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Silent Hill

Movies based on video games usually don't require much in the way of exposition. Light in plot and heavy on action and special effects, the typical gamer flick can be joined in-progress with 20 minutes remaining without too much confusion. Silent Hill (2006) has a decidedly different problem: It has too much plot, with too much detail from the game included without any explication, and from the opening minutes rarely makes a lick of sense. Radha Mitchell stars as Rose, the concerned mom of a sleepwalking adopted nine-year-old, Sharon (Jodelle Ferland), whose somnambulism takes her to dangerous places while she mumbles about a place called "Silent Hill." Instead of taking the disturbed girl to a doctor, as her father (Sean Bean) suggests, Rose's protective maternal instincts kick in and she secretly sneaks Sharon away on a rainy night road trip toward the mysterious titular West Virginia ghost town. After a wholly ridiculous high-speed car chase from a suspicious motorcycle cop, Rose and Sharon reach Silent Hill, destroyed by fire years earlier, where Sharon naturally runs away. As Rose searches for her daughter, joined by policewoman Cybil (Laurie Holden), the apparently abandoned town is frequently consumed by darkness and overrun by creepy mutants, cinder-like creatures, and a giant anvil-headed beast who can rip off a person's skin in one deft tear. While Rose and Cybil follow clues and chase eerie demon children to find Sharon, dad Christopher shrugs off the admonitions of a secretive policeman (Kim Coates) and investigates the circumstances surrounding Sharon's adoption on his own. Rose eventually uncovers the terrible secret of Silent Hill, which appears to involve a fanatical religious cult's attempted ritualized murder of a molested girl, which incomprehensibly unleashed the forces of Satan within the confines of the town, and in order to rescue Sharon from being murdered by the same cult, Rose must align herself with the demons to destroy them. Or something like that. Director Christophe Gans, of the cult fave French lycanthriller Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001), makes a muddle of everything save for the vivid demons and a wild finale of death and destruction that deserves a far more lucid premise, and screenwriter Roger Avary (re-teaming with Gans from their 1995 flick Crying Freeman) finally sheds the last of his reputation-by-association with Quentin Tarantino by utterly failing to make any sense of this project, but also by churning out what may the worst video-game-turned-movie dialogue ever uttered. Mitchell's indie cred is all that keeps this over-two-hour movie bearable, but by the half-ass Sixth Sense-rip-off ending, there's no salvation for anyone involved. Also with Deborah Kara Unger, Tanya Allen, and Alice Krige. Sony presents Silent Hill on DVD in a good anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Includes the six-part production diary "Path of Darkness." Keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr



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