The Silent Hill video game franchise is finally ready for a real return, with a new game set to be announced on Wednesday. This latest revival of the series also means it’s the perfect time to revisit the secretly great original Silent Hill movie. While horror-seekers and video game fans of 2006 bristled at the fact that the movie didn’t stay true to the source material, a decade of (mostly) bad Silent Hill entries has proven just how good the movie really was.
The movie follows Rose Da Silva (Radha Mitchell) and her husband Christopher (Sean Bean), who are worried about their daughter, Sharon (Jodelle Ferland), and her constant sleep walking and muttering about a place called Silent Hill. Eventually, in desperate hope for a solution, Rose takes Sharon and seeks out Silent Hill for answers. The pair quickly become trapped in the haunted ghost town — along with a police officer named Cybil Bennett (Laurie Holden), who tries to stop them from crossing the town limits and gets pulled in herself. Sharon then disappears, sending the two women on a search for the girl through Silent Hill, where they encounter some of the video game series’ most famous monsters.
While the movie’s monsters and gore offer a creepy cinematic trip to gaming’s most famous ghost town, the best part of the Silent Hill movie is the metaphor at its center. Director Christophe Gans (Brotherhood of the Wolf) and screenwriter Roger Avary (Pulp Fiction) devise a story that grapples with the ways men and women can view the world differently, and the way that threats against women can go unnoticed by the men around them.
Shortly after Rose and Sharon leave, Christopher follows them, realizing they might be headed to Silent Hill. When he arrives, all he finds is an empty town. For him, Silent Hill is quiet and unpopulated, but it still feels haunted, while for the women it’s a monster-filled nightmare. The same streets where he sees nothing, they find threats on every corner and prowling every alley, inside their own horrifying dimension that he has no access to. While they remain in mortal danger, something he feels but can’t even see or interact with, he’s powerless to help.
To pull this off, the movie often turns its horror aesthetics on a dime. It expertly morphs from a monster-action movie, as the characters desperately flee from a fresh horror (a herd of undead nurses, for example), to a slow-burn, dread-soaked drama as Christopher realizes he might not be able to help his wife at all, or as Rose fears she may have lost her daughter to the horrors of Silent Hill.
None of this makes for a subtle metaphor, but in a movie that includes monsters like Pyramid Head, it probably shouldn’t be. Nonetheless, it is an effective one — and it’s one that was still largely lost on audience when the movie came out in 2006, an era dominated by post-Saw-sequel “torture porn.” Combine that with the fact that the movie took a few creative liberties at a time when the game series was still in its heyday, and it’s no surprise that this remains one of the hidden video game movie gems.