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If She Weighs the Same as a Duck…

By Jeremy Mathews
Silent Hill
1/2 (out of four)
Columbia Pictures
Directed by Christophe Gans

Written by Roger Avary

Starring Radha Mitchell, Sean Bean, Laurie Holden, Deborah Kara Unger, Kim Coates, Jodelle Ferland and Tanya Allen
Rated R

If I'd known that "Silent Hill" was based on a video game before the end credits came up, it would have made sense. Not in the film itself, mind you, but its lack of any sense of narrative. Halfway through, I noted that the boring horror "mystery" created a feeling more like watching someone play a video game than watching a movie.

The film is the cinematic equivalent of a striptease—it might look enticing, but eventually you wish you could do something. Starting with a horror-mystery setup, director Christophe Gans and screenwriter Roger Avary apparently forgot to gradually reveal what the hell is going on. There is absolutely no pull into the story of a woman (Radha Mitchell) wandering endlessly through a haunted ghost town looking for her adopted daughter but finding nothing and occasionally advancing to a new level.

Rose's daughter has been sleepwalking to the dramatic cliffs next to her house, and always screams "Silent Hill, Silent Hill, Silent Hill, Silent Hill!" before waking up. Against her husband's (Sean Bean) wishes, Rose decides to head to the town in West Virginia and endanger her daughter's life by getting in a high-speed chase with a police officer and crashing a road-block fence with her car. All to save her daughter. Some might argue that her motivations don't match her actions.

Rose crashes the car when a girl who obviously must be a ghost stands in front of it at the town's entrance. She wakes up and her daughter is gone. There is also a dense, foggy ash enveloping the town. Spooky.

Rose walks around a bit, follows a running girl whom she thinks is her daughter, then everything goes black, and she's in a hellish version of the town and charred bodies chase her. Then she falls down and wakes up in the foggy ash town again, tries to follow the girl some more, sees some sinister mining men, then the town goes black again and she runs from some more monsters. This goes on for more than two hours and five minutes. (And believe me, every minute counts.)

Then there's a side plot in which Rose's husband goes against police wishes and tries to find out about Silent Hill's secrets from the town at the bottom of the hill, where some of the old Silent Hillians live. Perhaps the couple got married because both of them like to act indignant about being arrested after blatantly breaking the law.

It takes about 100 minutes before the film starts trying to make any kind of point, and when it finally starts, the effort is clumsy and laughable. You know that your horror film's climax is laughably repetitive when it has me struggling not to shout out lines from the witch-burning sequence in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." While the climax is the funniest part, the whole film consists of laughable dialogue and a boring, go nowhere story. "It's going to be OK," the characters keep saying. I kept saying, "It's going to be OK. Some day, this movie's going to end."

jeremy [at]


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