I was all set to find that the onslaught of awful reviews of Silent Hill: Revelation were wrong. As dubious as I find the value of aggregated reviews in general, they are utterly worthless when it comes to horror movies. (That kicks in even here because this film is nowhere near as dull and creatively vacant as Paranormal Activity 4, which got higher marks all told.) Unfortunately, Silent Hill: Revelation is at best disappointing and, at worst, pretty darn bad. I have always thought that the weakest aspect of the original 2006 film — apart from the insistence of using music from the video game — was Roger Avary’s screenplay. Well, Avary’s slightly clunky screenplay is the last word in literature when placed alongside the muddle foisted on us by Michael J. Bassett (who also directed). In fact, it’s hardly a screenplay at all and one wonders if Bassett actually watched all of the first film. Or perhaps he thought that the “Revelation” of the title meant he was free to muck around with the narrative however he chose — for that is certainly what he did. What doesn’t fit is either explained away in one of the film’s appalling outbursts of expository writing, or simply ignored. (How any of this relates to the video games, I neither know, nor care. I’m looking at these strictly as films.)
This new one takes place six years after the first film and finds Sharon has somehow been freed from Silent Hill (insert cameo appearance from Radha Mitchell to not really explain how that happened). She is now a teenager called Heather and is played by Carey Mulligan lookalike Australian TV actress Adelaide Clemens. She and dad (Sean Bean) have been on the run all these years because the evil denizens of Silent Hill (whose antics seem little related to the first film) need her for one of those rituals that evil denizens are so fond of doing. That — along with some fripperies involving a helpful young man (Kit Harrington) who is not what he seems (one is left wondering when and where he learned to drive, too) and other diversions — is really all the story there is.
While the clues and their rewards sometimes made the first movie feel like a video game, everything here plays out in that mode. It occasionally results in atmospheric sequences, but none of it is particularly compelling and little of it relates to much of anything outside the individual sequence. Deborah Kara Unger shows up for a few lines and promptly disappears. Heather/Sharon meets up with a grizzled Malcolm McDowell who hams it up for three or four minutes, turns into something else and a CGI-enhanced stuntman has a bout of mayhem. The creepy zombified, knife-wielding nurses from the first movie return — only to prove that the residents of Silent Hill are pretty damn dumb. And so it goes.
A few things are admittedly pretty much on the money. The most notable of these is the carousel scene, which is truly creepy and works within the confines of the first film’s storyline. If the rest of the movie had been this good, we’d have at least had a good sequel. But there are almost no moments to equal the whole elevator ride to “hell” business in the original — and all that happens there. Certainly, there’s nothing here that even approaches the sanguinary grandeur of the climax, or even the resonance of Dahlia’s (Deborah Kara Unger), “Alessa, what have you become?” No, instead, we get a dumb videogame-style fight between monsters. And it’s not the worst thing by far. (Try the CGI “scorpion” made out of mannequin parts.) Still, it’s the best outright horror picture in theaters for the season (for what that’s worth) — and it does boast a bunch of creepy pink bunnies. Plus, this is probably the first movie ever to have a shock effect involving a Pop-Tart. That seems somehow noteworthy.
Rated R for violence and disturbing images, some language and brief nudity.
Playing at Carmike 10, Carolina Asheville Cinema 14, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande