Silent Hill Movie Analysis: Part Two
Picking up right where we left off with Part One we will start with Gucci’s entrance at the half an hour mark in the movie…
00:30:00 The Close Cut TriStar, who were the studio behind the making of “Silent Hill“, were expected to ask the filmmakers to cut down the length of the film. A running time of two hours and seven minutes for a horror game adaptation is unheard of in the film industry. Director Christophe Gans and Editor Sebastien Prangere plotted that if TriStar did come forth to ask to cut the film, the scenes in the middle of the film with Sean Bean and Kim Coates’ characters would be the first to go. They felt the scenes detracted from the audience’s understanding of the passing of time within Silent Hill. As it was, TriStar never requested a cut – so the film remained untouched.
“These are scenes which are problematic for me, as I realised during the editing. The whole film had been thought out so that Radha Mitchell’s character experiences her adventure over several hours. But the passages back to reality forced me back to a world of normal night and day. This meant that the subjective time felt by the audience was in fact dragged out. As you could now see the father looking for his wife in the real world, over several days and nights, you understood that the film’s action took place over several days. So this subjective time stretched out in people’s minds, which I think made the film more contemplative, a problem.” – CHRISTOPHE GANS, DIRECTOR
00:31:00 A Hostile Hesitation Christophe Gans revealed that Radha Mitchell originally turned down the role of Rose, as she was waiting to see how well her previous film “Melinda and Melinda” had performed at the box office. After it flopped, Radha agreed to do the film but her hesitation to do the film angered Gans, and their relationship was never the best on set. “It ended up being rather difficult between us, I regret that quite frankly” – Christophe Gans.
AKIRA ALERT Song playing as Cybil and Rose discover the chasm at the end of the road: “Rising Sun” (Silent Hill Original Soundtrack)
Above: This scene was filmed on a stretch of specially created highway, that was used for several sections of road within the town, with matte paintings and different set design used for different parts of the road.
00:31:56 Two Roads Diverged… Rose and Cybil’s first encounter with one of Silent Hill’s creatures takes place further along the entrance route to Silent Hill. This stretch of road, alongside the mountainous cliffside with abandoned cars and garbage heap, is in fact the same stretch of road used for the previous scene with the crashed jeep and Welcome Sign. The curved piece of road set was just redecorated and re-staged to create different sections of the entrance road. The background of the scene shown above was a matte painting created by MOKKO Studio to help cover up the remnants of the sugar factory.
“Radha Mitchell reaches cruising speed by the sixth take, whereas Laurie Holden is full-on in the first take.” – CHRISTOPHE GANS, DIRECTOR
AKIRA ALERT Song playing as the armless creature makes its way down the mountain: “The Darkness That Lurks in Our Mind” (Silent Hill 2 Original Soundtrack)
00:32:20 The Armless Creature Hip Hop Dancer Michael Cota was given the role of the armless man after giving a perfect audition for the role. He covered his face with a baseball hat, and tied his arms behind his back to give himself the grotesque and uncomfortable look of the creature. Every scene that included the Armless character (or “Lying Figure”) was altered graphically in various ways to squeeze or extend or expand the creatures body and limbs, as although Michael’s performance was good – no human could portray this character the way it was meant – with such a tiny waist and with those long thin legs.
(Side Note: Click HERE to see this scene with an alternate soundtrack!!)
00:33:35 The First Day! Rose escaping from Cybil, and performing that terrific feat of double-jointedness by swinging the handcuffs underneath her body, was filmed on the very first day of shooting! The stretch of road was an actual road just a block away from the Toronto Movie studios used to film the rest of the movie.
AKIRA ALERT Song playing as Rose escapes from Cybil: “Ashes and Ghosts” (Silent Hill 2 Original Soundtrack)
00:34:12 A Musical Interlude Editor Sebastien Prangere revealed that at this point in the film, Christophe Gans decided to have a pause in the film’s action and create a little music video to showcase the music of Akira Yamaoka. The entire scene of of Rose making her way to the school, using the bus stops to find her route, acts as little interlude for the audience to enjoy some original Akira Yamaoka work.
AKIRA ALERT Song playing as Rose makes her way to the school using the map on the bus stops: “Wounded Warsong” (Silent Hill 4 Original Soundtrack)
In video games of course you can click on a map to find your bearings. That’s not the case in a film, obviously, so I thought that, to find her way, the character would follow the bus stops. It’s her way of finding her bearings. – CHRISTOPHE GANS
00:34:40 A Geographical Nightmare Piecing together a film – where you will film it, which scene comes before what etc. – is a very tricky task. According to several crew members (Carol Spiers, set designer & Andrew Mason, producer) “Silent Hill” was one of the most complicated pieces of film geography they have ever worked on. For instance, the scene where Rose discovers the school and first enters the building was shot on several different locations and pieced together like an intricate puzzle.
AKIRA ALERT Song playing as Rose is in the School’s Reception: “Hear Nothing” (Silent Hill Original Soundtrack)
00:36:06 The Iconic Torch Throughout most of the video games the main character either has on their person, or discovers whilst inside the town, a torch. It helps them to see when the darkness comes! In the film, Rose finds the torch while searching the drawers inside Midwich Elementary School. Christophe Gans has said that one of the most important, and risky, things he wanted to do with this movie was to include the element of searching, discovering and figuring out clues – just like the original game. Personally I think this is one of the aspects of this movie that makes it great – the fact the main character takes the audience with her to discover Sharon’s paintings, which lead her to the school, which lead her into discovering the dark depths of the town’s history. It harks back to the principle idea of what made the original game great – the discovery and solution of clues and puzzles in order to progress through the game.
“One thing that’s very important in Silent Hill, taken straight from the game, is that there are messages everywhere, things you have to read, to understand the story behind the story. [In the movie] there are clues all over the place which give the audience hints about the past of Silent Hill.” – CHRISTOPHE GANS, DIRECTOR
00:37:29 “Coal Fire’s Still Burnin’ Underneath” While researching different elements for the film version of Silent Hill, screenwriter Roger Avary discovered the town of Centralia, Pennsylvania – an almost completely abandoned town with a 40 year old coal fire still burning underneath the town. It was Centralia that created the building block for what developed into the cinematic version of the town of Silent Hill, and for Avary it was a neat way of explaining why the town was shrouded in perpetual fog and ash.
AKIRA ALERT Song playing when Rose encounters the miners inside the school: “Moonchild” (Silent Hill Original Soundtrack)
00:38:47 The Confusing Classrooms At this point in the film the camera does a somewhat seamless pan that swoops from one classroom (CLASSROOM 1 in diagram) straight through the wall into the HALLWAY then continues panning into another classroom across the hall (CLASSROOM 2 in diagram). In actual fact these classrooms were the same room, just redressed and with different props and the camera movement edited in post production to make it seem the camera seamlessly glided through three different rooms. Classroom 1 was filmed from the back of the classroom looking at the blackboard, Classroom 2 was filmed from the front of the classroom, with the tables turned in the opposite direction.
AKIRA ALERT Song playing when Rose finds Alessa’s desk: “The Bitter Season” (Silent Hill Original Soundtrack)
AKIRA/JEFF DANNA ALERT Song playing during flashback to Alessa’s bullying/Rose’s pursuit of Alessa to the toilet: “A Place of Mental Scars“
00:41:42 Hi My Name’s Colin The creature of Colin the Janitor was added to the film at the very last minute. In the original game and the original script, when the main character opens the final cubicle door there was to be nothing in there. It was to be just a scare tactic. But Christophe Gans decided to create the character from scratch to add backstory to Alessa’s character. Colin the janitor was meant to appear in “Silent Hill: Revelation“, when Heather is at school and experiencing nightmarish visions, she was to see a janitor standing mopping the corridor and notice his nametag said Colin, but the scene was never filmed.
The veins on the wall and the cockroach creatures were added at a later stage by the special effects company Mr. X. Executive Producer Andrew Mason said that this scene in the toilet incorporated the work of every major company involved with the production of the film, including matte painters, special effects, special effects makeup, set designers and wardrobe.
AKIRA ALERT Song playing as the janitor emerges from the cubicle: “Don’t Cry” (Silent Hill Original Soundtrack)
00:48:00 Pyramid Head The appearance of this character, this stalwart Silent Hill character who has come to be the poster boy for the franchise, has caused a lot of controversy throughout the Silent Hill fan bases. You can read up about the mythology and background to Silent Hill all you want, and it’s neither a case of anyone been right or wrong nor is it a case of nobody properly understanding the Silent Hill lore, but the inclusion of Pyramid Head in the film has it’s own backstory and purpose.
Christophe Gans likens the imagery of Pyramid Head to that of the Penitent order of Christianity, and bases his inclusion here as a symbol of Alessa’s incarnation of her father. An unknown man to her, concealing his identity with a mask, an authoritative figure who punishes those in Silent Hill who had hurt Alessa in the past.
AKIRA ALERT Song playing when Pyramid Head makes his appearance: “One’s Weaker Self” (Silent Hill 3 Complete Soundtrack)
00:48:34 Rose’s Perfume Quite an iconic scene and a very touching moment that breaks the barrier between Rose and Chris’ alternate dimensions. This moment captures Rose running across the playground of the school, and running through Chris as he searches the same area in the real world. Christophe Gans has said that out of all of the Sean Bean scenes in the movie, this is his favourite. Whether or not it was pivotal to the plot or it was worth slowing down the film for is another matter.
AKIRA ALERT Song playing as Chris and Officer Gucci explore the school: “Innocent Moon” (Silent Hill 3 Original Soundtrack)
00:50:25 The Boiler Room I’ve always wondered… what was Cybil doing in the boiler room of the school by herself before she pulled Rose inside…?
00:50:30 The Lost Souls The little cockroach creatures that follow Pyramid Head around like he was their master, pouring forth in front of him and devouring anything in their path, are said to be representations of all the lost souls of Silent Hill – demonic creatures that symbolise each Silent Hill townsperson lost in the great fire.
00:51:50 Door Rape *GRAPHIC* In terms of Pyramid Head symbolising or being a metaphor for anything, Christophe Gans has stated that in this scene he represents male violence as a whole, and in particular this entire scene is a symbolic representation of rape. The knife thrusts represent the women being raped psychologically, while the cockroaches that pour inside the hole in the door represent sperm. The fact this takes place in the school also reverts back to the fact this is the place Alessa was raped by the janitor when she was 9 years old.
AKIRA ALERT Song playing when Cybil and Rose are in the boiler room: “One’s Weaker Self” (Silent Hill 3 Complete Soundtrack)
00:52:00 Never Do a Tango with a 9 Foot Knife Laurie Holden admits in an interview that she never thought she would be performing any of her own stunts in this film, and certainly thought the scene in the boiler room would be making use of her imagination. The filmmakers had other ideas – instead thrusting a giant 9 foot knife towards actresses Laurie holden and Radha Mitchell, who had to react in a perfectly timed and overly rehearsed dance routine in order to avoid the blade from swiping them. The blade was thrust towards them at a very slow speed, which then doubled, and doubled and doubled until it reached the appropriate speed for the scene.
00:52:00 Don’t Blink or I’ll Shoot You Christophe Gans asked actress Laurie Holden not to blink whenever she was shooting her gun. It is very difficult for anyone, actor or shooter, to not blink when they fire a gun – and Laurie Holden was no exception. She wasn’t able to do it. So in post production the visual effects artists freeze framed every scene where she fired her gun, so her expression never changed, giving the subliminal “blink and you’ll miss it” effect that she is a tough gal who doesn’t blink when she shoots.
00:54:30 “What the f**k is going on?” The darkness has gone, and Cybil and Rose emerge from the boiler room – unsure of what has just happened. It is at this point in the film that Christophe Gans decides to change the narrative of the film. The film leaves the simple narrative of the video game – following clues etc. and begins a more complex narrative that tries to explain what the town of Silent Hill is really about with the intervention of other characters (Anna, Dahlia et al.).
00:55:13 Re-Shoot The scene where Chris DaSilva is driving away from Silent Hill, shot from the backseat of his car, was filmed during the re-shooting of the film. The filmmakers finished editing the entire film, and then several months later they did some re-shooting of scenes and also the “splinter unit” went back to film closeups of hands opening door handles etc. This scene replaces a “clumsier” one which took place in the Silent Hill library, where the character looked for clues about what had happened at Silent Hill.
AKIRA ALERT Song playing as Rose and Cybil make their way through town towards the Hotel: “Maternal Heart” (Silent Hill 3 Original Soundtrack)
00:55:50 The Swooping Crane Part Two Another terrific example of the cinematography in this film mirroring the bleak, wide open expanse of this deserted town. The swooping crane camera shot of Rose and Cybil running through town towards the Grand Hotel gives me goosebumps every time I see it.
00:56:15 The Grand Hotel The Grand Hotel is owned by the Brethren – “To further their secret agenda of killing those who disagreed with them, the cult built a secret passageway into the building next door, connected through Room 111” (source: Silent Hill Wiki)
“This building was evil, it had every kind of nastiness inside of it, and was going to be demolished eventually. Once upon a time it was an actual hotel, and we could only use the corridors which had originally been shopping arcades. We had to have these sections professionally cleaned and have all the toxic matter that was inside removed.” – ANDREW MASON, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
00:57:15 Orphan Annie on Crack We are introduced to another female character inside The Grand Hotel, Anna – a feral child and part of the Brethren who is fighting Dahlia for scraps of food. Again, Anna’s inclusion in the film is another catalyst to move the story along – another female character to help the narrative unfold and let the audience understand what the town of Silent Hill is really about. The character of Anna is said to be loosely based on the character of Angela Orosco from Silent Hill 2. Her anxious and awkward nature mirror Angela’s character, and like Angela (who has a knife taken from her by the character of James in the game), Anna gets a knife taken from her by Rose.
Anna’s original first appearance was meant to be outside of the hotel. Filming and production began on this scene, but was halted halfway through due to Roberto Campanella not being on set that day. More of this scene can be read in my article about Silent Hill Deleted Scenes HERE!
AKIRA ALERT Song playing when Cybil discovers the painting in Pigeon Hole 111: “Rising Sun” (Silent Hill Original Soundtrack)
Radha Mitchell makes an interesting observation in “Path of Darkness: The Making of Silent Hill“. She notices how all the women in the film are in this dreamlike world – running around searching and hiding and discovering things inside the other-realm of Silent Hill, while all the men are grounded in reality.
END OF PART TWO