Movie Review: "Silent Hill: Revelation 3D" (2012)

I am writing this feeling pretty pathetic. Pathetic because of how genuinely sad I feel after seeing a movie I expected to like—even love—but really couldn’t. If you don’t have time to read the whole review, which might go on for a while, the short of it is this: “Silent Hill: Revelation 3D” is an unmitigated disaster. This coming from someone who worships the first movie despite all its flaws. I recommend you tke this review as the opinion of a hardcore Silent Hill fan, and look at it with that lens.

As you may know I am a huge fan of the games, I adore the original movie Christophe Gans directed, and have been manically following every step of this movie’s production ever since it was announced. Michael J. Basset, who directed the apparently great “Solomon Kane” really seemed to know what he was doing—his opinions during interviews were spot-on, his casting choices were great, his visual style looked precise. He seemed like a perfect choice to replace Gans, and this was reinforced by trailers and clips that had me giddy with excitement, so how could the final product be so incomprehensibly terrible?

I’m not talking “Resident Evil: Retribution” terrible. I’m talking “I can’t even find a good comparison of how bad this movie is” terrible. The almost complete ineptitude of the film still feels like a surreal nightmare; I’m still wondering if I didn’t accidentaly see some kind of early cut, or a work print or something. As much as I tried to do the necessary mental gymnastics to convince myself that it wasn’t a terrible film, and that maybe I could find an angle through which I could enjoy it, it really didn’t let me.

There are very, very few things this movie got right, and they were enough to get my hopes up constantly, only to be disappointed soon thereafter. While there were some genuinely great moments—my favorite of which involved Christopher and a mirror—and some genuinely creepy moments, they were inconsistently peppered over an omelet of crap. It’s so strange to see bits that inspired real fear that were immediately followed by cartoonish crap you wouldn’t see in the next Resident Evil movie.

The best, and not only, example of this is the mannequin scene; it starts off being legitimately creepy in the most classic horror sense, only to immediately deteriorate into total absurdist, cartoonish crap the instant the monster shows up. Indeed most nightmare scenes are constructed without much care, and seem more like collages of arbitrary, often cheesy, horror images. Oh, and though the atmospheric 3D is very good (love the ashes), most of it is used in exactly the way you feared—knives thrust towards your face, heads and guts flying out of the screen, etc.

Remember the hospital scene in “Jacob’s Ladder”, where the horrors were indeed arbitrary, but still visually resonant enough to get under your skin? There’s a scene that takes place in a mall that seems to have drawn inspiration from that, but relies too much on dumbed-down horror tactics (creepy clowns, creepy children, scenes of torture) and gross-out gore to truly have a powerful effect.

This is not Silent Hill, and it strays farther and farther away from the spirit of the series as it moves along and eventually the only thing that’s left is the locales which, to be fair, are awesome. Much like the first, the production design is freaking great—the rusty locations of the ‘dark Silent Hill’ (which takes up the bulk of the movie) are very cool. In the same capacity, with the exception of the horrible she-monster that looked like it was taken right out of one STV “Hellraiser” sequels, and the mannequin spider, the creature design is awesome and the costumes were freaking fantastic. 
Though Pyramid Head was sorely misused, and at one point humiliated, he was intimidating and looked great. The performer had it right with his twisted movements. I also particularly liked the performance of the actresses playing the nurses, even if their scene had one of the worst sins against Silent Hill I’ve ever seen (they literally added CGI blood splashing the camera for a horrible 3D effect).

There’s a very strange inconsistency here that gives me the impression that Michael J. Basset isn’t entirely to blame for Revelation, and I’m almost completely sure that there was some very severe snip-snip going on in the editing room, because the film is so erratically paced that it’s disorienting. At some points, it seems to take its time like the first one did to explore its universe, but then we are treated to some horrible—and I mean horrible—plot devices that rush the story forward through shitty flashbacks and abrupt revelations that make the Transformers movies look like “Melancholia”.

The best example of this “jack in the box” method of exposition is the scene that takes place at Jack’s Inn with Heather and Vincent about one third into the film. It was exactly the moment when I really noticed that the movie was heading south fast. Yet much like it, there were other scenes where characters would abruptly begin explaining incoherent story aspects that only confused the shit out of me and really, really lost me. By the end I couldn't really understand what had happened, and truly felt the movie didn't resolve itself at all. The fates of some of the characters are a big question mark in very forced attempts to lead into possible sequels.

Oh and without giving too much away, please don’t get your hopes up in regards of the promised return of some of the surviving characters of the original—or some characters and monsters from the games—as their roles are so incredibly irrelevant, and have so little effect, that I was left wondering why bother getting them back at all.

Now, there wasn’t much wrong with the story itself in its fundaments. I liked where Basset was taking the story, or what I could appreciate of it, as a whole lot is lost amidst the terrible, repetitive exposition and immeasurable amount of plot holes. I feel Basset had a good idea that was completely destroyed at some point, leaving a completely incoherent storyline that doesn’t truly resolve in any way, retcons the original, leaves way too many loose ends, and again—if you’re familiar enough with the game series to understand the quick references—ends with the promise of several sequels and/or spin-offs. Hopefully they never happen.

I do have to mention though that I really did like Heather's relationship with her dad. It was touching in a weird way to see them struggle with a dark past he's kept from her, not to mention a disturbing action Christopher had to take years before in order to protect Heather.

I have to give it to Adelaide Clemens (Heather) because, though she was given some terrible lines to work with, she was the best thing about the movie. Her character was solid, and she was very, very likable when Basset wasn’t trying too hard to make her into a badass—a role that really didn’t fit her character. The rest of the cast was poorly directed, and it reflected on their individual performances. I am a “Game of Thrones” fan so I know for a fact that Kit Harrington is a great actor—only Basset, and his dialogue, are to blame for the kid’s terrible performance, not to mention the fact that the character is just terribly written.

Other than these two, and maybe Sean Bean, no character spends more than an aggregated total of 5 minutes on-screen, and aren’t worth mentioning. Wait, no. I gotta hand it to Malcolm McDowell who played Leonard with a lot of hammy gusto. He was funny as hell in a way I'm fairly certain was intentional.

About the music, which I know a lot of fans are wondering about, I did recognize two or three  classic Akira Yamaoka tracks, mostly from "Silent Hill 3", as well as the return of "Promise (Reprise)". Unlike the original movie that included more than twenty tracks from the games, this one only had a couple. Otherwise, the new score by Jeff Dana did its job, but was a stark contrast to the beauty that is Yamaoka's music. There were two new vocal tracks at the end credits, one of which I'm fairly certain had the beautiful voice of Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, that I absolutely loved.

If you’re excited about the movie, and like me consider yourself a hardcore Silent Hill fan, by all means watch it in theaters—hell watch it twice. Even I might even if I fear it will only cement my distaste towards it. Be warned though, that this is everything the first movie wasn’t. I would be genuinely shocked if anyone who didn’t like the first movie enjoyed this one in any capacity beyond “eh, it was fun if you turn your brains off”. I’m not even sure that’s even true.
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About The Damn Beast

Pre-op trans-minotaur, sci-fi/fantasy/horror author, metal singer, videogame journalist, pop culture blogger. I also lift heavy things and put them down again repeatedly to occupy more space.
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  1. sucks that you didn't like it. That said, I thought the original, while awesome in its atmosphere, was a horribly butchered shitfest. Still, I know it's never going to be as great as we wanted to be.

    1. Haha im in the minority cause I have to day I disliked the first one bit I was genuinely impressed by this one. I promise I didnt turn off my brain! There were flaws sure but I could see how basset was trying to merge the first movie into the canon universe

    2. These comments give me hope that, after re-watching it knowing what I'm in for, I might actually find a way to enjoy it. My mind won't objectively change, but I might stop feeling a bit betrayed.

      I'm glad you enjoyed it, dude. I can't wait to see more fans' opinions.

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  3. I really, really would like to know how this film retcons the original. I don't mind spoilers. :)

    1. Well, *spoilers for everyone else*!

      The most notorious retcon is the fact that this cult (Order of Valtiel) is the same cult as the one in the original, and Claudia is even Christabella's sister. The two cults share absolutely no similarities in any way (not in their Bible, their symbol, beliefs, etc.). Also, the fact that there are still literally hundreds of people living in Silent Hill's foggy world, chilling, despite the fact that Alessa had supposedly killed them all. There are other details but you get the idea.

    2. Wait, what? Bassett specifically said they were two different cults. Is it possible the people living in the town are ghosts? There are a few things I definitely want to know: is Bassett claiming Heather is only Sharon, and not the full Alessa? If so, that's a retcon of the original. Does he at least explain that Alessa had powers before the burning (as he promised he would), and that Dark Alessa is Alessa's dark side, not the devil?

    3. *Spoilers*

      Nope, they are the same cult. I do remember him saying they were different too so that's confusing to me. Maybe he really did have to re-shoot and re-edit a bunch of stuff. They claim that Heather is "the good side" of Alessa, sent to live away from Silent Hill so a part of her could live a happy life. They hint that Alessa was basically the vessel for a demon the whole time.

      It's all really confusing.

    4. Heather being only the good side of Alessa and Alessa being a vessel for a demon are both massive retcons, and means that Bassett not only misunderstood the first movie, but also lied about keeping to Gans's viewpoint of Alessa/Sharon/Dark Alessa. That makes me *very* unhappy.

  4. I'm so glad someone else appreciated the first film despite the few liberties it took with the story. My expectations for this movie are already destroyed, I will see it but now I'm expecting a disaster. 3 or 4 Yamaoka tracks? That's pathetic. No wonder Bassett didn't reply to my tweets asking how much of his music would be in the film.

    I was at the comic con panel for this movie a few weeks ago and there was a Q&A session. One of the "questions" was someone who said they saw the first reel of the film and loved what they saw so far. Now I'm certain that guy was a plant by the studio.


    1. Yeah, the music thing is disappointing, but the songs used in the end were well picked, if that means anything (they have "Please Love Me . . . Once More" which I love).

      About the first reel, maybe not. After the over-stylized intro, the beginning of the movie is VERY solid. It didn't begin sliding towards terribleness until roughly the mall (about 10-15 minutes in).