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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Monday, July 28, 2014

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Adelaide Clemens stars in "Silent Hill: Revelation."
Adelaide Clemens stars in "Silent Hill: Revelation."

The revelation in "Silent Hill: Revelation?" It's really bad

"Silent Hill: Revelation" sounds like a terrible film on paper. It's based on a video game, and as we know, they have yet to make a good video game movie. To make matters worse, it's a sequel, seemingly made to cash in on whatever name recognition the games and the mostly forgotten 2006 theatrical adaptation may have. Oh, and it's in 3-D.

Unfortunately, the second "Silent Hill" plays like a terrible film on screen as well. Fans of the games may be happy to see their favorite demon monstrosities loitering down dimly lit corridors, but the only thing really scary about "Revelation" is how it managed to avoid direct-to-DVD status.

Several years after the events of the first movie, Heather (Adelaide Clemens) is now travelling around the country with her father ("Game of Thrones"' Sean Bean, battling demons and his English accent). Heather is trying to get acquainted to a new school, but it's hard to make friends when she keeps getting teleported to Silent Hill, normally whenever the screenwriter is getting bored.

Eventually, the town's demonic cult members (led by Carrie-Anne Moss) kidnap Heather's dad in order to lure her back to the haunted city and complete a ritual to vanquish their resident stringy black-haired evil girl, Alessa. With the help her new friend Vincent (Kit Harington, another "Game of Thrones" alum battling his own English accent), Heather waltzes into Silent Hill and battles its various baddies, including a mannequin spider, murderous nurses and everyone's favorite geometry-themed murderer, Pyramid Head.

While certainly not a good movie, the original Christophe Gans-helmed "Silent Hill" did have a sense of mood and atmosphere that almost compensated for its convoluted, scare-less story. New writer/director Michael J. Bassett unfortunately has no patience for atmosphere, replacing it with cheap editing tricks, some overly bombastic "scary" scenes and a lot of flickering lights (apparently, there are no electricians in the evil cult).

Bassett's main ineffective technique of choice is useless quick cutting. One early sequence on a rickety elevator just stops because the choppy editing makes the monster disappear for no reason ... just to reappear a minute later for a cheap jump. An evil nurse attack would've been a creepy sequence if I could make out who was doing what to whom and why. And while we're on that scene, a torture asylum in which workers attack other workers instead of the prisoners doesn't seem like an effectively run house of horror.

A few of the creature designs are interesting – grotesque humanoid forms of flesh, stitches and metal – but the direction and editing don't let the audience take these things in. In fact, the film's one creepy sequence – a chase involving a spindly creature made of severed mannequin parts – is one of the few scenes where the camera mildly calms down and lets the bizarre eeriness speak for itself. Everywhere else, Bassett's edits just add loud punctuation, hoping that startling visual jumps will be good enough.

While the first film's mood and atmosphere weren't invited back for the sequel, the convoluted story reappears with a vengeance. Most of the movie's first act is spent flipping awkwardly between reality and Heather's random mental trips to Silent Hill, which are never explained or integrated into the story. It's freaky imagery for the sake of freaky imagery (despite all of the tedious exposition trying to make sense of things).

The script still can't even explain what Silent Hill is. When Vincent gets around to discussing its origins, it sounds like a grab bag of six other horror movies – a confusing mix of Indian burial grounds, mining accidents, evil cults, witch burning, demonic little girls and alternate dimensions.

Characters are integrated into "Silent Hill: Revelation" with the same grace and care that lumbering Pyramid Head uses to integrate his man-sized knife into people. After given nothing to do in the first film, Bean returns ... only to be kidnapped for most of the story. Moss' main villain and her masked henchmen aren't introduced until well into the movie and even then are poorly developed. And when Bassett's script runs out of ideas, it throws in Pyramid Head to stomp around and cut off some limbs. He seems more like violent set dressing rather than an actual threat.

It all ends with a duo of not-so-epic battles – one of which is comprised of a furious, fiery hug – and a revelation that makes the film's proceedings even more frustrating. However, it's hard to be too invested, much less scared, by a story that doesn't make any sense.

My personal motto: simple is scarier. In the case of "Silent Hill: Revelation," the only thing simple about it is that it shouldn't have been made.

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