A friend once forced to watch over two hours of cut scenes from the 2008 shoot ‘em up Devil May Cry 4. Though I personally wanted to claw my eyes and ears out, I understand why he oohed and aahed at every level boss and adolescent one-liner. Having gone through the game a couple of times, his mind could fill in the narrative gap between each outlandish sequence. I, on the hand, could not, so I was a bit mystified when my buddy turned to me and asked, “How come Hollywood directors don’t make movies like this instead of the garbage they keep churning out?”
I believe the answer is because they would suck. Take, for example, Silent Hill: Revelation, the sequel to Christopher Gans’ 2006 adaptation of the popular Konami games. Most horror enthusiasts appreciate the original film for its Hellraiser-like aesthetic and dream logic, but gamers often bemoan its loose reinterpretation of the themes. Gans, they say, ignored the deeper meaning behind each set piece, changing the back story of the titular town. Writer-director Michael J. Bassett addresses the issue in part two by providing no context whatsoever.
As far as I can make out, Adelaide Clemens stars as Heather, who escaped Silent Hill in between movies and apparently grew into an anime character complete with Final Fantasy hair and a sleeveless jacket. When the Order of Valtiel kidnaps her adopted father (Sean Bean), our heroine must return to the elusive town where nightmares come alive and face her dark half, Alessa (Erin Pitt), who’s been haunting her dreams for no discernible reason. As the title suggests, revelations ensue, but they’re largely the same as in the first film, so, you know, who cares?
To make matters worse, every bit of information is conveyed the same way as in the video games, except one doesn’t get to participate in quick time events or press the A button to skip to the action. Instead, viewers have to sit idly as Heather stumbles upon a random character, gives him or her a trinket that she acquired a few scenes prior, and quietly nods while her new acquaintance dumps a truckload of exposition that never comes into play. Then the mysterious stranger disappears, and our heroine moves on to the next set piece. Rinse and repeat.
It doesn’t help that the dialog proves as subtle as an arcade title’s opening scroll. To give you an idea, the first line in Silent Hill: Revelation comes from a black-eyed goth kid shouting while drowning in digital effects, “You can never defeat me!” Things only get weirder from there, as Heather and her love interest Vincent (Kit Harington) start spouting off popcorn metaphysics like side characters in a badly dubbed Italian slasher: “Leave me alone! Do you believe dreams can be a form of reality… Oh, is that too personal?” No, it’s too non sequitur!
The same, in fact, can be said of most of Silent Hill: Revelation, which seems to reboot the plot every time a new monster is introduced. Consider the scene in which Heather rescues a lost soul (Heather Marks) from an arachnid made out of mannequin limbs. Now, I happen to quite like that set piece. The atmosphere is tense and appropriately lurid, and the design of the creature, the way it moves and feeds off its victims, genuinely creeps me out. However, once the sequence ends, neither the spider nor Marks’ character is heard from again, and their presence in Silent Hill is never explained.
As a result of its disjointed narrative, Silent Hill: Revelation never gains enough momentum to reach a climax. Sure, the story comes to a conclusion of sorts after the leader of the Order of Valtiel (Carrie-Anne Moss) turns into one of them silly pink Cenobites from Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992) and faces off against another unexplained demon. However, by that point, I’d pretty much curled my brain into a protective cocoon. I was just watching a random assortment of sounds and images, wishing my friend would pass me the control pad already.