Silent Hill: Revelation

**

Reviewed by: David Graham

Videogame adaptations are notoriously abysmal, but Christophe Gans' 2006 take on Silent Hill was to some extent an exception to the rule. Where Capcom's Resident Evil games homaged George Romero, rival softco Konami's series took early David Lynch as their inspiration, balancing subdued menace with ambiguous mystery and industrial nightmare-scapes. The 32-bit survival horror boom arguably reinvigorated its counterpart cinematic genre, but Paul WS Anderson royally ruined the RE series' big-screen potential with his barely related franchise (a cartoony example of the law of diminishing returns), so it was reassuring to see Roger Avery's Silent Hill script showing such respect for the source material, with Gans nailing the skin-crawling look. The narrative might not have been particularly strong - clumsily combining the first two games' wildly different plots - but it was a visceral and distinctive evocation of Konami's vision.

So a sequel would seem a welcome proposition for once, giving the writers a chance to fix some of their predecessor's problems while the 3D should theoretically further immerse the viewer in this world of Clive Barker-esque horror. Somewhere along the way though things have gone horribly wrong; good intentions are evident in some impressive design and a committed central turn from Aussie newcomer Adelaide Clemens (a dead ringer for Michelle Williams), but everything is soured by a sloppy script, woeful acting and flat direction from Solomon Kane helmer Michael J Bassett.

Leading a gypsy-like life that sees her having to relocate so often that she's given up on making friends, Heather Mason is still plagued with terrifying visions of Silent Hill, where she was once held by evil forces. When her over-protective father disappears, Heather must face the demons from her past and return to the fog-cloaked town, whose residents live in fear of her evil alter-ego Alessa. Pursued by a variety of hideously warped monsters, Heather forges an alliance with another teenager whose cult leader mother may hold the key to her salvation and her father's safety.

As seems to be the case with most 3D films, the effect is employed brilliantly during the opening sequence, with snow floating out of the screen so convincingly you can almost feel it landing on your face. Throwing the audience straight into a stealth chase through the sinister carnival of the first game's climax, some startling imagery - carousel horses replaced by meathook-suspended victims - and an early appearance from iconic goon Pyramid Head raise expectations and get the blood pumping. Reality has always been a slippery concept in the Silent Hill universe, but it's made even more elusive through the Nighmare On Elm Street-style descents into dreamworlds, Bassett even doffing his cap to John Landis' infamous Russian doll trickery in American Werewolf In London.

Sadly, overzealous lighting and predictable situations conspire to prevent the atmosphere of dread becoming pervasive, while Bassett's camerawork is nowhere near imaginative enough; he could actually learn a thing or two from going back to the games. Most of the action does at least take place in honest-to-god locations and some of the demonic prosthetic work is admittedly impressive, but this is just as well as the handful of CGI effects that are deployed are embarrassingly shoddy.

It's the incoherent plotting and pitiful support acting that really sink Revelation though - even established stars with fantasy experience struggle here, Sean Bean fighting a losing battle with his American accent and Carrie Ann Moss lumbered with a ridiculous blonde fright wig that scuppers any chance she may have had of chilling the blood. Deborah Kara Unger and Radha Mitchell crop up again but might as well not have bothered, the latter's cameo an especially poor ploy to set up another unwarranted sequel, while Malcolm McDowell at least has fun hamming it up in an inexplicable guest role (times must be tough indeed). All of this might have been more acceptable in a direct-to-DVD venture, but at the cinema the performances are likely to provoke unintentional laughter - if anyone turns up to see it, that is.

Reviewed on: 12 Nov 2012
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When her father disappears, a young woman is drawn into a nightmare world - literally.
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Director: Michael J Bassett

Writer: Michael J Bassett

Starring: Adelaide Clemens, Kit Harington, Sean Bean, Carrie-Anne Moss, Radha Mitchell, Malcolm McDowell, Martin Donovan, Deborah Kara Unger, Roberto Campanella

Year: 2012

Runtime: 94 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France, US, Canada

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