Monday, May 01, 2006

Silent Hill : The Triumph of Evil

I went to see the movie Silent Hill last Friday. Big mistake. I confess I have had a thing for certain scary movies, but after this one I've decided to avoid them indefinitely, possibly forever. What attracted me to the movie in the first place was the mystery of it all and the creepy creatures that were shown in the previews. I'm a sucker for a good scary monster; I think it's roughly the same principle that attracts me to dinosaurs, lizards, creepy insects, and the like. I thought that what I would get was a story of a woman facing down legions of evil creatures to rescue her daughter from the forces of darkness. What I got instead was a sickening, satanic revenge fantasy, interspersed by some scenes of horrible and disturbing violence.

The film follows the by now redundant and cliched Hollywood practice of displaying religious believers as fundamentalist fanatics who run around pointing the finger at other people and engaging in acts of inhumane and horrible violence, all the while quoting scripture and blindly assured of their own self-righteousness. The caricature is so gross that at one point I was reminded of the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when the towns-people are accusing an obviously innocent woman of being a witch. The difference being that in the Python movie it is clearly meant to be a silly and humorous caricature, while this movie actually presents it's religious villains with a straight face. It's like Richard Dawkin's worst nightmare come to life.

What is it with Hollywood's never-ending need to present conservative religious people in the sickest possible light? One can only hope that the caricature is so extreme that most people see it for the sick joke it really is. Unfortunately, in a world where more and more people are almost completely illiterate in serious religious matters, I fear that films like this only serve to further poison people's minds and add to a general aura of confusion and ignorance.

The thing that really bugged me about the film though, aside from its grotesque violence, was the way in which it offered absolutely no sense of redemption for any of it's characters, but instead offered what I can only call the triumph of evil. At the end of the film, the religious fanatics who have tortured, burned and disfigured an innocent young girl are finally given their come-up-ance when the girl, possessed by a demon, is able to wreak her violent revenge upon them all by tearing them to pieces with barbed wire.

This unfortunately reflects a way of thinking that has become all too commonplace in our contemporary culture. This is the belief that those who are the victims of injustice are somehow justified in becoming victimizers themselves in order to get back at those who first victimized them. It is a view in which mercy, grace, and forgiveness are allowed no place whatsoever, and in which victims of injustice are encouraged to see themselves as somehow excused from the tenets of ordinary morality. One example of this is the extreme litigiousness of our culture in which we now feel justified in suing people in order to "make them pay" for any wrong against us, whether accidental or intentional.

Silent Hill takes this even further by suggesting that somehow the evil done to this young girl not only justifies unmitigated hatred and a grotesque and violent revenge, but also that this is accomplished by means of demon possession, basically making Satan into the agent of "justice." This goes beyond even the grotesque caricature of religious fundamentalism and completely inverts the very nature of good and evil. Here, pure evil becomes the dispenser of "justice," though we are given no reason why Satan or the demon possessing this girl should really care about helping to procure justice. In fact, I left the theatre feeling like the young girl was simply victimized twice, first by the religious fanatics, and once again by the demon, who simply used her to accomplish it's own purposes of destroying life and wreaking havoc. One certainly doesn't get the impression that now there will be peace for the girl. Quite the contrary, I left with the feeling that evil had triumphed all the way around.

I usually wouldn't bother to write a review of something I didn't much like, as I prefer to spend my time talking about things I enjoy. Sometimes though, something comes along that's so bad you feel you have to say something about it if just to warn people of how bad it is. That's how strongly I loathe this film. To me, it is truly horrible and represents nothing so much as a victory for evil. My advice is to avoid it at all costs.


Mayden's Voyage said...

I really appreciate your review of this movie.
It is one thing to into a movie to have fun and jeepers spooked out of you, and another to just be insulted.
Enjoyed your post and I will come back and read again!
-Cora :)

Gordon Hackman said...


Thanks so much for your comments. It's encouraging when you take the time to write something out to know that people are reading it and even benefitting from it.


Joseph Wanka said...

Very insightful commentary. You've pointed out the prevalence of Hollywood's propagation of victim-mentality stances towards evil, injustice and human nature. In smoothing over the deeper moral implications of victimization, redemption and forgiveness, the "studio" has once again robbed it's audience of the opportunity to grapple with fundamental (no pun intended) ethical issues. Thank you for taking the time to write the review. This movie should be avoided unless viewers want to participate in a 2 hour purgatory parallel to the purgatory that the characters face in the film. The only slight disagreement that I have is that I think that the girl in the film was actually victimized three times. As you've point out, by the fanatics and the demon (that's two strikes) but I would submit also by the Hollywood "machine" as, in retrospect we as the viewers were.

Gordon Hackman said...


Thanks for the great comments. Upon further reflection this past week, I have come to agree with you completely about the third sense in which the girl is victimized. One doesn't feel like any of the characters are real people in the film, but are simply there to be used for furthering the agenda of the film in various ways. In this sense, the whole film seems like an exercise in exploiting its characters, as well as exploiting the audience. Of course, in being an exercise in exploitation of both its own characters and the audience, this film is, unfortunately, far from unique in terms of much of the output of Hollywood.

Anonymous said...

Hello. First of all, I think your review was ok, though slightly biased, as I guess you haven't played at all the games of Silent Hill.

This movie came up years after all those games(and there are already 5), and it is a little mix of all of them, though I must admit this movie is a bad made version of them and it was tuned down LOTS on storyline and gore/blood/disturbing scenes compared to what you see on the games.

I guess it is ok to say the movie shows the 'triumph of evil' but that is not really all the truth.

The 'hell' you see in the movie is based off on the girls hatred for the people that hurt/burned her. She was years in a hospital bed and her pain and despair became hate, and then that creature offered her to have her chance of revenge, pushing them in on 'her darkest dreams'.

Every monster in the movie is created and based of her hatred and her mind. You see the Janitor that molested her? He ended up having his legs held up against his head by barbed wire, so he couldn't have any kind of sexual gratification anymore. When he touches the wall, it gets full of infection and veins, meaning how the girl interpreted him as a perverted person, a direct reference to STDs, so he corrupted everything he touched. The nurses, they treated the girl badly in the hospital, so they became faceless creatures, as the girl hated them and saw them all alike. The burning childs in the beginning of the movie... they are the kids who insulted and hurt her when she was young and they called her a witch. The armless creature: it is a direct representation of how she feels trapped in her own body, unable to break free or move.

The Silent Hill game(and movie somewhat too) is based on peoples own personal 'hell' and sins(or fears too).

In most of the games, the city is supposed to be a purgatory of sorts, and it calls in sinners and makes them face their sins the hard way.

For example, in the game Silent Hill 2, the main character is a guy that received a letter from his dead wife(that supposedly died from a fatal disease years ago), telling him she was on Silent Hill waiting for him, alive.

He goes in the city, and faces all kind of horrendous monsters, as the nurses and the big Pyramid Headed thing you saw in the movie. In the end we come to realize HE killed his wife and he neglected those memories, so the city materialized the nurses, and woman-looking objects, all of them with female suggestive bodies, showing a direct attack on his his sexual repressed desire/feelings and mental disorders. It also materializes the Pyramid Head monster, who raped the nurse bodies, also a direct blow to the guys perversion(also a representation of an executioner of sinners).

At the end the town shows he was an evil person, and he is paying for what he did. Halfway in the story, the town creates a woman with the same features as his wife, being more attractive. She was also a representation of what he wished his wife was, and she tempted him in many times. Later on, the Pyramid Head monsters kill her in many ways, literally showing in the guys face that he was a killer and he was paying for it all.

The town was rusted and decayed as in the movie, everything being a direct representation of his mental instability. At the end he ended up admitting his sin and saying he unconsciously created that 'hell' or purgatory to punish himself for his sins.

Lets just say that the town is a special place that has a big connection with other powers and it is a purgatory- a representation of human perversion and their sins, and it is the materialization of each persons dark side. All the creatures you see there are a direct creation of your fears, nightmares and sins, and a way of punishment.

I could keep on explaining more, but I guess no one would want to read that much. I just thought I could help a bit on explaining it all, as it took me a long time to finally get the real point about those games real message.