Considering that this is a topic I don’t get to write about very often, I’m going to open up and say that there are few franchises I love more than Silent Hill. Being a fan who’s been on board since the original game dropped in 1999, I’ve since felt compelled to regularly revisit the otherworldly town, often referring to it as “my home away from home.” Heck, I’ve even met and seen Akira Yamaoka perform live, an experience I will cherish for the rest of my days.
Hopefully, there are still some of you out there who share this sentiment, because we the fans have gotten the shaft in the time since 2012. If you’ll recall, that year brought us a triple threat of games – Downpour, Book of Memories and the HD Collection – each of which remain our last interactive experiences to fall under the Silent Hill banner, thanks to Silent Hills‘ cancellation and Konami’s inability to continue one of their most notorious intellectual properties.
Also dropping during that very year was the second film to be spun from the video games, that being Silent Hill: Revelation. Being a bit of a box office bomb, many will no doubt lob various criticisms at it, but while I felt that it fell short of the first movie, I didn’t hate it. Sure, 90 minutes (roughly) aren’t enough to squeeze in the massive mythology that comes along with this series and it could’ve benefited from an additional 30 minutes of breathing room similar to its predecessor, but the atmosphere, visual effects, production design and music that I’d come to love were all there.
Personally, I’m going to point the finger at the studio for wanting to make such a complex story accessible to the mainstream and hoping to attain a vibe similar to that of the Resident Evil flicks, but director MJ Bassett is taking full responsibility. Here’s what she had to say when recently appearing on The Movie Crypt podcast:
“Well it’s Silent Hill for me, isn’t it? You know I went into it trying to make a certain kind of film and it just didn’t work. It didn’t fall together, pieces didn’t fall together, and that was partly me trying to second guess what my producer wanted. We’d made Solomon Kane together. You know, so I really loved this guy and I wanted to make a movie he liked. With Kane, it was like that’s my movie, it was like ‘Fuck you I know how to make this movie,’ and I’m going to argue with you and I’m going to get what I wanted.
“With Silent Hill I felt it was much more a collaboration, and by the way, I wrote it and directed it, so its failings are my failings. But in hindsight, I should have fought for a more personal kind of vision for it. But I couldn’t satisfy the gamers, I couldn’t satisfy the audience, it was one or the other.”
While a variety of factors no doubt led to the film’s shortcomings, Bassett attributes some of the problems to having to conform to the template established by the previous director, Christophe Gans. As you may remember, he, while staying mostly true to the games, changed key elements, like, for instance, the cult. In the games, they were more like straight-up devil worshipers to oversimplify matters, but in the first movie, they were more comparable to extremist Christians from the time of the Salem witchcraft trials.
Seeing as how the first movie was based on the first Silent Hill game and the second was based on its sequel, Silent Hill 3, I can understand why Bassett wanted to align things with the source material. After all, the cult factored heavily into pretty much every aspect of that game, so they’re pretty hard to ignore.
But, in retrospect, Bassett wishes she’d gone in a different direction:
“With Silent Hill the mistake I made, I think, was trying to be too true to the game plots. You know, it’s a valuable piece of material, the game owners own it, if you start fucking around with their canon they’ll come and get you. Game fans will come and get you.
“I like the games. So I wanted to make a game story, but that’s the mistake, it should have been the games are the games and the movies are the movies.
“So with Silent Hill I had to make a sequel to the movie, so I had to take all Christophe’s story that he baked into it, but he deviated from the game, [so I] try and get back to the game and then make it accessible for a mainstream audience. It was just a nightmare dance and I couldn’t do it, so I’m very sorry to everyone who didn’t like the movie.”
All things considered, I’m glad that both Gans and Bassett stayed as true to the games as they did because what Silent Hill: Revelation and its predecessor accomplished isn’t often seen in movies adapted from games. My gripes with the Resident Evil pictures could fill a multi-volume series, and I can’t say the same thing in this case. To be honest, I’m just not sure if an original story would’ve resonated as much with myself and others as well.