Release Date(s)2006 (July 9, 2019)
Studio(s)Konami/Davis Films/TriStar Pictures (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: A-
When it comes to video game adaptations, it’s common knowledge that filmmakers tend to fail at capturing what makes the stories of the games appealing, or the material itself just doesn’t translate well into other mediums. Super Mario Bros. and House of the Dead can be enjoyable for their unintentional entertainment value, but only a handful have become, at the very least, passable films. Outside of 1995’s Mortal Kombat and 2016’s Warcraft (the latter I personally believe is a bit better than most give it credit for), one of the best continues to be Silent Hill.
Rose (Radha Mitchell) and her husband Christopher (Sean Bean) have a newly-adopted daughter named Sharon (Jodelle Ferland) who is having nightmares about a place called Silent Hill, which she calls out in her sleep but can’t remember upon awakening. Going against her husband’s wishes, Rose drives Sharon to this mysterious place in the hope of ridding her of the nightmares once and for all. After a car accident, Rose wakes up to find Sharon missing and pursues her into the fog-laden town of Silent Hill, followed closely by a concerned police officer (Laurie Holden). Soon they discover a dead town, covered in ash and full of monsters who come out after nightfall, as well as a cult with a sinister past, lead by a pious woman (Alice Krige).
Christophe Gans (Brotherhood of the Wolf) was a fan of the Silent Hill video game series and practically begged Konami for the film rights to it, which took him several years to eventually get. Passionate about doing the adaptation justice, a story was co-written by Pulp Fiction co-author Roger Avary. Gans went to great lengths to not just adapt the story as closely as possible, but going so far as to copy specific camera angles from the original game and matching its lighting, particularly when Rose is wandering around in the dark with nothing but a lighter. The film was eventually released by TriStar Pictures in 2006 to mixed reviews but a decent box office take, leading to the mostly negatively-received sequel Silent Hill: Revelation.
What holds up remarkably well about Silent Hill is its style and atmosphere. It’s the darkest and moodiest of video game adaptations. It also contains plenty of ridiculously creepy imagery, including a man torn in half and hanging from a chain link fence, a group of blind nurses that hunt with their weapons mostly by sound, and a man bent over backwards, crawling along the floor with barbed wire wrapped around his feet. Many of these things seem to come right out of a nightmare, and are perhaps the most memorable aspects of the film as a whole. The soundtrack is also eerie, full of unsettling noises from the various creatures, as well as the siren that blares when the town is about to fall into darkness, something that the impact of seeing in a theater couldn’t be fully replicated on home video.
However, for all of its positives, Silent Hill also has its fair share of shortcomings, mostly in its story. The mystery of the town is far more intriguing than its eventual explanation. There are also far too many moments of expository dialogue, none of which are that exciting to watch as characters literally stop to talk about the details. It’s also unfortunate that most of the CGI elements don’t hold up all that well. Performances aren’t particularly noteworthy either, though the actors pull off their roles well enough, with Radha Mitchell taking most of the abuse as the film’s lead. All in all, not a perfect film, but beautiful to look at and disturbing to watch at times.
Scream Factory brings the film to Blu-ray for a second time as a 2-Disc Collector’s Edition containing an HD master approved by director Christophe Gans. It’s a good looking presentation that trumps the previous Blu-ray with more solid grain reproduction and higher levels of detail, particularly in brighter shots. Black levels are also deeper, due to the higher contrast, though crush is unavoidable in certain spots. Colors lean towards muted due to the film’s main ash-covered environment, but moments at night when the monsters come out feature strong shades of red, brown, and orange. Everything appears clean and stable with no visible damage and likely contains a stronger encode than before, getting the most out of the master as possible.
The audio is presented in English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English SDH. While the previous Blu-ray featured a 5.1 LPCM track, there isn’t a noticeable sonic difference when it comes to the DTS tracks. The 2.0 is fine but the 5.1 is a dynamite listen. There’s a heavy emphasis on immersion with atmospherics and panning all around the soundstage. Whether it's the dripping of water in an echo-driven environment or the scraping of metal against a wall, it’s effective at drawing one in and attacking them multiple times. Low end moments keep the subwoofer rattling, and the score is given plenty of room to breathe, even during the organ-driven finale. Dialogue is crisp and prioritized well. There’s literally nothing worthy of complaint.
As for extras, this release comes loaded with a mix of old and new material, covering the making of the film from many members of the cast and crew. Disc One features a new audio commentary with cinematographer Dan Laustsen, moderated by Justin Beahm, and the film’s theatrical trailer, presented in HD. Disc Two features a series of new interviews by Reverend Entertainment, including a 72-minute interview with director Christophe Gans split into 3 parts: The Origin of Silence, Adapting a True Work of Art, and Delivering a Nightmare; A Tale of Two Jodelles, a 26-minute interview with actress Jodelle Ferland; Dance of the Pyramid, a 37-minute interview with actor Roberto Campanella; and a 57-minute interview with makeup effects artist Paul Jones split into 2 parts: Monster Man and Silent Hill. Also included is Path of Darkness: Making Silent Hill, a vintage 62-minute documentary in 6 separate parts (Origins, Casting, Set Design, Stars and Stunts, Creatures Unleashed, Creature Choreography); the 15-minute On Set vintage featurette; the 5-minute Around the Film vintage featurette; an animated photo gallery featuring 92 promotional stills and behind-the-scenes photos; and an animated poster gallery featuring 43 posters from around the world. For you completists, it’s worth noting that several overseas DVD and Blu-ray releases have additional bonus materials that are not included here, including additional audio commentaries, interviews, trailers, and TV spots.
Silent Hill is a strong piece of filmmaking from a visually-driven director that, while not containing the most interesting story, excels aesthetically. Whether that makes it one of the best video game adaptations is up for debate, but Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release certainly gives the film a more welcome presence on disc in the U.S.
– Tim Salmons