Combustible Celluloid
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With: Radha Mitchell, Sean Bean, Laurie Holden, Jodelle Ferland, Deborah Kara Unger, Kim Coates, Alice Krige
Written by: Roger Avary
Directed by: Christophe Gans
MPAA Rating: R for strong horror violence and gore, disturbing images, and some language
Running Time: 125
Date: 04/21/2006

Silent Hill (2006)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Ash Course

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Based on a video game, this horror film was not screened for the press prior to its theatrical engagement. Even so, it shares certain similarities with The Omen remake, which was screened, and isn't any better or worse. There's a lot to like; it gets started right away with little waste or build-up. It's a handsome production, full of creepy, gray lighting and scuffling special effects, with accomplished actors doing their best with the wooden material. Radha Mitchell stars as Rose, whose adopted daughter Sharon (Jodelle Ferland) suffers sleepwalking spells and nightmares. In an attempt to solve the problem, Rose takes her to Silent Hill, a place Sharon keeps mentioning during her reveries. A dutiful traffic cop, Cybil (Laurie Holden), follows, and they both wind up trapped in a kind of netherworld decorated by raining gray ashes. Without giving too much away, the bad guys turn out to be an evil religious cult, but it's not clear what actually happens. I suspect the filmmakers were going for something ambiguous, but it ventures closer to the confusing. Roger Avary (Pulp Fiction, The Rules of Attraction) wrote the screenplay with none of his usual playfulness; the villains talk in that evil cult-speak in which they "do not use contractions." (See M. Night Shyamalan's The Village for a further example.) Director Christophe Gans, who directed the over-the-top kung-fu werewolf movie Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001), charges, hell-bent, right over the plot and winds up with not much more than an oppressive 125-minute running time. (Aside from The Shining, it's the longest horror movie I can think of.) Sean Bean stars as the fretting husband who spends the movie searching for his wife and threatening the useless officials who refuse to understand his plight. Deborah Kara Unger also stars, though it's less clear who she's supposed to be.

DVD Details: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has released this TriStar movie on DVD, and even though the movie is dark, it's a nice, widescreen transfer. The audio track explodes out of the speakers, and it's a good mix of dialogue and effects. The only extra is a 60-minute making-of documentary that actually features footage of the production itself instead of the usual clips and talking heads. The disc also includes a bunch of trailers, including the upcoming Ghost Rider and Casino Royale, as well as bunch of other movies Sony withheld from the press (The Benchwarmers, Underworld: Evolution, Ultraviolet, etc.).

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