The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday September 26th

'Silent Hill' quiet on horror

Video game movie pales to original

MOVIEREVIEW 'Silent Hill' 1.5 Stars Several bits of humor are scattered throughout "Silent Hill," director Christophe Gans' film adaptation of the popular video-game series. Unfortunately, only one of them - the playing of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" on a jukebox - is intentional. Beyond that, the joke's on us, and it's 125 minutes long. As you've probably heard, "Silent Hill" looks gorgeous, and Gans' team deserves credit for the film's expert set design, costumes and cinematography. But the movie fails to deliver in every other way. Fans of the video games will be frustrated at the movie's failure to spook, nonfans won't have a clue what's going on, and everyone will curse the momentum-interrupting flashbacks and insipid plot contrivances. "Silent Hill" could have been great fun - a gory slasher that would have made a fine slice of unpretentious horror. After all, it's based on a great video game. But great video games don't necessarily translate into great movies, especially when filmmakers insist on ignoring Truth No. 1 of game adaptations: Something that is clever or unique in the world of a video game likely will be neither on the big screen. "Silent Hill" takes its absurd video game plot way too seriously, demanding that the viewer think of the film as a treatise on the dangers of religious zealotry, the joys of motherhood and Lord knows what else. At the movie's start, we meet Rose (Radha Mitchell), whose daughter, Sharon (Jodelle Ferland), is a maladjusted young girl whose sleepwalking episodes end with her muttering "Silent Hill" - the name of a West Virginia ghost town that is clearly bad news. The solution to this problem? Rose kidnaps her daughter and takes her to - get this - Silent Hill. How 'bout that? Sadly, things just go downhill from there as Rose encounters plenty of demons, evil air-raid sirens and a predictable cult of witch hunters who would make Arthur Miller proud. And then there's the twist ending. The original "Silent Hill" had almost half a dozen endings depending on how you played the game, so the obvious choice when writing the screenplay would be - you got it - to invent yet another ending. This one is so mind-bogglingly stupid that I'd be willing to nominate it for the Lame Endings Hall of Fame. By all means, see "Silent Hill" if you want. It has its moments. At one point, Pyramid Head - a demon from the second installment in the game series with a tetrahedron for a head and a sword bigger than Cloud Strife's - rips a woman's skin off and flings it at a closed door, all without the camera flinching. Also, someone gets burned alive, again without any cutaways. It's the sort of gratuitous gore that'll make you proud to be an American. But that's all you'll get from "Silent Hill," which spends way too much time trying to be a serious movie and not nearly enough time having its villains kick butt. Contact the A&E Editor at artsdesk@unc.edu.


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