Oh, Silent Hill.
I first saw this movie way back in 2006, when it was first released into theaters. At the time, I knew nothing about Silent Hill, beyond the fact that it was based on a video game that a lot of my friends seemed to like. I have to admit that I had a really hard time following the plot and yet the film still totally creeped me out. The film was one of those movies that created such an atmosphere of impending doom that the real world looked and felt different when I left the theater. For the rest of that night, I found myself feeling paranoid about any sudden shadows.
I’ve watched Silent Hill or, at the very least, parts of Silent Hill a few more times over the years. The plot still makes little sense to me, though I am now a bit more familiar with the game that inspired the film. Over the years, a handful of the special effects have aged a bit poorly, with many of the once-fearsome monsters now looking somewhat cartoonish. And yet, when the film works, it really, really works. There are certain scenes in this film that still surprise and frighten me, even though I’ve already seen them. One character, for instance, is burned alive and I still have to look away when the fire consumes them. The thing is that, even if the CGI now looks a bit cartoonish, the atmosphere remains. That feeling dread continues to snake its way through every scene in the film and into the consciousness of the viewer.
I rewatched the film earlier today. I’m feeling nervous tonight. Maybe it’s just because I’ve got a lot of writing to do and we’ve got some home repair people coming by tomorrow to do some work. Or maybe, it’s because I’m worried that I’m suddenly going to find myself in some sort of shadow world, being menaced by blind but stabby nurses.
The film opens with Rose (Radha Mitchell) and her husband, Christopher (Sean Bean) trying to figure out why their adopted daughter, Sharon (Jodelle Ferland), is sleepwalking and having nightmares about a town called Silent Hill. Silent Hill is in West Virginia and was abandoned after a mysterious natural disaster. Rose decides that visiting the town is the best way to solve the mystery. However, after an automobile accident, Sharon disappears and Rose finds herself wandering around the town and getting attacked by monsters and occultists. Meanwhile, Christopher is also wandering around Silent Hill, accompanied by a helpful deputy (Kim Coates), but it’s hard not to notice that his Silent Hill seems to be signifcantly difficult from the Silent Hill that Sharon and motorcycle police officer Cybil (Laurie Holden) have found themselves in.
It’s a confusing plot but director Christopher Gans does such a good job of creating and maintaining the film’s creepy atmosphere that it doesn’t matter that you’re not always sure what’s going on. And while it’s true that there’s perhaps too many scenes of Sharon walking from place to place, there’s also some truly frightening scenes, like the one with all of those killer nurses. The film plays out like a dream and, as we all know, you don’t question dream logic. Instead, you just go with it.
And so, 15 years after the film was first released, I’m usually willing to just go with Silent Hill. I’m at peace with never quite understanding it. Instead, I appreciate it for what it is: a creepy and surreal experience that will make you think twice before stepping out into the fog.