Film, Games, and the Silent Hill Revelation: 3D Trailer

I’m not sure the word is trailer or teaser in this case because it does contain what seems to be a continuous part of a larger scene, which is nice – rather than flashes of the cool bits. And something to look at before the trailer proper comes out soon. I have some predictions for that, but I did want to make some wider points so that post can wait until tomorrow.

In fact, let’s look at this, yeah, I’m calling it a teaser.

Very little of it is recognisably Silent Hill 3. What in it screams “directly inspired by Silent Hill 3”, or better yet, “taken whole from Silent Hill 3”? Well, there are the names of two of the characters, and Heather pretty much looks like Heather should (albeit with heavy make-up and better skin). The nurses and backdrop could be directly inspired, although we know the nurses are more from the film and Silent Hill 2. The gurney is hospitally though, which kinda makes sense and there are several things which could be gurneys scattered around the hospital in Silent Hill 3.

Everything else in the teaser. Not so much.

Vincent looks almost, but not quite (the clothing is somewhat accurate), entirely unlike Vincent. Has the wrong surname. Is the wrong age. Doesn’t act like Vincent. Is afraid of the nurses and where he is. Just isn’t Vincent. The entire scene doesn’t appear to have anything to do with Silent Hill 3 at all. There’s no section of the game you can point to and say, “it probably comes from this bit” – Heather doesn’t have a relationship like this with any characters from Silent Hill 3. There’s no sanctuary under the Amusement Park in the game, there’s a sewer. Dialog, actions, story-telling, even camera angles? Nope.

In Silent Hill 3 it’s quite nice to have pretty realistic looking men and women, like I say, Heather wears very light make-up and she has plenty of blemishes. Claudia isn’t a fawned over beauty, she’s just a women. Vincent isn’t pretty. Here everyone looks like young and fashionable models and film actors. It’s like when you’re watching the abysmal Cloverfield and you’re wondering why everyone at the party at the beginning appears to have just returned from a photoshoot.

Of course the thing that bugs me the most about the trailer isn’t any of that, it’s the way that Heather is trying to release Vincent from the gurney. What for? To get away from the nurses. What do gurneys have on the bottom? Exactly.

Wheel then unstrap, it isn’t rocket surgery, guys.

Not that this treatment of a game source is unexpected or new of course.

The first Silent Hill film itself it generally regarded as one of the better game to movie translations – if not the best. It certainly looks the part, thank you Carol Spier and team. If that name doesn’t sound familiar, think The Fly, Videodrome, eXistenZ, Eastern Promises, Naked Lunch, Fringe, Mimic, and of course, The Muppet Christmas Carol. However, think about what was changed by screenwriter Roger ‘disassemble and create something new’ Avery and director Christophe Gans.

Game: Widower, Harry is taking his little girl, Cheryl, on vacation to the sleepy resort-town of Silent Hill. You literally start in Silent Hill after the crash, we only know how he gets there because of the movie that plays before you hit start.

Film: Silent Hill is a ghost town that has an underground coal fire and puritan cult, the girl’s mother takes Sharon there against the wishes of the husband because the girl sleep-walks and literally shouts ‘Home. Silent Hill’ (do you cringe when she does that too?). Whilst sleepwalking at the film’s opening, she nearly falls off a precipice. Hence why the mother makes the medically sound decision to go to a ghost town with poisonous air where people disappear.

The game’s explanation was plausible. The film’s method of getting the characters to Silent Hill could have been entirely circumvented by locking the front door and takes a full 13 minutes of pre-ramble to get to Silent Hill.

Game: A showdown between the father and the abomination birthed from the back of a combination of Alessa and Cheryl due to the interference of Kaufmann, the doctor who was used by Dahlia to birth her ‘God’. Alessa being a husk on a wheelchair and a ghostly manifestation of a grown woman in a child’s dress. The abomination’s birth pains destroy the Alessa/Cheryl mother, and immolates Dahlia who plotted entirely for this ‘God’ to be born. The showdown is all to the tune of a distorted dentist’s drill. At the end, Harry is given a baby by Alessa/Cheryl which will grow up to become Heather. Lisa Garland returns at the end to drag Kaufmann to where bad people go for destroying her life and keeping a tortured husk alive for occult purposes.

Film: Urotsukidōji with barbed wire instead of penises.

Well, okay, to be fair, I did like the ultimate ending to the film, but the bit before was terrible.

Game: Dahlia is the powerful occult crazy-lady plotting to extract power from the torturous existence of her own daughter. She’s part of a larger Cthulhu-esque cult using the ancient evil power in the town of Silent Hill to manifest the old Gods. They use drugs to control non-members.

Film: Dem crazy evangelicals (you can tell because they use the words ‘witch’ and ‘demon’ like I use punctuation). And miners. Dahlia’s a victim of the previous.

I could go on, but since I’ve talked about pointless changes for the worse for the beginning, ending, protagonist, and antagonists, I’ve probably made my point.

The annoying thing is that most of the best bits of the Silent Hill film are the bits that are in the games. The first Otherworld transition is in the first game, even down to camera angles. This gives us a brief example of what I think the movie-going audience wants. Not the illusory audience that hasn’t played the game, but the audience of gamers and people interested in Silent Hill games who went to see the film of the game.

I’ve played game versions of movies of books that are closer to the original source. It hasn’t always been that way of course, but I think we can forgive gaming’s terrible film licenses from its infancy. Perhaps more modern examples are revenge for Mario Brothers.

Let’s look at the LEGO Lord of the Rings trailer.

Aside from being completely awesome, we can also take every little flashed sequence in this trailer and link it to the books the film was based on that the game is based on.

The only remotely tenuous one in the entire sequence is the summary-like introduction which follows the movie rather than the book. It is a compressed summary taken from several sections of the book, but we can still find all of the information it contains. Like how many dwarf-kings there were, etc. It is a good example of not doing something directly from the book, but staying to the spirit and telling parts of the story in a different way.

The next scene is LEGO Frodo saying “You must understand, the ring is my burden”. Compare this to the book’s “… you must understand. It [the ring] is my burden …”

Next scene, the Fellowship racing through Moria – actually in the books. Then Gandalf directing the party over the bridge, “Over the bridge, fly!” (Book: ‘Over the bridge!’ cried Gandalf, recalling his strength. `Fly! …’). The famous “SHALL NOT PASS” scene (Book: ‘You cannot pass!’) where Gandalf smites the bridge felling the Balrog is in the books. Boromir does pinch Gandalf’s line about there being a cave-troll though.

But of course there are differences. It’s pretty small stuff though – the equivalent to Heather’s slight costume change. It doesn’t change anything of import to the story. Imagine if Silent Hill style changes were inflicted on Lord of the Rings and they changed the ending, and the beginning, and swapped a few genders around for good measure, and turned Sauron into a sympathetic character. Extra characters and religions that were never in the books? Why not?

When a LEGO version of a film of a book is closer to the source than the first Silent Hill film, we should be worried.

Outside of cynical money-grabbing, and let’s hope this is not the case here, the whole reason things (games, books) get adapted in the first place is because we think the source material tells an interesting enough story we want to tell it with cinema too. Changing it so thoroughly seems wrong, or at best, misguided. Doesn’t the story of Silent Hill deserve the retelling? Telling a different story where only the smallest bits of the original have been kept defeats the whole point of trying to introduce the imaginary new audience to Silent Hill if it’s not actually Silent Hill you’re introducing them to!

Let’s address that right now though. Can we please stop pretending that there’s this thing called the wider film-going public who go and see game adaptations like Silent Hill – and need to be given the story in simplified form, and outnumber the gamers so vastly? If we compare sales of Silent Hill the film to Silent Hill 2 the game, the numbers are not so different, both clearing one million copies. It’s an imperfect comparison obviously. The releases are years apart, and the film gets put into the cinema first, but the point remains. What overlap exists betwixt the gamers and the film-goers? I suspect a significantly large portion of the film-goers are the gamers. I also suspect that gamers are not so clever that they can get the story of Silent Hill, but the film-audience somehow can’t, when given the same information.

For the group that argue that the compression would make the story as told by the game make no sense should play those Silent Hill games again. There are not so many cutscenes and so much dialog in one of these games that they wouldn’t work as a film. Not when we can take the level of dialog in stories such as Lord of the Rings, the longer Harry Potters, and really, any good adaptation that involves even a slightly convoluted story and still make more sense than the Silent Hill film didn’t.

And no, cutting together game footage is not the best way of doing it either (although it is very strong evidence you can tell the story of Silent Hill in that format). This is like holding a physical copy of Lord of the Rings up to a camera. Sure it tells the story, but it’s still a book. You aren’t using any of the advantages of the chosen medium.

While the director of the new Silent Hill: Revelation 3D film sounds like an enthusiastic game fan, so did Gans and Avery, and from what I see in the trailer they won’t make a proper treatment of Silent Hill 3 in film, but I can still hope for that adaptation.

For the wider game-playing audience.