Judged purely from a filmmaking standpoint, Silent Hill is probably the best videogame movie adaptation ever made. And yet it's still not a great movie, only a good movie.

It's got a lot going for it. The visuals, set design, and monster makeup are all top notch. It's got a solid cast, and it's got competent direction and cinematography. And the music (most of it taken directly from the games) is one of the absolute highlights of the film. Where it falls short is in the writing department, which is disappointing because the script was written by Roger Avary (co-writer of Reservoir DogsTrue Romance, and Pulp Fiction).

It opens abruptly with the main character Rose wandering outside looking for her sleepwalking daughter Sharon. Being that reality sitcom The Osbournes had only been off the air for a year at this point, I can't think of a more unfortunate name for a mother to be yelling in the first minute of a movie than "Shaaa-rooooooon."

Sharon has been sleepwalking and talking in her sleep about a place called Silent Hill. 
Based on the real-life tow of Centralia, PA -- somehow an even more fictional sounding town name -- Silent Hill is a ghost town that's been abandoned due to underground coal deposits that are burning for all eternity, making it a very unsafe place to be.

Despite this -- and the protests of her husband -- Rose thinks the smartest thing to do is to drive there with Sharon and see if it will give her any ideas on how to end to this dangerous sleepwalking habit.

Naturally, it all goes bad from there. Rose is pulled over by an officer, but decides to floor it rather than let anyone get in the way of her traveling to Silent Hill. Rose and the officer (who we find out is named Cybil) both lose control of their vehicles and are knocked unconscious. When they awaken, Sharon is gone.

In the meantime, the husband discovers they've left to Silent Hill without them, and tries to go after them. 
When he arrives, he finds no sign of them. It turns out that Rose, Cybil, and Sharon are lost in some alternate dimension of Silent Hill, unable to see or be seen by the outside world.

So far, not a bad story. Other than the slightly rocky opening -- which was followed by a lengthy and awkward info dump scene consisting entirely of exposition -- this isn't too bad. But in the third act it all falls apart.




It's revealed that 30 years ago, a witch-hunting religious cult put to death a young girl named Alessa for no other reason than her being born out of wedlock. To the cult, Alessa's existence represented a sin, and they set about cooking her to death over hot coals. The mother herself is not put to death because the cult believes "hate the sin, love the sinner."

However, the mother has secretly contacts the police, and who arrive just in time to witness the act, but too late to keep it from happening. Alessa lives, but she's been horribly burned and disfigured. While in the hospital, her burning hatred of the world becomes so strong that it spontaneously manifests itself as a set of super powers. These powers allow Alessa to create a private hell for the cult, which she throws the entire town into.

She also creates a double of herself who can walk around free of the machines in the hospital, but this double is constructed out of her hatred. She longs for her earlier innocence, so she creates a second double that represents all her goodness, and hides this double outside of Silent Hill in an orphanage. This good double is Sharon.

Still with me? The cult is holed up in a church, where they''ve captured Cybil and Sharon and plan to burn them to death. Dark Alessa can't enter the building directly, I guess because she is evil, but apparently she can somehow enter by hitching a ride inside of someone else. Rose is heading to the church to stop the cult, so Dark Alessa hides inside of her.

Rose arrives too late to save Cybil, who dies in a lenghty torture porn sequence. The leader of the cult orders her followers to grab Rose and tie her up next, but she's somehow able to get them to stop by just yelling louder than the cult leader.

Then she starts preaching to them, which they listen to because preaching is apparently the only form of communication they understand. It's unclear whether it's actually working, but before we can find out, Dark Alessa comes out and kills them all. The only member of the town who Dark Alessa spares is her real mother, who she leaves there.

During the killing, Dark Alessa and Sharon make eye contact, and Dark Alessa suddenly disappears. Sharon seems different now. Rose and Sharon go back home, but we discover that they are still stuck in the alternate dimension. Rose's husband is there, but they can't see each other. They're like ghosts; Rose calls the house phone on her way home, but no voice is heard when her husband picks up. And when they open doors in their dimension it apparently opens doors in the regular dimension as well. 

So why doesn't Rose pick up a pencil and write a note, or use fridge magnets or something? I don't know. She sits down on the couch and stares blankly out the window. It's difficult to tell if she's simply defeated or if something else is wrong with her, because she plays the scene completely without emotion, in a manner that seems like it was intentional.

And here's where we start to poke holes in the story like a Paul WS Anderson movie. 

Why are they still in the Silent Hill dimension? Why wouldn't Alessa let them out after they helped her? Why does the Silent Hill dimension continue to exist even after Alessa has succeeded in having her revenge?

Why did Alessa bring Rose and Cybil into the Silent Hill dimension in the first place? Or did Rose and Cybil die when they crashed, having both clearly hit their heads? If so, why would their bodies disappear from the regular world?

Why did Alessa stick her real mother in this dimension with the rest of the town? Did she hate her mom? Why did she leave her mom there after getting her revenge?

While Dark Alessa remains eternally young, it's shown that Sharon ages normally. She was delivered to an orphanage as a baby, and has since aged about 10 years. But the burning was 30 years ago. Why did Alessa wait 20 years before splitting off her innocent side in the form of Sharon? What was the purpose of creating Sharon at all, for that matter?

When Dark Alessa looked at Sharon and then disappeared, did she combine with Sharon to create a whole? Or has she simply possessed Sharon? And for what purpose? If she's now the complete Alessa, why did she decide to leave with Rose, and leave her real mom behind in Silent Hill?

And who was the one calling Sharon back to Silent Hill whenever she slept? The cult didn't have the power to do so, and Alessa wanted to keep her out of Silent Hill entirely. So who was trying to lure her back? Or did she somehow subconsciously know that she was "incomplete," and that the rest of her was in Silent Hill?

It's possible these questions were originally going to be answered in the sequel, but I'm doubtful. Either way, the writer and director of this film weren't involved with the sequel, so we'll never know.

Silent Hill was summarized best by a critic who described it as "the best-looking bad film I've ever seen."