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The First Silent Hill Film Is Still an Underrated Video Game Adaptation
Let's look back at an unnerving journey into video game horror.
I still remember my first experience with Silent Hill as a concept. I was 12, my older cousin had just purchased the first game in the franchise, and I sat next to him as he played, moving through this haunting, constantly dim world with nothing but a flashlight, playing as a character with no real special skills or sense of superhuman video game might. It was unsettling, surprising, and looking back on it now, it's very easy to see why this game took the horror genre by storm within its chosen medium. Even now, nearly 25 years later, Silent Hill is synonymous with horror video game storytelling.
And in some ways, that was already the case back in 2006, when the first feature film based on the games was released. Directed by Christophe Gans, who fought for the chance to make a movie based on the franchise he'd fallen in love with, Silent Hill the film is an interesting mishmash of ideas rounded up from the games up to that point (four of them had already been released by the time the film came out), all crammed into an original story drafted by Pulp Fiction co-writer Roger Avary. The end result doesn't always work, but when it does work, it's just as unnerving as the game, and that makes it a must-watch for video game fans who are on the hunt for a truly underappreciated adaptation. Plus, just in time for Halloween, it's streaming on Peacock right now.
Why Now Is a Great Time to Revisit Silent Hill, Streaming Now on Peacock
The film version of the story follows Rose (Radha Mitchell), a desperate mother trying to figure out the source of the sleepwalking nightmares that plague her adopted daughter Sharon (Jodelle Ferland), who keeps dreaming of a town called "Silent Hill." Determined to figure out how to stop Sharon's nightmares, Rose drives her daughter out to Silent Hill in an effort to solve the mystery. What she finds instead is a nightmare of her own, as she ends up trapped in a strange foggy dimension where a version of the town leaves her trapped, and occasionally warps into an all-out hell dimension where monsters attack at every turn.
Fans of the games will find a lot of ideas lifted from the original stories for the film, including the resolution of the plot and certain key characters involved in getting to the bottom of what's really going on. Then of course there's the setup, which features a parent driving their child to Silent Hill, only to end up trapped there after a car crash. If you're not a follower of the lore of the games, you'll still be able to follow what's going on, but it of course helps to have a certain grasp of the creatures and mythology of Silent Hill going in, particularly as things head into the third act, when the film starts to unpack the layers of its story and reveal that certain characters are aspects of other characters. It's a bit convoluted, and by the end the film feels a little consumed by its own lore, leaving the horror aside so it can attempt to resolve all these plot threads.
The good news, though, is that the atmosphere laid out by Gans never really goes away. Whether you're a fan of the games or not, Silent Hill the movie is at its best when it's a shock-laden, dread-laced horror tone poem. The imagery, much of it once again lifted directly from the games, never fails to create something chilling in the viewer, whether we're watching Rose wander the abandoned, ashy streets of the town, or we're following along as mutated insects with human faces creep down hellish hallways, and Pyramid Head plunges his sword through metal doors like some kind of horrifying cartoon. Those elements, even with a few dated visual effects touches, never stop working, and they carry through right to to the climax of the film, in which razor wire takes on Hellraiser qualities to great effect.
In other words, Silent Hill is worth the trip just so you can see the feature film version of the games' many nightmares come to life, and even if you're not fully paying attention, it's the kind of film you could leave on in the background to keep spooky vibes pumping through your house all Halloween season. Even if you're not really watching, these images beg for your attention, and a few of them will stick with you even after you've closed your eyes.