Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Silent Hill (2006)

And the final score is: Video Games 27, Movies 0. Christophe Gans's first film since breaking out with The Brotherhood of the Wolf displays none of that film's madcap lunacy -- it's closer in spirit to his lugubrious adaptation of Crying Freeman. It certainly looks impressive, and it's got atmosphere to burn, but that and a buck-fifty can get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks these days. In an era when even the most sad-sack Hollywood production can look spit-polished, it's not enough anymore to ladle on the atmosphere and the unusual visuals -- you have to fucking do something with them, and Gans has nothing. He's stuffed the film with shadowy demons and suffocating fogs and refugees from Chris Cunningham videos not because they're an organic part of the world he's set up but because he's trying to distract us from the fact that this is all surface. It's the lights-and-sounds hypothesis: throw enough weird shit at the audience in hopes that they won't notice that your film isn't about anything or that your third-act revelation/reversal negates the purpose of the first two acts. (If events are meant to play out as they do, why the hell is Radha Mitchell being menaced and nearly killed over and over?) The third act also includes something I'm finding increasingly distasteful, the hawkish justification and endorsement of horrific bloody revenge; as evil as the fanatic witch-hunter played by Alice Krige is, it's still disconcerting to see this film's Big Bad exact its vengeance by shoving sentient barbed wire up her nether regions. The actors are nothing to get impressed over, as can be said about any film that bothers casting Deborah Kara Unger; Radha Mitchell, normally a very good actress, is only asked to run, scream and sweat, and while she acquits herself well, it's still a thankless role. It's a thankless film, too.

Grade: D+


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