(by Dustin Putman
Hand it to 2006's "Silent Hill" and now its direct sequel, "Silent Hill: Revelation," for one thing: at least they come very close to approximating the hallucinogenic, creature-filled horror video games they're based upon. That's more than can be said of the endless "Resident Evil" series, which have turned scary zombie invasions into rudderless excuses for repetitive slow-motion action and gunfire. If writer-director Michael J. Bassett has mounted a continuation that is very much one with the original, sharing the same lonesome, gloomy atmosphere and solid production values, it also falls into the same traps. The story is a hobbled-together mess, high on style and low on substance, while emotional potency clocks in two degrees above freezing. Oddly enough, for a movie called "Silent Hill: Revelation," the creepiest moments occur early on and outside of the malicious town in question. Don't bet on many revelations, either. Article continues below
17-year-old Heather Mason (Adelaide Clemens) has a new name to go along with the new town she and father Harry (Sean Bean) have just moved to. Their fifth home in as many years, they have been on the run from a dark past and their connection to the eerie town of Silent Hill, a former prison colony taken over by a time warp and an all-encompassing darkness. Heather - or Sharon, her real name - and her adoptive mother Rose (Radha Mitchell) visited there when she was a child, but only Heather managed to come back. Haunted by nightmares of a place she scarcely remembers, Heather doesn't think much of it until gruesome, hair-raising visions begin to invade her waking hours. When Harry is captured and a note to come to Silent Hill is found written on the wall in blood, she and fellow new kid in town Vincent (Kit Harington) set out for the long-forgotten West Virginia town. The rest of the plot is full of gobbledegook involving Heather's evil doppleganger Alessa, a cult called the Order of Valtiel, and a powerful medal called the Seal of Metatron.
"Silent Hill: Revelation" has a first act prior to Heather and Vincent traveling to the title locale that is inventive enough to give one hope that this might be a sequel better than the original. It still probably is, but the space in quality between them is negligible. Still, writer-director Michael J. Bassett concocts some spine-tingling imagery and a part-grimy, part-carnivalesque aesthetic. There's a merry-go-round with tortured, disfigured human victims in place of horses, a giant stuffed Easter bunny that comes to life, and, if that weren't enough, a child's birthday party with a sinister clown that could almost give Pennywise a run for his money. All of this is promising, as are the introductory scenes with Heather, a straight-talker who puts her catty classmates in their place on her first day at her new high school.
Once across the bridge and into the fog-drenched, ash-snowing Silent Hill, the movie loses its way, becoming a narratively anemic collection of run-ins with scalpel-wielding nurses, faceless ghouls, and one craftily-designed spider. There's also a truly bizarre cameo from Malcolm McDowell (2009's "Halloween II") as a blind, shaggy-haired resident of the town. The only reasonable explanation for his appearance is that he owed someone money. Martin Donovan (2009's "The Haunting in Connecticut") is used almost as poorly as a mysterious private investigator who vanishes shortly after getting his fingers sliced off. If much of the cast aren't exactly used to their best abilities, Adelaide Clemens (2009's "X-Men Origins: Wolverine") is a fresh find as Heather/Sharon/Alessa. Maybe it's because she looks so much like Michelle Williams (the resemblance is uncanny), but Clemens ably carries the picture and makes her heroine someone worth following.
"Silent Hill: Revelation" draws to a whimper of a conclusion, followed by a development that renders Heather's initial mission - to save her dad - pointless. As in the first "Silent Hill," the viewer waits patiently for the film to properly take off, but it can never gather enough momentum. It's a tale of stops and starts, plot cohesion gradually unraveling the longer Heather and Vincent wander about the desolate grounds and dank buildings. Take note, however, that the film does look mighty good, and its lighting design is superb, taking advantage of dark hallways and suggestive shadows with the best of them. Unfortunately, a full-length feature typically needs more than some solid technical specs. Take those away, and the entire enterprise collapses like a house of cards in the breeze.