Shot in secret after idling in development hell, the long-awaited sequel to Cristophe Gans’ uniquely graceful survival horror video game adaptation Silent Hill seems to be squeaking out without much fanfare as if it knows it’s essentially sloppy seconds. Some may urge, however, that Revelation shouldn’t be so ashamed! Like a latter Nightmare on Elm Street installment (think Dream Child), Revelation is all about nightmarish imagery and seeing what it can get away with within and without its thin narrative – and for that it’s sure fun while it lasts.
Following a story as shoddily stitched as the startling surgical abominations littering its grimier scenes, this return sees Radha Mitchell’s Rose revealing she’s discovered a limited path back to our dimension. Daughter Sharon (played by Jodelle Ferland in 2006 and now winningly inhabited by Adelaide Clemens) is on the lamb with her father (Sean Bean), but lasting connections with the dreamland in which she was once lost have fated her to further terror.
As can be expected, Gans’ departure also means a slight diminishing of the original film’s haunting aura of ominous doom cutting through gently drifting ash. The tone does sway toward that territory often, though our lot here brings upped intensity via torturous soundbeds and relentless William Malone-meets-Clive Barker subject matter. If you’ve ever pondered the idea of a horror flick dropping pretense and simply presenting a collection of disturbing images while remaining engaging enough to be widely effective, Revelation may go to show such a film is possible. Between dismembered mannequins, eerily cheery bunny plushes, clowns and of course the contorted corpses of surgical assistants – most of which have a tendency to come alive – there is plenty here to put fear in the core of even hardened genre buffs (or at least a twisted grin on their faces). What’s more, these elements further prove that jump scares are passé. Couple this with the fact that the vast majority of Revelation‘s such scares are so cheap they earn more head-scratches than jumps and we have another solid example as to why the trend needs to fade from obligation in order to preserve atmospheric integrity.
The real stars here are the creations of one of the best effects people working today – Patrick Tatopoulos. The iconic Pyramid Head leans even more toward German Expressionism and is joined by new creations whom I’ll simply label “Razor Face” (or, “Sphincter Eyes”) and “The Amazing Spider-Mannequin”. These designs and more appear the results of Tatopoulos cutting completely loose, and their terrific on-screen realization is something to be truly proud of.
On the more straight-forward side of the affair – that aforementioned hunka hunka burnin’ clunk that is our flimsy narrative (which does briefly deal in video game-esque item-hunts as did its forebear) – we do come up against intermittent dry spells thanks to forced expository monologues – monologues occasionally cut short by abrupt plot points as if the film itself is consciously deciding to get a move on by randomly snatching whatever convenient twist happens to be floating by. We are treated to everyone’s favorite sort of horror humor – the unintentional sort – through Martin Donovan’s private eye, who almost seems to be filling a slot left vacant by Kim Coates’ Officer Gucci. If Silent Hill ever had a doomsayer (“It’s got a death curse!”), this guy is it and his every moment on screen is worth a good chuckle. Then, as if our doomsayer, the continued screwing over of Sean Bean and Carrie-Anne Moss being next to unrecognizable wasn’t enough, a certain legend of the screen appears for a single scene so deliciously hammy it about steals the whole film. Even when our main ghoul becomes Jean Claude Van Pyramid Head for a strangely (though enjoyably exploitative) action-oriented climax, it does not feel competently climactic for the simple truth that it follows this wild, “Did I really just watch that” scene.
Silent Hill: Revelation may mess with your head. Its picture will flicker, its audio layers will fade in to distortion… heck, the fittingly immersive 3D may not calibrate perfectly at times. At most, you will wonder if the dream world of the screen is slipping in to your auditorium. Love it or hate it, the good news is that this Revelation carries over enough of its predecessor’s successes (while bringing some closure to its loose ends) to at least get a pass as a legitimate franchise entry. The best-case scenario promises a fun ride through some fabulously demented material that will leave you hoping for a part three.