SILENT HILL (Christophe Gans, 2006)
A coal fire has been burning for thirty years under the ghost town Silent Hill, West Virginia. The road to it has been blocked off, but Rose (Radha Mitchell) believes she must take her little girl there. In SILENT HILL Rose’s adopted daughter Sharon (Jodelle Ferland) is prone to sleepwalking to the edge of cliffs and uttering the name of the abandoned place. In search of an answer, Rose takes her to Silent Hill. Sharon runs away. Rose must look for her while not being sure if she can trust what she sees.
As a nightmarish vision of hell on earth, SILENT HILL is a triumph of production and art design. As a coherent story, it’s little more than a string of video game scenarios, which comes as no surprise since the film is based on a game. Director Christophe Gans skillfully creates the eerie atmosphere in the decrepit town and allows it to envelope the characters. Gans favors wide shots that show the scope of ruin, isolation, and space surrounding them. Vertiginous overhead shots peer down the sharp edges of drop-offs. In tight spaces Gans ratchets up the tension through longer takes than are standard in most of today’s frightfests.
At issue, though, is whether SILENT HILL is going somewhere or merely wandering among a crumbling landscape. The defiant lack of explanation intrigues for quite awhile, but the answers, or what can be determined from the bewildering story, don’t seem worth the wait. Still, there’s a lot to be admired in how SILENT HILL looks and how it spooks.