It’s a common charge against video game adaptations: the audience basically watches someone else play, which they could easily be doing themselves at home without the sting of a $15 ticket. Silent Hill: Revelation 3D officially constitutes Exhibit A for this argument. Set piece, set piece, exposition, set piece, boss fight, set piece, more exposition, boss fight, boss fight, open the door for another sequel, the end. At least when you’re playing the game you can take out your frustrations on the endless horde of demonic zombies coming at you. Here, you have to watch some dippy teenager do it for you.
The original Silent Hill adaptation remains notable only because it let Sean Bean survive to the closing credits. The overriding question for the sequel: can he repeat the feat? It’s not much to hang a whole movie on, but the odds in Vegas are lively, so place your bets. Otherwise, you’re left with an endless series of Halloween-themed screensavers, collected from horror discard piles the world over and hastily assembled into a plot. Evil clowns, Satanic amusement parks, butchers who use humans instead of pigs… all they need is a mob of creepy children and they’ve got the complete set. (Oh wait, there they are.) Writer-director Michael J. Bassett assembles them with an eye on repetition: scare us with their very presence and never mind the fact that every scene could pretty much be swapped with every other.
It centers on Heather Mason (Adelaide Clemens), the little girl from the first film now all grown up to fetching high school age. She holds the key to some great evil imprisoned in the town of Silent Hill, along with crazy cultists, fetishized bondage demons and her own evil mother/sister/twin. Her father (Bean) keeps moving her around, lest the crazy cultists hunt her down, but when he gets kidnapped, she has to come to Silent Hill to get him. Sure, she knows it’s the one place she should never, ever go under any circumstances, but a horror movie cannot live on “it’s only a dream” fake-outs forever.
The messy slabs of backstory come at us too often for the relatively simple set-up to click. It would help if the details didn’t bore us to tears: complications for the sake of complication, unfettered by anything resembling originality. The same attitude applies to the money shots. Bassett invests all his thought and energy into making his monsters look awesome, then throws them into stupid bash-and-smash scenarios that rob them of their menace.
You can smell the video game DNA in each scene, with a specific pattern the heroine must figure out to stay safe. Beyond that, the film invests absolutely nothing in interesting or clever ways to defeat the monster. The production design shows promise, but it can’t find any purpose thanks to the lack of imagination beneath it. It’s all dull, repetitive stimuli, a hellish landscape rendered ugly and depressing without a viable purpose. It can’t even do anything fun with the 3D: sad, since this is exactly the kind of effort that could benefit from a little coming-right-at-ya action. We’re left wondering how far Bean can get before Certain Death #83 hits him, and how quickly Malcolm McDowell (in a brief cameo) spent his check.
The first film clearly made enough money to justify this effort – though I defy you to name anything about it without checking – and releasing the sequel right before Halloween gives it a pole position for some quick bucks. Just don’t kid yourself that Silent Hill: Revelation 3D wants anything more than that. The good news for us is that it’s got plenty of superior competition in the multiplex and its storyline is far too weak to hope for anything better in the future. Hopefully it will vanish into the fog like its protagonists… giving us time to brace for the next horror quickie too lazy to justify its existence.