Roger Ebert didn't like "Silent Hill".
I rushed out and saw it on my own this afternoon. I didn't like it either. Yet, I still think Ebert's review is a load of bullshit.
I don't cotton to writing movie reviews on this blog. I'm not sure why, I just don't. Maybe it seems too obvious. Who cares what I think about movies? Anyone who read this regularly is just waiting for me to go batshit. Wind him up and there he goes...!
That said, Ebert's so hung up on disparaging videogames as an artistic medium, and he uses the relatively new genre of "videogame adaptations" as an easy target.
First off, videogames *are* an art. I know it appeals to a narrower demographic, but you cannot argue that it isn't an art form. It is unique because it's interactive; it engages the audience/player in a different way. With the advances in technology over the years, it's become a more visually "cinematic" art. Narratives have become more complex; adult, emotional.
Okay, I don't want to get into a big essay on my thoughts on videogames as an art form, because just thinking about it makes me want to go on and on. I'll save that for another time.
My point is, there have been a lot of lousy movies adapted from videogames. But you can't blame it all on the videogames. Blame it on the adaptations. "Pirates of the Caribbean" was a big critical/box-office success -- it earned Johnny Depp
his first Oscar nom -- and it was based on a fucking Disneyland ride.
I had my hopes up for "Silent Hill", because I'd played a few of the games and was really taken aback by the atmosphere of the world. It's a game that genuinely got under my skin. The role of "narrative" in videogames has evolved over time, and it's not as important as good gameplay, but I always thought the narratives in the Silent Hill games were uniquely, emotionally adult. In the realm of videogames.
But a videogame is not a movie. There are things in a videogame that you can forgive because it is a videogame. The protagonist doesn't have to be as clearly defined, because YOU are literally the protagonist. You are an integral part of the narrative. Anyone who's watched someone else play a videogame knows how thunderingly boring it can be. Because you're not playing, and thus you're not engaged in the way you're supposed to be. That's one of the clearest differences between a videogame and a movie.
The narratives of the Silent Hill games I've played have all been fairly convoluted. They start off intriguingly, get stranger and stranger, take a moment toward the very end to bluntly explain the arc of the whole story, and then end in a somber epilogue.
That's basically how Rogery Avary's
adaptation is structured. The protagonist isn't clearly defined at the beginning. She quickly starts doing too many things that don't make sense. (These two things are immediately forgivable in a videogame context.) The story gets way more complicated than it should be. It's not explained in the most elegant manner. A lot of spooky nothing happens for an interminable amount of time before it gets REMARKABLY GORY for a good while. (I'm sure all the stupid old people who were watching it with me at the afternoon matinee really appreciated that.) I'm not squeamish and I'm probably more desensitized than is healthy, but I actually got a bit turned off by the gore. And yet the final notes of the film are fairly understated; emotional, melancholic, almost beautiful. Those notes would be great if they were earned.
It's certainly not a typical horror movie. (A genre almost as disparaged as videogame-adaptations.) Reminded me a bit of Clive Barker's Hellraiser
. No one sets out to make a bad film and the filmmakers were certainly trying to do something ambitious. This ain't quick-buck filmmaking. This could have been a huge win for both Videogame-Adaptations and Horror Films. Alas, it's not.
There's a lot of raw material in "Silent Hill" that I really like. It's a really evocative world. The creature designs are very disturbing and genuinely conjure up images from a nightmare. (My favorite being "Pyramid-Head".) And like I said, I love the closing notes of the film. But the narrative structure is just too fucked up. The violence and gore aren't earned. None of the characters make any sense. And thus, those final notes don't carry the resonance that they could have.
No, I didn't like it. But I can't dismiss the effort as cavalierly as Ebert does.
Hello to anybody who's still reading this. (Nobody reads Friday night entries, anyhow...) On the subject of my phantom passion for videogames, there's a play I've been tempted to write inspired by videogames. I had the concept a few years ago and it's something I *may* revisit. The general demographics for theater-goers and videogame-players don't intersect much, which is one of the main reasons I'm not racing to write this. But it's a unique idea and the possibilities excite me and I can't be choosing what I write based on venn diagrams
. (Oh, and fuck Nick Gaffney.)