Andrew O’Hehir, the film critic at Salon.com, thinks that horror films have reached a new golden age. (http://bit.ly/VvGTca) He points to a number of examples, including the just released “Silent Hill: Revelation 3D”, though he admits he hasn’t seen it yet. Odd to laud a film you haven’t experienced. Well, I’ve seen it and it’s not gold, folks. It’s more akin to tin.
I usually admire Mr. O’Hehir as a critic and support his argument that ‘torture porn’ seems to have finally gone bye-bye, but that doesn’t mean that most horror films being churned out these days are all that special. Too many of them are just as torturous to sit through, even without the blood and gore. The insufferable “Silent House” springs to mind. (Here’s my scathing review of that one: http://exm.nr/SM49lZ) And “Silent Hill: Revelation 3D” is one of those just as painful to experience. It’s noisy, vacuous and expensive – a real waste of 20 million bucks.
It starts out promising, with Heather (Adelaide Clemens) wandering around a carnival at night. Circuses and fairs are creepy enough during the daytime, let alone at night. And as an impending sense of doom surrounds her, the carnival folk start to turn into otherworldly banshees. Then the horses on the carousel are revealed to be bound and gagged human beings! Now there’s a ghoulish image, but the film never tops that scene and everything else after is a letdown. In fact, the film even pulls that punch by revealing that it is just Heather’s dumb dream.
The rest of the movie isn’t any smarter. It mines cliché after cliché, and throws a lot of money around, but it’s all for nothing really. The film may be 3D, but everything else about it is two-dimensional at best. That may be the real trend – expensively done horror that is as shallow as a kiddie pool.
As “Silent Hill: Revelation 3D” goes on, it starts careening downhill. The movie is a sequel to a six-year old frightener but the filmmakers spend little time explaining the back-story. In this day and age, when a different Mitt Romney shows up for each of the three debates, and the electorate seems to have barely noticed, you can’t depend on people to remember what happened in a movie’s narrative from that long ago.
The movie also makes the mistake of trying to be too loyal to its source material, a popular horror-themed survival video game. Each set piece here plays like a different haunted house level to get through to advance in the game. That’s fine for Xbox, but for a movie, it kills any real momentum. We know Heather is going to vanquish all beasts in the alternative universe as she hunts for her kidnapped dad (Sean Bean), so there’s no real suspense. It’s all just money being thrown at special effects.
Writer/director Michael J. Bassett tries his hardest to pump up the shocks with lots of production values and noise but it’s all window dressing. The noise is really a distraction, as it helps make this flick easily one of the loudest movies I’ve attended in some time. Did every jolt have to come accompanied by a bombastic orchestral flourish? I guess so, when the film has so little else to say.
Finally what silences “Silent Hill: Revelation 3D” is its whole dreamscape world. It goes back and forth between the real world and this imagined universe, sometimes three or four times in a scene, and it’s exhausting. You keep wishing for Heather’s mind to hold still and spend some quality time in one of the worlds, but no, she’s all over the map. Clemens tries hard to give some meaning to Heather’s travels, but it’s not worth the trip with such a schizophrenic script.
Bassett strands other good actors here too. Both Sean Bean and Malcolm McDowell are solid but they don’t have much to do. And it’s depressing to see sharp actresses like Carrie-Ann Moss and Kara Unger stuck in this malaise. They’re both still soulful and sultry; yet this is what they’re offered while men their age get films like “Flight” and “The Descendants”. I wish that Hollywood was better to actresses over 40, but that is a pipe dream. Still, it’s a better dream than this half-baked horror hallucination.
In the bygone days of horror, you could sometimes see the strings on the bats. The make-up wasn’t always the best. And the production values were often B-movie quality. But I’ll take a Christopher Lee Dracula movie or James Arness as “The Thing from Another World” or George Romero’s classic cheapie “Night of the Living Dead” any Halloween over big budget emptiness like “Silent Hill: Revelation 3D”.
The big revelation in this movie? The film is a yawn. In a dream world or the real one. And unlike Mr. O’Hehir, I think horror can do a lot better.