. She packs Sharon into the SUV and heads for Silent Hill, West Virginia. But Silent Hill is a ghost town that the locals don't like to speak of and which is contaminated by an ever burning coal fire deep in the bowels of the earth. After a freak car accident knocks Rose out, she awakens to find Sharon gone and a rain of ash falling from the sky. Silent Hill is indeed a ghost town, populated by demonic mutants and the ghosts of the damned. Rose is led by grisly clues deeper into the tragic history of the town and a terrible secret which involves her adopted daughter. Aided by police officer Cybil Bennet, Rose must face the dark demons of Hell and prevent history from repeating itself if she is to save Sharon.
This is quite a freaky film, though surprisingly not as gory as I had thought it would be. After a somewhat slow first 20 minutes or so, the film descends into rotting horror as air- raid sirens warn of The Darkness, deformed creatures lurch out of the shadows and the patina of normalcy literally melts away with the approach of evil. Standout characters include the sorrowful Dahlia, played by Deborah Kara Unger, who looks like the worlds oldest and saddest Goth woman, and the hideous creature known only as Pyramid Head, who stomps into view with a horde of cockroaches at his command. Radha Mitchell does a great job as Rose, playing her as a realistically frightened woman, but also as a determined mother who will stop at nothing to save her daughter. Jodelle Ferland is great in her double role of Sharon/ Alessa, a sweet, haunted little girl one moment; a creepy, frightening little monster the next. Sean Bean as the hopelessly lost Chris Da Silva is perfect; you can feel his frustration and panic. Alice Krige too is unnervingly chilling as Christabella.
The atmosphere of this movie is great - ash covered cemeteries, drippy basements, abandoned schoolrooms - all very creepy and menacing in their utter stillness. The violence, when it comes, is quite brutal. Skin is ripped off, bodies are roasted, limbs ripped away by barbed wire. Pretty gruesome, but not overly so. The demons are the real attraction here: besides Pyramid Head, there are also twisted torsos spewing black acid, deformed beings in nurse uniforms wielding scalpels and, in the scene which freaked me out the most, a man with his body bent double and his feet over his head crawling across a bathroom floor.
I've never played the video game so I really can't tell you if this was a faithful adaptation or not. But I can say that it is very original, quite spooky, satisfyingly bloody and even rather disturbing in several parts...and I don't scare easily. All in all, a very good horror movie.
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