SILENT HILL

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Available (if you pay) from OnDemand by Verizon. Also available if you have certain Verizon add-on “Premium Channels,” with subscription.

THE QUICK AND DIRTY DEETS

A movie complex enough I have trouble distilling it into a clever, one-sentence quip. Just watch it.

  • Girly Groove Rating: 4.5/5, or 9/10
  • Scares: 9.5/10
  • Low Jump Scares, High Genuine Creep Factor, Mid-Grade CGI
  • Low on Unnecessary Machismo and Liam Neeson

THOTS

Ah, Silent Hill. The movie which spawned the only horror imagery which, upon encountering it during one of those self-guided walks through a Haunted Horror Attraction, caused me to stop in my tracks and actually consider turning back instead of finishing the walk and leaving the intended way, through the exit of the “ride.” The specific image that I encountered that night was walking into a large, open room – with a band of nurses frozen in place in the center, which spooked adventurers had to walk through in order to continue on their voyage. I froze in place for minutes.

Silent Hill is one of my long-time Top Favorite Horror Films, and I decided to re-watch it this weekend just for fun. I was about halfway through when it struck me, to my delight, that like last post’s The Descent, Silent Hill is an excellent feminist film as well as an example of primo modern horror. Not only does it pass the Bechdel test repeatedly (one might even say “with flying colors”), but if you check out this largest analysis ever of film scripts by gender, which I referenced in the last post, Silent Hill also blows it out of the water in terms of female-spoken dialogue and, therefore, representation within the film.

There are a couple of factors, at least, which drive my affection for the movie. As I watched it this weekend, I tried to put them into coherent words. I hope, in this post, I succeed – instead of simply raving. 🙂

For a horror movie, the plot of Silent Hill is satisfying complex. First, we have the oft-forgotten frame story, where Rose, Sharon, and Rose’s husband exist in the normal, day-to-day universe, and which establishes Rose’s conviction that Sharon must return to Silent Hill. Then, our split narrative (Rose’s as she searches for Sharon, and the husband’s as he pursues them both) allows the movie to demonstrate clear alternative universes without ever having to clumsily explain the world-split in awkward, manufactured dialogue.

That’s another key point which clinches Silent Hill‘s success: the script is tight, the dialogue is extremely believable, and even in the moments where one could see how this dialogue was pulled from a video game, this observation is not as a result of stilted, unrealistic speech, but because in both video games and movies, a hallmark of the storyline’s success is the subtle reveal of vital information through character-to-character dialogue.

Moreover, the actual horror imagery depicted throughout Silent Hill captivate me, and I suspect they do so in such degree due to their unusual, captivating nature. Instead of relying on familiar monsters, Silent Hill invents its own monsters. From twisted, headless “ash babies,” which look kind of like physically twisted children made of black ash, covering a body of embers, to Pyramid Man, his accompanying beetle entourage, and so on, these representations of the evil lurking in Silent Hill are so different from standard horror depictions that they have become emblems of the movie and video game franchise. They cannot be mistaken for the horror fantasies of any other film.

In addition to all of this, I have to admit that any movie which has an underlying theme of caution against overly-fanatic organized religion wins points in my favor. Ultimately, this movie could even be interpreted as a warning of the dangers of societies which engage in slut-shaming and making pariahs out of the weakest, and most innocent.

I really can’t recommend Silent Hill enough to any horror buffs looking for something which will stay with them, echoing and lurking in dark corners of the brain, for much longer than the simple viewing.

THE DESCENT

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Available on Amazon currently only with a Tribeca Film subscription, this horror movie was released some time ago and often rotates into more easily obtained horror streaming sites. Believe it was on Netflix until recently.

THE QUICK AND DIRTY DEETS

Known as “Chicks with Picks” to those in production

  • Girly Groove Rating: 4.5/5, or 9/10
  • Scares: 9/10
  • Moderate to High on Jump Scares, Claustrophobia, Gollum-like Creatures
  • Low on CGI, Unnecessary Machismo

THOTS

So I decided to re-watch The Descent after I stumbled across a data analysis of gender in film scripts. Not surprisingly, most films completely ‘bombed’ the analysis – bombed in quotes because, of course, the analysis was objective, but in my opinion if the majority of films out there only present a majority of male characters, Hollywood, you’re kind of sucking.

But hey – we knew that already, didn’t we? Anyway, not unlike They, which I had seen in high school and re-watched (and apparently never wrote up here), this movie held up surprisingly well to my recollections. I was more than pleasantly surprised. To give you a breakdown, The Descent is about a band of female adventurers, or at least a bunch of gal pals who like to go do sports-y things together. The loose main character of our movie, Sarah, gets a little more backstory than everyone else in that we get to watch her husband and baby die (within the first 15 minutes of the movie; this is, if anything, hardly a spoiler) at the conclusion of a similar adventure-oriented gals’ trip. I’ll be honest in that I find this backstory hardly at all advances the plot. I understand why it’s there; it’s to set up some overtures and relationships between other characters for the main plot of the movie. However, in my armchair analysis, almost nothing would be missing from the movie if they’d skipped it – besides the fact that we know Sarah’s in a bad spot and maybe a little mentally unstable.

I will note, as I write, it strikes me that there are a few elements of the movie that are like this – made much of, obviously demonstrated as important small elements due to stress placed in the acting on such items or events, but which at the end of the day impact the plot on such a small level that they are not, in my opinion, worth the energy the director and cast put into them. That being said, I don’t work in Hollywood – so what’s my opinion worth, anyway?

Regardless, the rest of the movie is an enjoyable, tension-building romp as this group of six die-hard friends venture into the literal unknown, an unexplored cave somewhere in the American south (supposedly North Carolina, but I’ll be honest: the physical location of the crew is about the least believable element of the movie, as all sport lush UK-region accents and no emphasis is ever placed on establishing where they actually are, geographically) in which an early cave-in of their entrance-route tunnel forces them to attempt to find another way out, two miles below the surface, in the unknown and uncertain dark.

Not only does this movie get the creep factors on early and relentlessly, but it passes the Bechdel test not only with flying colors but practically noticelessly. If ever there was an argument to be made that the problem with Hollywood is men with their heads stuck up their asses, and that movies with a majority female cast can succeed and interest audiences of all ages and genders despite such casting, The Descent makes it – and a couple of jumps and shrieks besides.