Novels and movies exchange stories all the time, whether it is a film adaptation of a book or novelization of a blockbuster. These aren’t the only mediums to share with each other however. Video games, comics, and TV shows like to get in on the action at times as well. What stories do it best, and how do you transfer a story across the mediums effectively? That’s what we’ll be looking at here.
I can see where the movie studio got the idea from. The Resident Evil series got their own movies, and Silent Hill was just as popular as the first Resident Evil, so clearly we can make a Silent Hill movie too! Well…sure, Silent Hill is certainly a kind of horror that lends itself well to film, but you gotta learn from the Resident Evil movies and stick to the source material since that’s what the fans liked. What’s that? You’re going to make the main character a woman? And change the demon-worshipping cult to crazy witch-burning Catholics? Well I guess that could work, but…why is Pyramid Head in this? He wasn’t in the first game…and you’ve made Dahlia a good mother… Hoo boy. Alright, we’ve got some work to do.
The Original Games
Actually, despite how I made it seem, the Silent Hill movies are surprisingly accurate to the games, at least in comparison to the Resident Evil movies. We’ll get to that later, after we take a quick look at the games themselves – the original Silent Hill, which got a movie of the same name, and Silent Hill 3, which was adapted into Silent Hill Revelation. We talked about Silent Hill already, so I won’t get into it too much except to remind you that it is the story of a man who wanders into the hellish town of Silent Hill after his daughter goes missing, only to be sucked into the plans of a cult trying to birth their Satanic god.
You’d think it’d make sense for the movies to follow the games and for the second Silent Hill movie to be an adaptation of Silent Hill 2, but actually, Silent Hill 3 is the one that is a story sequel to Silent Hill. In the third game, you play as Heather Mason (whose last name might be familiar to you…) as the cult of Silent Hill and the town itself hunt her down and try to pull her into the nightmare. Because Silent Hill 3’s story is a direct sequel to Silent Hill, it features many of the same themes and ideas, such as starting with a dream sequence, an Otherworld of fire and metal, and even the game’s iconic boss battle taking place on the amusement park carousel.
And Now the Movies
I gave the movies grief in the beginning because of their unnecessary and frankly silly changes from the game, but especially watching the first movie, it’s clear that the people making it at least played the games, even if they didn’t fully understand them. The first half of the Silent Hill movie could have come directly from the game itself, right down to the camera angles as the main character first descends into the Otherworld. It’s only during the final battle that things take a hard right away from the games, and unfortunately I can’t go into detail without giving spoilers. Silent Hill Revelations makes an attempt at getting back onto the plot of the games, bringing back the demon-worshipping cult to the mix, until one of the game’s bad guys becomes the movie’s love interest; then you know all hope for accuracy is lost. At that point, I honestly found it best to turn my brain off and just play a game of “Spot the References,” which did make Silent Hill Revelations a very fun movie to watch, if not scary at all.
I should probably talk about the elephant in the room: the character changes. You’ve got some characters that are spot on, like Cybil Bennett, Douglas Cartland, and…actually, I guess those are the only unchanged characters. In Silent Hill, as I said, the protagonist is a woman by the name of Rose DaSilva instead of Harry Mason. According to a behind-the-scenes interview, this change was actually made because the director thought a mother could show more emotion and fear and worry about their child than a father. I don’t blame them, considering Harry Mason’s terrible voice acting and lack of facial features with which to show expression. Dahlia was a stranger change, considering she’s the main antagonist of the game and now a grieving mother in the movie, and the director claims this change was made to continue the theme of motherhood and Alessa just wanting to be with her mom. Dahlia’s video game role is instead given to her movie sister, Christabella. Cheryl’s name was changed in the movie to Sharon…and I can’t even begin to fathom why. Luckily, in Silent Hill Revelation, they correct the names – Sharon and her father Chris have gone into hiding from the town and now go by the names of Harry and Heather Mason as disguises.
What They Did Right
Despite the lack of accuracy and the fact that they’re really not very good movies, even on their own, I still really enjoy the Silent Hill movies. This is primarily because the movies introduced ideas into the Silent Hill mythology that the games couldn’t have or simply didn’t, and these ideas are really fascinating to me. One idea that actually did make it into the later games was the transition to the Otherworld. In all the games prior to the release of the movies, we never had much of a transition from the fog world to the Otherworld. Usually, sirens would blare and the character would pass out, later waking up surrounded by blood and fire, or they would pass through a weird passageway and come out where they entered, but with everything changed. In the movie, we actually get to see the walls peel away and the world turn red. The movies also expounded upon an idea introduced during Silent Hill 2 of a third Silent Hill. We’ve got the fog world and the Otherworld Silent Hills from the games, but in Silent Hill 2, James claims to have visited the town before the game while on vacation and had no problems. Did he simply not see the monsters? That’s possible, James isn’t exactly the sanest Silent Hill protagonist, but the movies show us what he probably saw, the real world Silent Hill, with no fog and no demons. In the movie, the main character’s husband explores the real Silent Hill, an abandoned and mostly burnt down town, while the protagonist herself is stuck in foggy Silent Hill. They even stand in the same area at one point and never see the other, further proving that there are three different dimensions to Silent Hill.
My favorite idea introduced in the movies is Pyramid Head. Wait, wait! Put down the pitchfork and hear me out. In Silent Hill 2, Pyramid Head is pretty explicitly stated to be a manifestation of James Sunderland’s sins, and as such, exclusive to him. Even so, he is still the most iconic mascot of the Silent Hill series, so from a marketing standpoint, it makes sense to have him in the movie. How do you do that without a James Sunderland character? The movies got around that by tying Pyramid Head to Alessa instead – he is now her agent of punishment for the people who burned her and almost a guardian angel in Silent Hill Revelations. Clearly, this is something the games would never be able to do, but it’s such a cool idea to think about young and scared but angry Alessa, creator of Silent Hill’s hell, making a strong and undefeatable bodyguard for herself. Suddenly, the icon of Silent Hill is not a symbol of sexual repression and a running rape joke, but an abused little girl’s imaginary friend and a symbol of retribution.
Don’t expect accuracy from the Silent Hill movies, you’ll only be disappointed. However, it’s hard not to compare the Silent Hill movies to the Resident Evil movies since they come from similar source material, and I can confidently say the Silent Hill movies are leagues above the Resident Evil movies in terms of love for the source material. If you’re a fan of the Silent Hill games, definitely give the movies a try, if only to play “Spot the References.”