Silent Hill (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: Mar 09, 2022
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Silent Hill (Blu-ray Review)

Director

Christophe Gans

Release Date(s)

2006 (February 11, 2022)

Studio(s)

Konami/Davis Films/TriStar Pictures (Umbrella Entertainment)
  • Film/Program Grade: B-
  • Video Grade: B+
  • Audio Grade: A+
  • Extras Grade: C-

Review

[Editor's Note: This is a REGION-FREE disc.]

When it comes to video game adaptations, it’s common knowledge that filmmakers tend to fail at capturing what makes the stories of the games appealing, or the material itself just doesn’t translate well into other mediums. Super Mario Bros. and House of the Dead can be enjoyable for their unintentional entertainment value, but only a handful have become, at the very least, passable films. Outside of 1995’s Mortal Kombat and 2016’s Warcraft (the latter I personally believe is a bit better than most give it credit for), one of the best continues to be Silent Hill.

Rose (Radha Mitchell) and her husband Christopher (Sean Bean) have a newly-adopted daughter named Sharon (Jodelle Ferland) who’s having nightmares about a place called Silent Hill, which she calls out in her sleep but can’t remember upon waking. Going against her husband’s wishes, Rose drives Sharon to this mysterious place in the hope of ridding her of the nightmares once and for all. After a car accident, Rose wakes up to find Sharon missing and pursues her into the fog-laden town of Silent Hill, followed closely by a concerned police officer (Laurie Holden). Soon they discover a dead town, covered in ash and full of monsters who come out after nightfall, as well as a cult with a sinister past, lead by a pious woman (Alice Krige).

Christophe Gans (Brotherhood of the Wolf) was a fan of the Silent Hill video game series and practically begged Konami for the film rights to it, which took him several years to eventually get. Passionate about doing the adaptation justice, a story was co-written by Pulp Fiction co-author Roger Avary. Gans went to great lengths to not just adapt the story as closely as possible, but went so far as to copy specific camera angles from the original game and match its lighting, particularly when Rose is wandering around in the dark with nothing but a lighter. The film was eventually released by TriStar Pictures in 2006 to mixed reviews and a decent box office take, leading to the mostly negatively-received sequel Silent Hill: Revelation.

What holds up remarkably well about Silent Hill is its style and atmosphere. It’s the darkest and moodiest of video game adaptations. It also contains plenty of ridiculously creepy imagery, including a man torn in half and hanging from a chain link fence, a group of blind nurses that hunt with their weapons mostly by sound, and a man bent over backwards, crawling along the floor with barbed wire wrapped around his feet. Many of these things seem to come right out of a nightmare, and are perhaps the most memorable aspects of the film as a whole. The soundtrack is also eerie, full of unsettling noises from the various creatures, as well as the siren that blares when the town is about to fall into darkness, something that the impact of seeing in a theater can’t be fully replicated on home video.

However, for all of its positives, Silent Hill also has its fair share of shortcomings, mostly in its story. The mystery of the town is far more intriguing than its eventual explanation. There are also far too many moments of expository dialogue, none of which are that exciting to watch as characters literally stop to talk about the details. It’s also unfortunate that most of the CGI elements don’t hold up all that well. Performances aren’t particularly noteworthy either, though the actors pull off their roles well enough, with Radha Mitchell taking most of the abuse as the film’s lead. All in all, Silent Hill isn’t a perfect film, but it’s beautiful to look at genuinely disturbing at times.

Umbrella Entertainment brings Silent Hill to Blu-ray (which opens with the Focus Films logo instead of the TriStar logo) for the first time in Australia using the same HD master approved by director Christophe Gans that was used for Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release. It’s a good looking presentation with solid grain reproduction and high levels of detail, particularly in brighter shots. Black levels are deep, due to the higher contrast, though crush is unavoidable in certain spots. Colors are sometimes muted due to the film’s primary ash-covered environment, but moments at night when the monsters come out feature strong shades of red, brown, and orange. The CGI elements don’t hold up in higher quality, but they appear organic to the film as presented. Everything appears clean and stable with no visible damage and a high encode, getting the most out of the master as possible.

The audio is presented in English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio with optional subtitles in English SDH. The stereo track is fine but the 5.1 is dynamite. There’s a heavy emphasis on immersion with atmospherics and panning all around. Whether it's the dripping of water in an echo-driven environment or the scraping of metal against a wall, it’s effective at drawing you in and attacking you multiple times. Low end moments keep the windows rattling, and the score is given plenty of room to breathe, even during the organ-driven finale. Dialogue is also prioritized well.

The disc is housed in a blue amaray case with a double-side insert, featuring one of the film’s many theatrical posters, but with the MA 15+ logo on one side. Extras include the following (all of which are in upscaled standard definition aside from the trailer, which is in HD:

  • Path of Darkness: Making Silent Hill – Origins (8:53)
  • Path of Darkness: Making Silent Hill – Casting (10:13)
  • Path of Darkness: Making Silent Hill – Set Design (10:23)
  • Path of Darkness: Making Silent Hill – Stars and Stunts (7:50)
  • Path of Darkness: Making Silent Hill – Creatures Unleashed (12:38)
  • Path of Darkness: Making Silent Hill – Creature Choreography (11:37)
  • The Making of Silent Hill (14:29)
  • Around the Film (4:39)
  • Theatrical Trailer (2:27)

Path of Darkness: Making Silent Hill is a vintage documentary in six parts, which was created for the film’s original DVD release in 2006. The interviews are made up mostly of EPK material, but there’s plenty of interviews with the film’s cast and crew, as well as behind-the-scenes footage. The Making of Silent Hill (labeled as On Set on all releases, including this one) was produced for the French DVD release and covers much of the same ground. Around the Film is similar, but much, much shorter. Last, but not least, is the US theatrical trailer.

The Scream Factory Collector’s Edition release includes all of this material, as well as an audio commentary with cinematographer Dan Laustsen, moderated by Justin Beahm; a 3-part interview with director Christophe Gans (The Origin of Silence, Adapting a True Work of Art, and Delivering a Nightmare) A Tale of Two Jodelles, an interview with actress Jodelle Ferland; Dance of the Pyramid, an interview with actor Roberto Campanella; a 2-part interview with makeup effects artist Paul Jones (Monster Man and Silent Hill); and two still galleries. Several other DVD and Blu-ray releases in different territories also have additional bonus materials that are not included here, including additional audio commentaries, interviews, trailers, and TV spots.

Silent Hill is a strong piece of filmmaking from a visually-driven director that, while not containing the most interesting story, excels aesthetically. But whether that makes it one of the best video game adaptations ever is up for debate. Umbrella Entertainment’s Blu-ray release certainly excels in the A/V department, but lacks the extras from not just Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release, but other releases from around the world. There’s room for improvement for all releases of the film on home video, but this is a nice disc regardless.

- Tim Salmons

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