Back in my PS1 days, there were two survival horror games that stuck out to me as potentially very good... if only I could get the handle of them. 'Resident Evil' was one of them, of course, owing largely to being the first game to give me a genuine jump scare. The other was the mind-bending and surreal nightmare that was 'Silent Hill'. It had an atmosphere with its gruesome imagery, lighting and dream-like, subtle soundtrack that I couldn't help but admire as what "horror" should be.
It's a bit mind-blowing to think that at the time, a game could capture some truly horrific material while a movie couldn't. The first game was '99, so horror was in a heavy phase of teen slashers. They were all basically some kind of 'Friday the 13th' ripoff taking place in a more real-world setting. 'Silent Hill', among other games, however, offered something more unique - perhaps being able to get away with it a little easier both graphically and, well, graphically. Whether or not I ever got the handle of 'Resident Evil' and its tank controls, 'Silent Hill' was one I wished I didn't suck at because I wanted to experience it as some sort of next level horror. I might add that it was also around this time I started getting interested in all the classic 80s slashers I missed.
The film's basic premise is seemingly pretty similar to the first game, but borrows elements as opposed to characters, all of whom are original for the film. I offer the movie credit for that, as it can be a self-contained story and doesn't really have to follow much of the game's original plot. In the argument of introducing us to Cole in the new 'Mortal Kombat', or Alice in 'Resident Evil', they interact with a whole bunch of characters we already know from the games, so you wonder where they enter into things. This, much like the games, is its own story, so even as a video game adaptation it sort of works either way. All they needed to do was add the right elements.
Story-wise, this one opens with couple Christopher and Rose Da Silva (Sean Bean and Radha Mitchell, respectively) chasing after their daughter, Sharon (Jodelle Ferland) who just about sleepwalks her way off a cliff (filmed at my somewhat local Devil's Punch Bowl - in fact, much of this was filmed close to where I live, which is always pretty cool). She screams out the words "Silent Hill", and the parents wish they could figure out the connection between her and this mysterious location. Rose takes Sharon to find the town, which had since been abandoned due to a coal fire that continues to burn - based on the real-life location of Centralia, PA.
Upon experiencing a car crash during a police chase from the seemingly shady officer Cybill Bennett (Laurie Holden), Rose awakens in the mysterious and abandoned ghost town with her daughter now missing. When Rose heads out to search for her, she soon finds herself in a hell on Earth where any time a loud siren goes off, trouble in its most terrifying forms are on their way. Along her journey to rescue her daughter, Rose further uncovers a mystery that may explain her daughter's connection with this Hellish town full of monster babies, twisty, bendy people, and a "Pyramid Head", who by the way offers up one of the most brutal deaths I've seen on screen - even if the effects are a bit dated now.
Although I remain somewhat unsure of how this works as an adaptation, I think it's a title that can stand on its own very well as long as it's treated like its own thing, and not a direct adaptation of any of the games. Putting that aside, I would suggest that as a horror movie, this is something that does a good job of bringing that same horror magic I experienced with the first game to the big screen. When it comes to horror, I definitely have a thing for the twisted and unusual. A good horror movie has to mess with my mind, and this does manage that in several ways. It may not have done well critically, but this has its cult following of fans who suggest it's one of the best video game movies we have. I have to say, I couldn't agree more! While I still say that goes to 'Mortal Kombat', this was still at least objectively enjoyable as a horror movie.