Silent Hill Has Girl Power
Just in time for Mother’s Day, along comes a movie that produces one of the more bizarre odes to motherhood and female companionship I’ve ever seen on film. Silent Hill, based on the popular series of video games (though you really can’t tell it was based on a game), has entered theatres with a compelling, disturbing look at the bonds between women.
Without giving too much away, the movie centers on a young girl’s disturbing dreams. Her father doesn’t really know what to do, so her mother decides to take her away to a town that she keeps mentioning in her sleep, a town called Silent Hill. When they reach the town, the girl disappears, and the mother enters a surreal, phantasmagorical world full of mysterious clues and malevolent entities. She is assisted in her quest to find her daughter by an attractive female cop dressed totally in tight leather. A twist of curdled religion is thrown in to bring things to a full boil and together the two women piece together the disturbing story of the damned town.
The first version of the script was turned down by the studio because there were no real male characters. Once it was rewritten with the husband character, the script was accepted. The few males in the film, from the husband to a sketchy detective, are obviously there as an afterthought. They are always behind the curve that the women set; they fumble around, utterly helpless in the big picture.
I was surprised at the lesbian subtext in the film. The relationship between the mother and the cop can easily be read to include more feelings than are explicitly described. More than a weird Sapphic fantasy, however, the film is also a contemplation on female rage. From the whacked-out religious convictions of the town’s matriarch to the confined fury of a small girl treated horribly, the movie is more of a psychological thriller than a real horror film.
The female leads, none of which are (yet) famous, are all quite good, even though the script does hand them the occasional clunker line and veers a little close to melodrama at times. The special effects are seamless, and the story is intelligent and much richer than is usually to be expected from movies released this close to the summer.
The violence increases as the movie progresses, and some genuinely disturbing images and characters appear. This is not a film for people with weak sensibilities. At the same time, it is not for people who just want a bloody horror film, because the grotesque sequences are always secondary to the story itself, which is developed much more than in your usual splatterfest.
Silent Hill is sure to get mixed reviews and is unlikely to please all audiences. Nonetheless, it is a smart, compelling story that will alternately fascinate and freak out those viewers who like to explore the conflicted world of the feminine mystique.