This lifeless, uninspired sequel to Christophe Gans' 2006 adaptation of the Konami video game, Silent Hill, retreads much of the same ground, but is almost totally devoid of scares, atmosphere, or most surprisingly, blood.
I don't play video games. Save for the occasional dalliance with Angry Birds while on the bus, I simply don't have time for them. Those curious to know how Michael J. Bassett's film measures up to its console-based source material will find nothing to enlighten them here. What I can tell you is how the film compares to its big screen predecessor and how well it delivers as a CG-heavy, 3D-shot fantasy horror film. And the short answer is, not very well.
Rose de Silva (Radha Mitchell), who found herself and her daughter trapped in the alternate reality of Silent Hill at the end of the first film, has somehow managed to push young Sharon back into reality - a course of action that has left her trapped forever beyond the reach of husband, Christopher (Sean Bean). Father and daughter have spent the seven years since on the run, moving from town to town, state to state, assuming numerous false identities, always in fear of their lives. Sharon has been plagued by dreams of Silent Hill the whole time, but her father has kept the truth from her, claiming Rose was killed in a car accident and that he's wanted for murdering an intruder.
No sooner have they arrived at their latest new home, Sharon - now called Heather - begins having hallucinations during the day. At school, at the mall, even in the street. When her father is abducted, and she is beckoned by the message "Come to Silent Hill," scrawled in blood on her wall, Sharon has no choice but to accept, with fellow new classmate Vincent (Kit Harington) tagging along.
Plot-wise, that's about it for Silent Hill: Revelation. Other characters show up, such as Martin Donovan's private detective or Malcolm McDowell's crazy, blind grandfather, but they are more dramatic triggers than real characters, who spout information before being hastily dispatched. All you really need to know is that Sharon/Heather is coaxed back to Silent Hill, where the same Dark Order is waiting to reunite her with demon girl Alessa, so she will become one again and can be expelled back to Hell.
The reality of this means numerous extended sequences of Sharon wandering ash-covered streets, or spooky abandoned asylums, and being periodically attacked by assorted creatures resembling bargain basement Giger/Del Toro knock-offs. While these sequences are clearly what Bassett & Co. assume their audience is paying to see, they prove the most leaden, unimaginative stretches of the film. The reason Gans and writer Roger Avary's earlier film was received as kindly as it was back in 2006 was because of the film's vivid visual aesthetic, which went to great lengths to create an environment seemingly spewed from the bowels of the underworld.
This time out, we have the same faceless ghouls again - Pyramid Head, Vagina Face and the buxom twitchy nurses - but they seem reluctant to get involved, let alone scare us. Revelation's primary new creature is a spider fashioned from random mannequin parts, which for an instant shows an inkling of devilish promise, only for Sharon to then duck into an air vent, never to encounter it again.
While I'm normally a fan of pointy-pointy 3D in horror films (with Final Destination 5 being the best example of this to-date), Silent Hill: Revelation fails to do anything with this extra, though superfluous dimension. We are treated to the perpetual "immersive" ash fall, which evokes fleeting murmurs of "oh look, depth of field", while a couple of the larger, more aggressive antagonists occasionally thrust sharp instruments in a general forward direction, but it's nothing we haven't seen countless times before, and almost always done better.
I can't say I'm disappointed for the franchise that Silent Hill: Revelation proves to be anything but, but I am saddened that Michael J. Bassett was unable to conjure up something more imaginative and engaging in the wake of his gleefully bloodthirsty Solomon Kane. Speaking of which, for a film almost solely populated by rabid demons brandishing over-sized edged weapons, where is the gore? I can forgive a film like this for scrimping on the depth and nuance in the script department if it's going to paint the walls red with the blood of damned souls. But no, almost every death - and there are only half a dozen or so - takes place in the shadows or entirely off-screen.
Australian actress Adelaide Clemens (perhaps best known for her role in Iwai Shunji's Vampire) does a perfectly respectable job, although she'll have a tough time shaking the fact she's a dead ringer for a young Michelle Williams. Elsewhere, however, the supporting cast of Kit Harington, Sean Bean and Carrie-Anne Moss can do little to breathe life into such flaccid material. Fans of the first Silent Hill can take pleasure in recognising certain buildings and background characters from the previous film, but my advice to anyone even remotely tempted by this property is to stay home and play the video game instead. And that's coming from someone who's never had the pleasure.
Silent Hill: Revelation 3D opens in Hong Kong today and in North America on 26 October.