This movie is 127 minutes long. Why?
Adapted from the popular Konami game by Roger Avary (further tarnishing that "Pulp Fiction" Oscar), "Silent Hill" tells the unfortunate story of Rose (Radha Mitchell), a young mother dealing with her unstable daughter Sharon (Jodelle Ferland), a sleepwalker who keeps uttering the name "Silent Hill." It turns out that Silent Hill is a ghost town in Vancouver... er "West Virginia" ... where something horrible once happened. Rose sets off to Silent Hill because she's sure the solution to Sharon's problems must be down there. Soon, she finds herself in a Lovecraftian alternate dimension version of the town, where CGI blobs walk the street and an evil presence called The Darkness devours everything several times a day. Meanwhile, in the real Silent Hill, husband Christopher (Sean Bean) is wandering the streets yelling his wife's name and learning huge blocks of exposition from a very badly acted police officer (Kim Coates). What secrets lie beneath Silent Hill and what evil forces are pulling Sharon deeper and deeper toward a Hellish fate?
Amidst some of the lamest dialogue this side of "Doom," Avary's devotion to the game is easy to see. The plot -- such as it is -- is fueled entirely by video game logic. Rose's journey through Silent Hill takes her from creepy bowling alley to creepy school to creepy hotel to creepy church and the only thing guiding her is an innate ability to know that a key clue is inside a corpses mouth or that a secret chamber is behind an old painting. At a certain point I stopped scratching my head and wondering, "Why the heck is she doing that?" because it became clear that I wasn't supposed to understand. "Silent Hill" takes the active process of video game playing and renders it inert. You're watching a demo of a game, or maybe sitting behind a really talented player who's done everything a thousand times before. You just give up on caring.
Director Gans, who never met a crane shot he didn't like, fills the screen with moody images, particularly in the scenes that introduce the ghost town in a drizzle of ash. Accompanied by Jeff Danna's schizophrenic score, Gans fitfully suggests he's building to something, but the cut-away storyline involving Bean's character is superfluous and tension-draining. Nothing's scary or suspenseful about Christopher's part of the plot and he doesn't actually learn any important information. The movie still has to come to a halt at the 80-minute-mark for a series of flashbacks and monologues to explain everything. Cut him out and the movie might have flowed properly. Bean probably would have been grateful.
Mitchell is, at least, committed to this nonsense and amidst her constant shrieking and weird decision-making, she's sympathetic. Yup. I felt really bad that she wasted several months in British Columbia fighting CG baddies and exchanging wooden lines with Laurie Holden's inert leather-clad cop.
Probably, "Silent Hill" has devoted fans who will giggle with knowledge whenever key details from the game are translated to the big screen. Those same people will get sadistic pleasure from watching The Fiend -- some unexplained big guy in a pointy metal mask -- flaying some crazy character we never really met, or from the bloody climax that features a lot of CGI barbed wire. Less involved people will just wonder how Gans became powerful enough to force Sony to release such an interminable cut of this movie.