Silent Hill (film)
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|Directed by||Christophe Gans|
|Based on||Silent Hill
|Edited by||Sébastien Prangère|
|Distributed by||TriStar Pictures|
|Box office||$97.6 million|
Silent Hill is a 2006 Canadian-French horror film directed by Christophe Gans and written by Roger Avary, Gans, and Nicolas Boukhrief. The film is an adaptation of Konami's survival horror video game series Silent Hill. The film, particularly its emotional, religious, and aesthetic content, includes elements from the first, second, third, and fourth games in the series. It stars Radha Mitchell, Sean Bean, Laurie Holden, Deborah Kara Unger, Kim Coates, Tanya Allen, Alice Krige, and Jodelle Ferland.
The film follows Rose, who takes her adopted daughter Sharon to the town of Silent Hill, for which Sharon cries while sleepwalking. Arriving at Silent Hill, Rose is involved in a car accident and awakens to find Sharon missing; while searching for her daughter, she fights a local cult while uncovering Sharon's connection to the town's past.
Development of Silent Hill began in the early 2000s. After attempting to gain the film rights to Silent Hill for five years, Gans sent a video interview to them explaining his plans for adapting Silent Hill and how important the games are to him. Konami awarded him the film rights as a result. Gans and Avary began working on the script in 2004. Avary used Centralia, Pennsylvania as an inspiration for the town. Filming began in February 2005 with an estimated $50 million budget and was shot on sound sets and on location in Canada (Brantford, Ontario). The film was a co-production between Canada and France.
Silent Hill was released on April 21, 2006, grossing nearly $100 million worldwide. Film critics praised the film's visuals, set designs, and atmosphere, but criticized the film for its dialogue, plot, and runtime. A sequel entitled Silent Hill: Revelation was released on October 26, 2012 to critical and commercial failure.
Rose and her husband, Christopher Da Silva, are concerned about their adopted daughter, 9-year old Sharon, who has been sleepwalking while calling the name of a town, "Silent Hill". Desperate for answers, Rose takes Sharon to Silent Hill. As they approach the town, she is pursued by police officer Cybil Bennett, who has become suspicious of Rose's motives after witnessing Sharon panic at a gas station when her drawings are mysteriously vandalized. A mysterious child appears in the road, causing Rose to swerve and crash the car, knocking herself unconscious. When she awakens, Sharon is missing, while fog and falling ash blanket the town.
Rose wanders the empty streets of Silent Hill looking for her daughter but is stopped when, upon the sound of a siren, the town transforms into a dark and distorted alternate version of itself, and she encounters a large group of disfigured monsters, including the Janitor in a school bathroom after digging out a piece of wood from the fog world's janitor's mouth. When the town reverts to its normal state, she meets a woman named Dahlia Gillespie, who speaks of her own daughter, Alessa, being abused by the townspeople. Upon seeing a photo of Sharon in Rose's locket, Dahlia mistakes Sharon for Alessa, and tries to steal the necklace from Rose. Rose returns to her car and runs into Cybil, who arrests her. As they head back to the road out of the city, they discover that the road is cut by a huge fracture. The two women eventually pair up to search for Sharon, experiencing Silent Hill's surreal dark side together and barely escape a tall sword-wielding figure called Pyramid Head.
Meanwhile, Christopher also simultaneously scours the town, shown to be abandoned and without mist and falling ash as it is to Rose and Cybil, with the assistance of officer Thomas Gucci, who is there in search of the missing Cybil. Christopher discovers documents revealing that the town was abandoned after a coal seam fire thirty years ago, along with a photograph of Dahlia's daughter, who is identical to Sharon. Told to stop investigating under threat of incarceration, he returns home.
Rose and Cybil meet Anna, a woman who leads them to a local church for refuge when the alternate version of the town, referred to by Anna as "the darkness", returns. As they approach it, Anna is killed by Pyramid Head after he completely excoriates her with his bare hands. In the church, Rose and Cybil discover a cult headed by a woman named Christabella. Christabella tells Rose about a "demon" who knows Sharon's whereabouts. After convincing Christabella to help them locate the "demon", Rose and Cybil are taken to a local hospital. There, Christabella also sees the photo of Sharon in Rose's locket and, seeing the likeness between Sharon and Alessa, condemns Rose and Cybil as witches. Cybil is captured by the townspeople while Rose descends into the hospital basement. There, Rose encounters a burned Alessa on a bed and Dark Alessa, the incarnation of the darkness in Alessa's soul.
In a flashback, Rose discovers that Silent Hill had a long history of witch-burnings, stemming from the cult's beliefs. Thirty years before Rose's arrival, Alessa was stigmatized for having been born out of wedlock by an unknown father; her schoolmates bullied her, and she was sexually assaulted by a janitor, named Colin, while hiding in a bathroom from her classmates. Christabella declared her filth, and Dahlia agreed to Christabella's suggestion that she allow the cult to "restore innocence" in Alessa. When not allowed to follow Alessa into the ritual, Dahlia realized that they intended to kill her daughter and ran to the police.
Alessa was ritually burned, but in the midst of the ritual, the device holding her above the fire pit broke on one side, causing it to swing and knock over the pit, setting the church ablaze and starting the conflagration that destroyed Silent Hill. When Dahlia returned with the police, Alessa was found with third degree burns, but still alive. While in the hospital, Alessa's pain and rage caused her dark side to become incarnate in the form of a duplicate of herself; a manifestation of the darkness in her soul. Rose then learns that Sharon is the manifestation of the goodness in Alessa's soul. After the flashback, Rose is told that she must aid Alessa in her revenge by granting her entry into the church, and that Christabella will soon find Sharon and attempt to burn her as well. She decides to help, and allow Dark Alessa to merge with her body.
Rose enters the church after Cybil has just been burned alive by the townspeople, and Sharon is about to suffer a similar fate. She confronts Christabella with her knowledge of the truth, attempting to convince the cult that they are in denial of their own fate. Christabella stabs Rose, causing her blood to drip onto the church floor. The blood serves as a vessel through which Alessa exits Rose and brings the "darkness" into the church. Alessa attacks the cultists with long strands of barbed wire, which she then uses to violate and eventually bisect Christabella, killing her. The townspeople are also killed, leaving Dahlia, Rose, and Sharon the only survivors. At the end of the massacre, Alessa and Sharon fuse and become one person again.
As they leave the town, Rose discovers that the abyss and the fracture is gone, allowing them to leave Silent Hill, while Dahlia stays behind. Meanwhile, Christopher returns home and falls asleep on the couch. He wakes up just as Rose and Sharon/Alessa return home, but they arrive in the foggy, Silent Hill version of the home, while Christopher sees rain and sunshine, indicating that Rose and Sharon/Alessa are still in an alternate reality.
- Radha Mitchell as Rose Da Silva, the desperate mother who seeks a cure for her daughter Sharon's nightmarish sleepwalking by taking her to the town of Silent Hill.
- Sean Bean as Christopher Da Silva, the father of Sharon and husband of Rose who opposes his wife's decision to find answers in Silent Hill.
- Laurie Holden as Cybil Bennett, the motorcycle police officer from the city of Brahams who becomes suspicious of Rose and follows her into Silent Hill.
- Jodelle Ferland as Sharon Da Silva, the adopted, troubled daughter of Rose and Christopher. She also plays the younger Alessa Gillespie, the tormented daughter of Dahlia who was severely burned by the cult of Silent Hill, along with Dark Alessa, the evil part of Alessa's soul that frequently haunts Rose.
- Deborah Kara Unger as Dahlia Gillespie, the mother of Alessa who walks the foggy dimension of Silent Hill after giving her daughter up for sacrifice.
- Kim Coates as Officer Thomas Gucci, a kind-hearted police officer jaded and hardened by his experiences at Silent Hill.
- Tanya Allen as Anna, a mentally unstable member of the cult.
- Alice Krige as Christabella, the leader of the cult of Silent Hill.
- Christopher Britton as Adam
- Nicky Guadagni as Eleanor, Anna's mother.
- Roberto Campanella as Pyramid Head, a humanoid monster wearing a triangle-shaped helmet who first appeared in Silent Hill 2, and as Colin, a school janitor implied to have raped Alessa, who now appears as a monster wrapped in barbed wire.
- Emily Lineham as Lisa Garland (credited as "Red Nurse"), a nurse who was horribly assaulted by Alessa just for peeking in her room, and as one of the Dark Nurses Rose encounters in the hospital.
- Lorry Ayers as the adult Alessa Gillespie, the scarred and traumatized daughter of Dahlia who now controls the alternate dimensions.
- Eve Crawford as Sister Margaret.
Director Christophe Gans attempted for five years to obtain the film rights to the Silent Hill series from Konami. He sent a video interview to them explaining his plans for adapting Silent Hill and how important the games are to him. They were so impressed, he was rewarded with the film rights. In 2004, Gans and screenwriter Roger Avary began writing the script, which would be the first film in a series of Silent Hill films.
Silent Hill's screenwriter, Roger Avary, used the town of Centralia, Pennsylvania as an inspiration for the town of Silent Hill; Avary commented that as a boy, his father, who was a mining engineer, used to tell him stories about Centralia, where coal deposits from the local mine caught fire and released toxic gases into the town, as well as creating sinkholes when the abandoned mineshafts and coal seams began to collapse. This forced the town to evacuate forever. Avary was fascinated since childhood by the idea that fires underneath the town would be burning for such a long time. When the script was finished, a studio memo was sent to Gans and Avary that voiced concerns about the lack of a male presence in the film, since the original story contained a nearly all female cast. Gans and Avary added Christopher's character (named after Gans) and subplot and the script was approved.
Gans described the concept of the town's connection to the child Alessa and the cult: "It's a town of people trapped in dark dreams, and she inflicts onto the town what those people did to her body. That is, to me, the meaning of the darkness. The appearance of the town is corrupted in the way that her own flesh was wounded." He furthers expands on Alessa's connection to the alternate reality seen in the film, saying that the alternate reality is "in [Alessa's] head". "It's interesting because the town itself mirrors this fractured psychology—different dimensions, different doubles of the same person." In speaking about the creatures in Silent Hill, Gans said that "these monsters are [damned], with the poetic direction of the term: they are a little like the Japanese phantoms, i.e. residues of forgotten feelings as strong as hatred or [guilt]." "The monsters in the game are not really monsters, but rather a mockery of human beings. The real monsters are the people, the cultists who tortured Alessa. When I approached the film, I knew that it was impossible to represent the monsters as simply beasts that jump on you."
The film was greenlit on September 19, 2003. Principal photography commenced on April 25, 2005. It was filmed in both Brantford and Hamilton as well as on soundstages in Toronto in 2005 and on location in Alma College. American studio Sony Pictures bought the distribution rights for $14 million for the United States and Latin America to be released under its TriStar Pictures genre film subsidiary.
Gans said that casting of Mitchell as the lead for the film is "a matter of feeling. If you play Silent Hill you know that each character has a very special poetic quality. They are both twisted and sophisticated. We tried to keep that in mind when we did the casting on this film." Bean's role in the film was originally kept to the beginning and the end of the movie, but due to studio pressure for a male lead, his role was expanded into a subplot. Gans cast Holden after seeing her in The Majestic: "in The Majestic, she was beautifully feminine and I cast her so I could show her other side, make her strong and sleek. Gans saw Ferland as "the ideal actress" after viewing the television show Kingdom Hospital and her screen test for Terry Gilliam's film Tideland. To prepare for her role, Krige read the book The End of Days by Erna Paris, a book about tyranny during the Spanish Inquisition.
The movie was filmed in the Super 35 film format, except the scenes with the darkness, which were filmed in high-definition video, because of its ability to cleanly capture light and digitally manipulate it in post production. The film contains around 107 different sets specifically used to represent the different versions of the town. The bipedal creatures in the film were played by professional actors or dancers covered in latex and prosthetic makeup. After filming, over 619 visual effects shots were used in the film, with the most prominent uses being the fog that drenches the town, the transitions to darkness, and the insects that surround Pyramid Head. Some of the creatures were also touched up in post-production, with CGI effects such as the burning on the Grey Children, the changes in the dimensions of the Armless creature's legs, the disease that the Janitor spreads, and the barbed wire during Alessa's revenge.
In order to maintain the feel of the games, Gans had the sound designer of the original Silent Hill, Akira Yamaoka, flown to the set several times. Additionally, Gans had a 40-inch television brought onto the set, to which he attached a PlayStation 2; Gans then played the original Silent Hill on the system so that the actors and cinematographers could see how Gans wanted to emulate various camera angles and movements.
Budgetary concerns caused a few scenes in the film to be rewritten. The meeting of Anna in the film had been envisioned differently. It originally featured Anna being attacked by an injured armless creature, where she is saved by Cybil and Rose. Due to budget concerns, choreographer Roberto Campanella was sent home for the day, and without him the scene did not meet Gans's expectations. To rectify this, the scene was simplified and rewritten. Gans stated that his original vision of the film's finale revolved around six Red Pyramids appearing inside the church, each carrying a different weapon, and slaughtering the cult members in reference to Dante's Inferno. When budgetary and time constraints prevented this ending from being filmed, he created the new ending that revolved around the barbed wire slaying of the cult by Alessa, which was inspired by the erotic anime Legend of the Overfiend.
The score consists almost entirely of music from Yamaoka's soundtracks to the original four games in the series. The only other piece of music used in the film is Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire". Yamaoka's scores were arranged by film composer Jeff Danna, with some tracks appearing in almost identical form to their in-game counterparts, while others were recreated entirely.
Silent Hill was released to theaters on April 21, 2006 in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Ireland. France, Belgium, Hungary, and Greece also saw April releases. The film was later released in 19 other countries in 2006 which include Russia, Germany, Spain, Italy, Japan, and Mexico. The film's poster of a mouthless Alessa was the subject of some vandalism, with many malefactors drawing cartoon mouths (smiling, screaming, sporting vampire fangs, etc.) or placing stickers where her mouth would be.
On August 22, 2006, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and TriStar Pictures released the DVD, Blu-ray, and UMD versions of the film in North America. The DVD and Blu-ray were released in both Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1 and Pan and Scan versions and both included a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. The releases also included a number of special features, such as film previews and a six-part making-of documentary. The film was also released on UMD for Sony's PlayStation Portable on August 22, 2006; there are no special features but the disc includes a 1.78 widescreen format, Dolby Digital 2.0, and subtitles. An HD DVD was released in Germany by Concorde Home Entertainment on August 22, 2007, containing the film encoded in the VC-1 video codec and also has the main audio track in DTS-HD, and retaining the film aspect ratio of 2.35:1.
Silent Hill opened in 2,932 theaters and earned $20 million domestically on its opening weekend and opened at number one at the U.S. box office. As of January 3, 2007 the film has grossed $46 million domestically and $97 million total worldwide. At the DVD domestic sales, the film sold 1,316,169 units in 4 weeks, bringing a profit of $22,149,584, and making the total gross of the film jump to $119,757,037 worldwide. Silent Hill has landed in the top 10 highest-grossing film adaptations of video game properties listed on Box Office Mojo (from 1980 to present) at #9, grossing $46,982,632 domestic, just behind Resident Evil: Extinction, which grossed $50,648,679 in domestic box office receipts.
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Advance screenings of Silent Hill were not given to critics by the distributor. Metacritic's average critic's score is 30 out of 100. Rotten Tomatoes reports a 29% rating on the review aggregator, based on 90 reviews.
James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave the film a mildly positive review, awarding it two and a half stars out of four. He opined that "the film is overlong, with too many unnecessary scenes" and that "a lot of the movie seems like pointless running around", but added that the film "looks great" and that "it packs in a few scary moments and offers a nicely ambiguous conclusion." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film one and a half stars (out of four), calling it "an incredibly good-looking film," but noting that he "did not understand the story" and criticizing how "all through the movie, characters are pausing in order to offer arcane back-stories and historical perspectives and metaphysical insights and occult orientations." Don R. Lewis of Film Threat praised the film's visuals but wrote that "this entire film is downright confusing and not in an intriguing way," calling it "the best-looking bad film I've ever seen."
Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a score of D+, stating that "a few of the images are startling" but "Silent Hill is mostly paralyzing in its vagueness." Dennis Harvey of Variety opined that "above-average interest is generated for a time by [the] elaborate visual package," but "in the end, Silent Hill degenerates into an overblown replay of all those Twilight Zone and Stephen King stories in which outsiders stumble upon a time-warped location from which there's no escape." According to Nathan Lee of The New York Times: "It begins as a quest, develops into a ghost-town mystery, devolves into a preposterous cautionary tale about witchcraft and religious fundamentalism, and wraps up like the outrageously overwrought fantasy of a movie nerd obsessed with horror who has been given obscene amounts of money to adapt a video game."
A sequel, Silent Hill: Revelation, taking place nine years after the first film's events, was released on October 26, 2012. Christophe Gans could not direct the sequel because he was busy directing an Onimusha film adaptation. Roger Avary was originally attached to write the screenplay and had written the first draft before he was arrested for vehicular manslaughter on November 2010. Michael J. Bassett was later hired to write and direct the sequel. The sequel was panned by critics, holding a 5% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
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