Intheo: Online Home of \”Andrew J\”

May 7, 2006

Movie Review: Silent Hill

Filed under: Reviews: Movies — andrewj @ 7:24 pm

I. Preamble

Yes, after nearly two weeks since my original post, here it is–the review I promised. Boy, I don’t even want to begin with all the things I’ve been busy with since then, so just know that: I’ve been very busy.

II. Review

The set up for this one, an adaption of the wonderful games by Konami, is as follows: a mother, Rose, travels to the town of Silent Hill–once a resort town, now abandoned due to underground mine fires that have lasted for the previous 30 years (this, I’ve found out from some searching, is based on a real town in Pennslyvania called Centralia)–with her sick daughter Sharon to discover why she repeatedly lapses into dreamlike states, muttering the name of the town before awakening; meanwhile, her husband searches for her. The film was directed by Christope Gans, creator of Brotherhood of the Wolf, and written by Roger Avarey, Oscar award winning scripter of Pulp Fiction so it’s easy to tell that this film was made with quality in mind instead of how much money they could make off of raping a property.

This movie seems to have been getting a lot of flack from mainstream critics–from Roger Ebert to the Times UK publication–but both as a movie for the fans of the game and for non-fans looking for a good horror movie, this one delivers.

Honestly, I can’t understand what most people are complaining about in their reviews, as most of them speak of the film not explaining what is going on or skipping out on “important questions”, such as why Rose goes to the town of Silent Hill in the first place (the entire first ten minutes of the film explains this, actually; it’s the purpose of the opening scene) or why director Christope Gans ignores the Rose’s parenting (he doesn’t; again, the entire opening segments of the movie establish that her husband doesn’t trust her, going so far as to cancel her credit cards, and calling to make sure she and their daughter are safe every second). Another complaint was that it’s “too confusing!” (that boils down Ebert’s entire negative review into the cliched nutshell) despite the fact that it unfolds straighter than a heterosexual in terms of time–no random Will Faulkner jumps here, though there are a few snippets which are visions of the town in what looks to be the 1950s, shot or flashed so that appears grainy and old, as well as being narrated over by a character–and contains an interaction between characters near the end of the film that explains some of the mysteries around Sharon and Silent Hill.

It certainly doesn’t use the same now-stereotypes of video game movies, as all the following are absent: Matrix-style moves, a scene where the characters load up with weapons, butchering of the game’s plot and/or characters, nu metal or techno music blazing out of the speakers for every fight scene, and poor actors in it for the pay job. Instead of Paul W.S. Anderson (director of such classics as Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil, and Aliens vs. Predator) or Uwe Boll (director of timeless pieces such as Alone in the Dark, Bloodrayne, House of the Dead, the upcoming In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, and writer of upcoming “uber-horror film” Death Row), we have a team who know their stuff and don’t hate their audiences.

Now that that’s out of the way, I cannot say enough how amazing the visuals and camera work in the film is: the shots, as Roger Ebert notes in his review, are done in a level that approaches a high grade art film, and the special effects do not consume the film–Gans used real actors to portray the monsters, using dancers to give them a very ranged and odd movement, and only used CGI to add effects to them. And besides that, the added effects to their costumes, such as glowing embers embedded in the bodies of children, are done well as to be unnoticable; likewise, the “otherworld” that Silent Hill morphs into, cued by World War II era air raid sirens sounding throughout the town, is done without flaw as mirrors rust over and walls peel off to reveal metal grating underneath with the sound of flesh tearing off of a body.

The only true weaknesses of this film would be two things: 1.) Gans doesn’t expand as much on the antagonists as much as I’d hope (for anyone who hasn’t played the games, what exactly they are will seem hazy beyond them being simple demons), and 2.) the extras are poor actors and ruin a tense scene near the middle of the film.

To sum my review up: go see this film, it’s best appreciated on a theater screen! If you miss it in the cinema, though, be sure to pick it up when it comes out on DVD.

III. Extended Thoughts

Watching Silent Hill, you can see a halfway point forming between video game movies and them being good: this one, as well as the recent Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, actually pleases the fans! Make no mistake, non-gamers who’ve seen Resident Evil and Doom and all the other little abortions, none of the gamers except the demented enjoyed those films. Yet now, with Silent Hill gamers actually have a single video game movie that at least they can like. Other than the gamers, though, horror fans angry at Hollywood’s recent turn of either an Asian horror remake starring a 20-something blond woman (The Ring, The Grudge, Dark Water), a remake of a classic film that has no need to be remade in the first place (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, the 6/6/06 release of The Omen, Psycho), or a torture-snuff film (Hostel, Wolf Creek, Chaos, next week’s See No Evil) can also appreciate Silent Hill. A few non-horror fans might–and, according to user reviews on the Internet Movie Database and Something Awful, do–enjoy Silent Hill.

In a way, other than the blend of traditional special effects and modern CGI contained in it, Silent Hill is a revolutionary film that marks a new period of video game adaptions. It finally sets the bar somewhere. We’ll have to wait another year or two to see if the movie versions of Halo–which will be produced by Peter Jackson, the first in-house script for a video game movie, complete rights of control remaining in the hands of developers, and a reported budget of $100 million–and Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell–nothing much known on this one, but I believe Clancy himself might write the script–can continue on the path set by this movie. In many ways, its similair to the comic book movies produced over the last decades: despite an occasional Superman I and II, there’s always a Punisher or a Punisher remake to put a bump in the road. Lately comic book films as a whole have improved, with good movies such as X-Men and “X-2,” and Spiderman 1 and 2, as well as great movies such as V for Vendetta, Sin City, and perhaps 2007’s The 300. Perhaps this is because the properties are being given actual budgets, and given to people with some talent; the producers and budgeteers of Hollywood should learn that the same applies to video game movies, and indeed any film, in the future.

Not to mention that the comic book films I listed above as good have earned much more money than the bad ones.*

*Except V for Vendetta, sadly, the only comic book film not to have much in terms of fights or violence. I recommend renting or buying that one, too, both for fans and for anyone who wants to see how modern comics are as opposed to the cheesy pulps of the 60s and 70s.


April 23, 2006

The Best of the Best Part: Deux! (Not quite)

Filed under: Basic Posts — andrewj @ 3:52 pm


I was browsing the usual list of blogs and sites the other day, and noticed author Jeff VanderMeer has posted an “exhaustive list” of the best fantasy novels that writers should read. It’s very impressive, with 60 entries on his primary list–I’m pretty sure I’ve only read half of those, so far! So, I’m sure most of us will just have to get crackin’ on the books ASAP if we hope to catch up in the next few years.

I’ll be sure to pick up VanderMeer’s City of Saints and Madmen now.


In other news, I should have a review of both the Alone in the Dark movie and the Silent Hill movie up within the next week. I’ll make it clear now: the former almost reaches levels of boredom in its badness, and the later is an amazingly well-shot film–although too confusing for the average viewer. Besides that, I might try to do the infamous Wheel of Time novels by Robert Jordan while I’m on this list of mostly downers.

April 19, 2006

The Kindness of Strangers

Filed under: Links — andrewj @ 10:51 pm

Consider this my copout short post of the week, but I just noticed through several other WordPressers that (once meant only for reviews and interviews based around fantasy, but rapidly growing into other areas of fiction as well) has decided to start an e-zine which is looking to pay writers of reviews, articles, short fiction, and even art!

If you’re interested or just curious, head over to website runner Jay’s post about it.

April 16, 2006

Movie Review: House of the Dead

Filed under: Reviews: Movies — andrewj @ 3:48 am

House of the Dead is both a horrible video/arcade game-based movie and a great one at the same time. Yes, this is the same movie that came out in about 2003 with previews showing zombies being Matrixized while DMX’s “Party Up” blazes on in the background (wait, didn’t that song come out in 1998? Or even earlier? I know I’ve heard it in about a dozen other action movie trailers and teasers before that; it ties with Saliva’s “Click, Click Boom” for the Overused Action Theme of the Decade.)

After hearing so many bad things about it, I was expecting to watch a truly horrible film, but, to be honest, at the start of the film I was surprised. For about the first minute and a half, in which one of the characters narrates at what is actually the end of the movie and starts to tell the story of what had happened, the movie is decent, with a nice few camera shots, despite a really stupid analogy (“The island stank…of…death.”) Then, the stupidity begins. But, for its credit, it is very entertaining, laugh-out-loud stupidity that makes this film worth such a rent, or to buy if you like collecting movies that are so bad they’re good.

After the introductory narration, director Uwe Boll strangely decides to have the intro credits backed by a screening of footage from the first House of the Dead game, in all its 1996-8 graphical glory. This is the first part where I start laughing out loud.

Imagine a very early Playstation type of graphics but somehow filtered to be blurred, colored outlines. Oh yeah, and the first bit is from one of the game’s few cutscenes, so you have bad, cheesy dialogue too. But wait, he doesn’t just have this selection of fighting footage with some film score, but with a stupid sounding rap song made for the movie. (“Danger, danger, DANGER, they’re takin’ ovar! You’re approachin’ the final chapter!” Accompanied by footage of blurred monsters and zombies is both really stupid and funny.)

I have to wonder—and I did this many times while watching the movie—if Uwe Boll is as insane as he seems (you’ll see what I mean a little later) or what, exactly, is his deal. The way he treats some of these parts seriously is very strange indeed. Oh yeah, did I mention that the footage from the game continues throughout the movie in a few second intervals as scene breakers, but instead of being blurred to look more realistic they’re presented in the way they are in the arcades. Even sillier is when one of the footage parts is one when the player dies and the game displays INSERT COINS TO CONTINUE! in clearly visible white letters.

Well, to move on, we go on to the narration of some other character whose name I didn’t bother to remember, who introduces most of the main characters in a sort of bio-ish gray still shots. Then, we find out that they’re going to an unknown island for a rave (which, in a shot that zooms over to the island for a few seconds, is taking place in full daylight, consists of people bouncing around with those expandable frame-ball things, a rave which seems to be hosted by Sega—the company that owns House of the Dead—according to the big blue banners all around the camp with the company name on it), which is completely stupid. Because, who goes to a rave on an unknown island some many miles offshore?

Anyway, finding that the boat to island has already left, the characters (a college pretty boy, blond-but-brainless-hottie, guy-that’s-somewhat-smart-and-a-little-handsome, and a black girl) hire a fishing boat captain to take them, after the second in command (played by Clint Howard and supposed to be “the guy who’s funny but stupid”) repeatedly tells them no. It only takes them one thousand dollars to risk their lives, of course, on what they call island “Del Morte,” the Island of the Dead. But before they can, a Marine Sea Patrol (and don’t even ask me why this patrol likes to do this at small docks of what could be an incredibly small fishing town in Maine) orders them to stop for a search, because it’s search day.

To make a not really that long story short, they go to the island, encounter the dead, kill them and end up getting mostly killed themselves, and the one or two left living leave the island. Oh yeah, and for those of you who have played the game, it completely ignores the plot of it, going for “in the 18th century a bald, buff scientist being taken over to someplace on a Spanish ship for ‘crimes against God’ took control of the ship, killed the captain, and landed on an island where he performed experiments on himself and the natives, using them to build his house.” I could go on and on about the stupid events that happen between the two ends of this movie, but I simply cannot afford to write a book I don’t have a market to publish in.

So, I’ll say that this movie is well worth the money to rent or even buy it (the “Battle for the House of the Dead,” as I’ve named it, is especially hilarious, with more bullet time than all three Matrix movies and a bad rap song written especially for the movie—called “House of the Dead,” I think), but for all the wrong reasons. For a real movie, I give this a zero out of five, as this is about the lowest you can get unless your name is has the words “Ed” or “Woods” in it. But as a bad movie, it’s so bad that it’s a great movie, and in that stance I give it a five out of five and I can’t wait until Uwe Boll comes out with his newest masterpiece of video game adaptations, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Adventure, because it looks almost as “bad” as this movie.

Oh, a word of advice: only buy this movie if you can make sure Boll doesn’t receive the profits, because I just don’t want to have the guilt hanging over my head like that if he gets funded due to this review, so check the bargain bins at any local Gamestop or EB Games stores, they’re sure to have copies. And there’ll be more of Boll to come in future reviews: expect to hear about Alone in the Dark in a few weeks, and Bloodrayne whenever it comes out on DVD.

April 15, 2006

No Clue

Filed under: Basic Posts — andrewj @ 9:13 pm

Maybe I should’ve called this place “,” but I guess this is good…and I think that name is already taken. Basically, this first post here is my introduction to whoever is reading this, and a “General Blog Statement,” otherwise known as the Constitution of Intheo.

I’m lazy, so I’ll just copy and past my bio here, as it sums it up best:

“My primary interest is writing (three novels down, one more in progress!), though I’m also partial to cruising Sites for info about history (it’s best to get it on your own, and not in school, really–most teachers simply aren’t reliable, or worse, they’re boring), politics (past, present–doesn’t matter what time period, because it all shows the madness stored up in every human being; if anything has a right to insanity, it’s politics, and insanity is appealing), and matters of culture…most of those being Pop Culture and useless bits of information.

Besides that, I do the things that most do, but I’m much more “into it”: movies, television, books, music, games, it doesn’t matter what, as long as it tells me something I’m there!”

If you want more info about the purpose of this blog, check the about section I typed up, it sums it up in two points. The basic idea of it, though, is that here I’ll offer my thoughts and reivews on movies, books, music, and games–objects of culture, I like to term them–thoughts on current events, and some self-important talk about my writing (I’m a novelist-in-training.) I don’t intend to reveal the meaning of “Intheo” itself, though, not yet, but perhaps I’ll get to it in some far off future.

Well, while you’re waiting for updates, take some time to pop in at Something Awful, one of the best, and biggest, comedic sites on the net! I’m probably just encouraging any minors, but I’ll go ahead and give warning in case any stumble upon this that you should probably be at least 13 to look there, or maybe even as old as 16.

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