HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Silent Hill

Michael Osadciw

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Michael Osadciw
Blu-ray Disc REVIEW






Silent Hill

Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Film Year: 2006
Film Length: 127 minutes
Genre: Horror/Fantasy

Aspect Ratio:
2.40:1 Theatrical Ratio

Film Resolution: 1080/24p
Special features: 1080/24p
Video Codec: MPEG-2
Colour/B&W: Colour

Audio:
English PCM 5.1 Surround

English 5.1 Surround

Subtitles: English, English SDH
Film Rating:






Release Date: AVAILABLE NOW


Film Rating:
/


Starring: Radha Mitchell (Rose Da Silva), Sean Bean (Christopher Da Silva), Laurie Holden (Cybil Bennett), Deborah Kara Unger (Dahlia Gillespie), Jodelle Ferland (Sharon Da Silva), Alice Krige (Christabella)

Written by: Roger Avary
Directed by: Christopher Gans


Enjoy your stay.



After three nights of crappy sleep, I finally got some good rest after the filming of the opening sequence of Silent Hill came to a close. All through the night, lights turned darkness to day and fog lingered in the air as something evil was awake. My curiosity caused me to walk to the film set with limited success in getting more information than the filming Silent Hill. Having played Silent Hill 2 on my X-box and liking it to one of my favourite games, I was pleased to hear the game was given some kind of film treatment.

I’ve never played the first in the Silent Hill games. If it’s anything like the film, it’s the mother who is searching for her daughter in this mysterious haunted town. The second part in the game has the husband (played by Sean Bean) searching for his wife; I was surprised of how little screen time his character had in this film.

While I’ll save writing up a synopsis of this film (I’ve included HTF Reviewer Cameron Yee’s DVD review below), I will say my impressions of this film were better than his, quite possibly because I’ve played a game in the series. Though, there is a lot that is left to be desired and the mother’s search of her daughter became too repetitive including the dialogue along the lines of “I’m looking for my daughter.” Sigh. Still, as a gamer, there’s an attraction to seeing it translated to film and including most of the elements of the game that I’m familiar with. It makes it a different experience, one less amusing, but yet still amusing.

HTF DVD Reviewer Cameron Yee writes: In 2001 French director Christopher Gans turned heads on both sides of the Atlantic with "Brotherhood of the Wolf," a sometimes puzzling but compelling piece of entertainment that borrowed liberally from film genres including but not limited to: French period costume drama, martial arts, werewolf horror, police procedural, mystery, and conspiracy-thriller. With "Silent Hill" he just sticks to one genre – horror film inspired by video game – but fails to shake its negative reputation.

The film's clichéd Japanese horror elements are forgivable given the source material – disturbed little girls, parallel "hell" dimensions and contorted, zombie-like creatures are par for the course with this type of thing. What ultimately vexes is an overlong, style-over-substance first half followed by expositional scenes devoid of sense, even by the loose standards of Japanese horror and video games. In video games there's not much time to dwell on the confusion with doom nipping at one's heels and an ending to reach. But for a film to follow a similar narrative course, stripped of the interactive challenges, it's hard not to question plot details and character motivations. After enough "Why did he/she/it do that?" questions it becomes clear it's all about the needs of the plot. For example, the story needs concerned mother Rose (Radha Mitchell) and troubled daughter Sharon (Jodelle Ferland) to wind up stuck in the abandoned coal mining town of Silent Hill, source of Sharon's night terrors. So first Rose takes off with Sharon in the family SUV, with nary a word to husband Christopher (Sean Bean), and then for no apparent reason speeds away from a local police officer Cybil (Laurie Holden) with recklessness that physically endangers the very child she wants to help. And wouldn't you know it; she drives like a maniac toward Silent Hill, where she gets in an accident.

Once Rose wakes from her plot-driven lapse in judgment to find Sharon missing, the town's aural and visual terrors get put on full display as she searches for her. But there are only so many faceless zombie creatures, pyramid-helmeted giants with one-handed flaying abilities, and Rose reaction shots one can take (almost an hour's worth) before some kind of explanation is needed. Once it begins it's a doozy of a head-scratcher, even in the way it's presented like an 8mm home movie in Rose's brain. From there the film tidily abandons the earlier stylistic weirdness for point blank gore. This in turn is followed by an ending so nonsensical one can only accuse the filmmakers of trying too hard to be clever. Ultimately it's hard to decide which half of the film is better – a choice between the lesser of two evils if there ever was one. The answer is actually "C" - neither. Those interested in the Silent Hill franchise are better off playing through the video games, which are, from what I've heard, far and away a better experience.


VIDEO QUALITY 4/5


The Blu-ray disc seems superior to the DVD in terms of black level. While the DVD has been criticised as having poor black levels, I feel the Blu-ray disc actually excels with it. This is a low contrast film so a darkened room is absolutely necessary. Most of the scenes are in dark rooms with little light and it can be a challenge to look good on many displays, especially ones not calibrated. The black level is very deep and at times it consumes much of the details in the room. It is sometimes hard to decipher the details in the gritty hallways but were we ever meant to? I am going to argue that this film is supposed to look this way – giving the viewer only enough light to see minor details and silhouettes because it adds to the danger and the unknown of what is to come.

The colours in the film have been purposely altered to look drab. The walls of the rooms and the destroyed state of Silent Hill took rusted and tarnished and fitted with the brown of aging. There are only a few moments of neutral colour and that appears on the “other side” of Silent Hill – in the real world. It all looks wonderful on this BD.

Grain is translated well on this disc. It’s a bit inconsistent because sometimes it’s too present and other times it’s completely absent. I didn’t notice any instances of compression artefacts or edge enhancement. The resolution of this title is also very good. Close-ups are exceptional but there are a few wide shots that lack detail and exhibit a bit of softness. Overall, in my opinion, this is a good looking Blu-ray disc.


PCM AUDIO EXPERIENCE: 4.5/5

DOLBY DIGITAL AUDIO EXPERIENCE: 4/5


This Blu-ray disc has the option of both uncompressed PCM and Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks. Again, in my opinion, this soundtrack kicks creature ass!! …for the most part. It’s very aggressive throughout the first half of the film and then winds down a bit as the rest of the film moves on. All channels are active and demonstrate creative sound effect use, placement, and most noticeably dynamic range. When the “ghostly children” are chasing Rose during her first experience in Silent Hill, their voices are eerily placed in the soundtrack with excellent spatial integration. When they scream they really scream loud and it dominates the soundtrack (it can be just a hair bright).

Speaking of spatial integration of sound effects, if I were to pick one thing that was done right it is this. All sounds, including dialogue, carry an echo of the room environment making the soundtrack much more believable. There can be an uncanny amount of space in the soundtrack and the depth of sounds (channel specific and not phantom based) is very good.

The imaging of sounds around the soundstage is good; I noticed much more sidewall imaging then I did front-wall or rear wall unless it was music. Whether or not the sidewall imaging was based on out-of-phase information from the front channels or sound effects imaging between front and back channels I can’t say for sure because I didn’t think to check when watching the movie – I was too absorbed in the action to care.

The music of this film is just what I like. It’s electronic in a sense and sounds like a distorted march of death at times, played subtly in the background of the action on screen. It got under my skin because I like the “sound” of it even though it has no melody or rhythm. And each pulse of bass in the front channels and LFE made it that much better.

The one thing that really pissed me off throughout the movie was the high-frequency noise that was used as a sound effect for the flashlight. WHAT FLASHLIGHT MAKES NOISE that is probably in the 17kHz+ range?? Every time that bulb faced the screen I wanted to smash it! It’s so annoying!!

The uncompressed PCM soundtrack is louder in level by what seems like a slighter higher margin than I’m used to hearing, and it excels in resolution over the compressed lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.


TACTILE FUN!!
/

TRANSDUCER ON/OFF?: ON

This is another film that goes down in my books as an LFE pig. Lots of bass and lot’s of shaking with a tactile transducer. Even though the LFE is used frequently, I’d also say it’s used sparingly because it’s not for all effects. The front channels take a considerable hit of low frequency energy from time to time that’s not included in the dedicated LFE channel. Using a tactile transducer adds a lot more excitement to this soundtrack.


SPECIAL FEATURES ZERO /


The one hour documentary of the film that is on the DVD is not available on this Blu-ray disc. No special features are included, but there are trailers for Resident Evil 2 and Underworld: Evolution.


IN THE END...

If you haven’t played the video game Silent Hill, you may not like the film as much as I did despite only finding it mediocre. So in fact you may actually find it terrible. Others who watched the movie with me found it ok but pretty intense too. Since my head has been rotting of horror films for years I didn’t feel the same intensity but I could certainly see how others would think that. The movie aside, this is a good BD to own and both its audio and video can be system challenging depending on your point of view.

Michael Osadciw
October 16, 2006.
 

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