I couldn’t tell you when the first time I watched SILENT HILL was, but what I can tell you is that when I did watch it, it scared the ever-loving shit out of me. Besides the disturbing imagery, what really pushed me over the edge were the creature designs, most notably the appearance of Pyramid Head, a character I have now come to love and appreciate. Based on the insanely popular Konami video game, SILENT HILL is a survival horror film that not only stays true to the spirit of the video game but also ends up being one of the most unsettling horror films to date.
SILENT HILL is directed by Christophe Gans (Brotherhood of the Wolf, La Belle et la Bete) and stars Radha Mitchell (London Has Fallen), Sean Bean (Game of Thrones), Laurie Holden (The Walking Dead), Deborah Kara Unger (The Game), Kim Coates (Sons of Anarchy), Tanya Allen (The Newsrooms) with Alice Krige (Ghost Story) and Jodelle Ferland (Dark Matter). The film centers on Rose (Radha Mitchell), a desperate mother who takes her adopted daughter, Sharon (Jodelle Ferland), to the town of Silent Hill in an attempt to cure her of her ailment. After a violent car crash, Sharon disappears, and Rose begins a desperate search to get her back. She descends into the center of the twisted reality of a town’s terrible secret. Pursued by grotesquely deformed creatures and townspeople stuck in permanent purgatory, Rose begins to uncover the truth behind the apocalyptic disaster that burned the town 30 years earlier. (Shout Factory)
Full disclosure, I’ve never played the video game, though I’ve seen my fair share of video stills. From what I understand, the game is just as terrifying as the movie which is saying a lot if you think of how horrific the film is. SILENT HILL was released in theaters back in 2006 and though some of the special effects are slightly dated, the film as a whole holds up just as well today as it did 13 years ago. Furthermore, when I watched some of the special features on the Collector’s Edition of this release, I learned just how far production went to use as many practical effects as possible. Most impressive to me was the lengths that actor Roberto Campanella went to portray not only Red Pyramid but also the Janitor character and Colin. I had read that not only did he have to wear heels in order to reach a height of 7’, but he could barely see out of the headpiece of Red Pyramid. He’s not the only one that took extreme measures to make these creatures look authentic as there was the Armless Man, portrayed by Michael Cota, along with the slew of Dark Nurses that Rose runs into towards the end of the movie. I think the decision to use more practical effects over CGI was something that only helped improve the overall execution of terror that the film evokes.
One of my favorite aspects of this film is the religious fanatism that the townspeople exhibit under the rule of Christabella (Alice Krige). I’ve written about my love of religious horror many times and I forgot just how prevalent it is in this film. It’s a thread that weaves its way throughout the entire movie, culminating in the eventual explanation of why the town is the way it is. For me, SILENT HILL is a reminder that we do not get to play God nor do we get to make a judgment upon people and their supposed “sins”. Even though we have Pyramid Head and the other horrific creatures appearing during the moments of “Darkness”, the real villain is that of Christabella and Alice Krige does a phenomenal job of bringing her to life. As far as villainous characters in horror movies go, we don’t give Christabella enough credit and that’s something we should remedy immediately. Along with Alice Krige’s performance, the rest of the cast does a superb job of bringing their characters to life. Additionally, this is a film that highlights an almost all-female cast which shows their strength and determination in the face of unimaginable horrors which is a nice departure from the overused horror tropes that many female actresses face in horror films. I also have to give a shout-out to Jodelle Ferland who does an exceptional job of playing both Sharon and Alessa, especially at the young age of 12. When watching some of the special features, you can tell that Jordelle is having an absolute blast going back and forth between the two characters, unfazed by the dread and terror that Dark Alessa summons.
In all, I can’t recommend this Collector’s Edition of SILENT HILL enough. Not only does the film stand the test of time in terms of its overall execution, but it still easily elicits fear from its imagery and overall story. Lovers of special features will find a lot to enjoy with this edition as it’s filled to the brim with features that include audio commentary with cinematographer Dan Laustsen, interviews with the director and cast, and my favorite, Path of Darkness: The Making of SILENT HILL – a six-part documentary. All that said, this is one Blu-ray release that fans will want to get their hands on so head on over to ShoutFactory.com and order your copy today!