Based on a popular series of video games, this disturbing, grotesque journey derives most of its meaning from exploring hell on earth.
Young Sharon DaSilva suffers from nightmares and sleepwalking. Whenever she's in one of her trances, she mumbles the name of a strange town, Silent Hill. Determined to get to the bottom of her daughter's troubles, Rose DaSilva decides to take the girl to the only Silent Hill she can find, an abandoned town in West Virginia.
On its outskirts, Sharon disappears into the eerie fog that enshrouds the place, the result of an underground coal fire that caused inhabitants to flee years earlier.
At first an adversary, Cybil, a suspicious motorcycle cop who has tailed them, becomes an ally when she and Rose discover that Silent Hill is not what it seems to be. The hazy fog, the deserted storefronts and empty streets might be explained by the fire, but much more is going on, particularly at the elementary school and hospital. As they look for Sharon, Rose and Cybil traverse several realities filled with demonic beings and other grotesqueries. They also stumble upon an apocalyptic religious sect that still lives in the town.
Getting closer to the bottom of the mystery, Rose and Cybil make the ultimate disturbing discovery: the horrible beings and shifting realities they have encountered can be described as hellish for a very good reason.
Rose exhibits a fierce love for Sharon, saying, "She's adopted, but I'm her mother." Cybil adds, "A mother is God in the eyes of a child." Both women put themselves in considerable danger to try to rescue Sharon. Likewise, Rose's husband, Christopher, goes to great lengths to try to help both wife and daughter.
The religious cult has fashioned a symbol that consists of several interlocking crosses. Christabella, the leader, frequently discusses the need for faith, although she never says what that faith should be rooted in. In this story, it's rooted in Christabella's own self-righteousness and her belief that it is up to her and her followers to destroy evil in the world. ("Our faith keeps the darkness of hell at bay," she says.)
Supposedly, Silent Hill was founded by witch-hunters. And during an auto-da-fé in the church, Christabella selectively quotes from Revelation 20:12-15 ("And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened ... and each person was judged according to what he had done. ... If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire"). Attempting to justify the torture of a child, Christabella says, "We fight the sin, not the sinner." She adds, "Praise God for our clarity."
A detective says, "There are different kinds of justice: man's, God's, and even the devil's." Children are led in a bedtime prayer by a nun. A girl is bullied and accused of being a witch. A billboard outside a church quotes from 1 Corinthians 6:2-3 ("Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? ... Do you not know that we will judge angels?"). A large neon cross illuminates the night sky in an early scene, and a large crucifix hangs inside an orphanage. A series of framed illustrations in a school hallway features one that says "God" under the picture of an angelic-looking young man.
[Spoiler Warning] The entire story revolves around the not-so-subtle question as to whether Silent Hill is the entrance to hell. A ghost/demon (it's unclear which) in the form of a little girl says, "Now is the end of days, and I'm the reaper."
Rose wears skimpy pajama bottoms and a low-cut, tight-fitting tank top. Several characters wear cleavage-revealing outfits.
Frequent, bloody and grotesque. A large, monstrous being with a metal pyramid for a head picks up a woman, rams his fist through her chest and then rips her in half from top to bottom, throwing the bloody remains at two fleeing people. In another scene, the beast attacks Rose and Cybil by jamming a huge sword through the door they're hiding behind, narrowly missing them. (Cybil shoots his arm with her service pistol, opening a bloody wound.)
A demonic being in the form of a badly burned woman sends out tentacles of barbed wire that grab and impale several people, crushing them into bloody goo or ripping their bodies into pieces. A flayed, decaying body is crucified on a chain-link fence, held in place with barbed wire. Another similarly mutilated body hangs upside down, while yet another is trussed to a toilet with barbed wire. (The producers were obviously obsessed with illustrating how much damage barbed wire can do to human flesh.)
Christabella stabs a woman through the chest with a large knife. A misshapen, armless monster sprays acid at the women. Cybil shoots it, with blood/acid spraying from the wound. Dreadfully bizarre beings in nurse uniforms (!?) slash each other's throats, with bloody results. A girl falls upon hot coals and bursts into flames. A man tries to rescue her, badly burning his hands. (We then see her charred body being taken to the hospital.) A woman is tied to a long, ladder-like device and lowered into flames. As she dies, her skin blackens and melts before her whole body is consumed.
Cybil fights off several men with her billy club, hitting them across their heads and torsos. They eventually overpower her and turn the weapon against her, striking her head and knees. Several men punch Rose in the face. Rose crashes her car, causing her head to smash against the steering wheel.
Crude or Profane Language
Six f-words. Two s-words and several other crudities. God's and Jesus' names are abused a dozen times.
Drug and Alcohol Content
It's said that whatever antipsychotic medicine Sharon is taking doesn't work.
Other Negative Elements
Numerous hideous beings populate this film aside from those trying to do harm to Rose, Cybil or Sharon, including shrieking children who seem to be glowing with fire inside. Just before Cybil smashes a gigantic cockroach with her boot, we see in close-up that it has a tortured, human face and seems to be begging for mercy. (That doesn't stop Cybil, with splattering, gooey results.)
Rose's husband breaks into a town's archives after being denied permission to search its records.
Silent Hill is based on a video game series of the same name first released in 1999 by Konami. (Several graphic novels immediately capitalized on the popularity of the game.) The games are puzzle/mystery-solving exercises in which characters must negotiate a hellish world. (Think Myst meets Hellraiser with plenty of blood and gore thrown in.) Most of the creatures in the film are straight from the game, and the film's nonlinear storyline is of the same spirit as the game.
More disturbing than this film, then, is the thought that legions of young people have long been absorbing Silent Hill's sick worldview as they try to master the various levels of four different games. Before the film's arrival, various fan sites on the Internet began buzzing with speculation about it, with some worried that director Christophe Gans would not stay true to the dark spirit of the game. One complained that a brutal rape scene involving a bound, gagged and blindfolded woman was to be excluded from the production.
I can credit the filmmakers with that small bit of restraint while simultaneously condemning them for their gangrenous portrayal of religious faith that uses the imagery and language of Christianity but presents a "faith" that is anything but. Unfairly, too, the movie makes no effort to portray this as a perverted form of Christianity by showing a counterbalancing portrayal of true Christianity in action—the exception being a one-minute scene featuring a generic nun leading children in generic bedtime prayers.
The tagline for Silent Hill reads, "Once you enter this world, there's no turning back." Fortunately, that's not true for moviegoers who might accidentally wander into this aberrant excuse for entertainment. They can always walk out of the theater and demand a full refund.