Coming together six years after the release of “Silent Hill,” Christophe Gans’ admirably atmospheric adaptation of the beloved video game series, “Silent Hill: Revelation” is a clearly reverse-engineered, overlit, underthought follow-up that proves just how unflattering imitation can be.
Despite what the ending of the last film might have had you think, the young daughter of Rose and Chris de Silva (Radha Mitchell and Sean Bean, each reprising their roles) has returned to reality from the ash-covered hell of Silent Hill, and these days, she has adopted the cover identity of Heather (and is now played by Adelaide Clemens). Soon to be eighteen years of age, she’s blending in at her fifth town in the past six years when mysterious figures show up to kidnap dear old Dad and lure her back to Silent Hill for the sake of its cult of the damned and their nutty penchant for human sacrifices.
For those who don’t remember, the chief locale is a still-smoldering ghost town that tends to lapse at the whims of a local demon into a tetanus-breeding realm filled with faceless fiends, sound-sensitive zombie nurses, men with pyramid helmets toting around big blades, and other ghoulish developments. Worry not, though - this is all reintroduced in addition to a litany of other rules and exceptions that generally take the eeriness out of the supernatural elements at play. (“You can never leave the town! Unless you can!”)
Gans’ film may have been a rather literal adaptation of gameplay, with characters retrieving objects and memorizing maps, but it was never quite as insulting as what writer/director Michael J. Bassett (“Solomon Kane”) has cooked up. The often stiff dialogue can be boiled down to either ultra-obvious observations or pure exposition, and neither Clemens nor co-lead Kit Harington (never this bad on “Game of Thrones”) do the material any favors. Mitchell and Deborah Kara Unger make dutiful cameos, Bean sticks around for a bit longer than either of them, while Martin Donovan, Malcolm McDowell and Carrie-Anne Moss nearly embarrass themselves as, respectively, a private eye, a mental patient and a fanatical cult leader.
When the plot isn’t a transparent sequence of haunted houses (rusty school! rusty mall! rusty asylum! rusty amusement park!) populated chiefly by flickering lights and the franchise's pre-established boogeymen, it incorporates an ill-conceived mannequin monster that comes off like leftovers from “I, Robot”; a protagonist/antagonist relationship identical to that between Harry Potter and Voldemort; a magically vital medallion laughably dubbed “the seal of Metatron”; a spare villain whose eventual appearance owes a clear debt to “Hellraiser”; and a demoness decked out in Juggalo make-up.
The first “Silent Hill” may have been silly, but at least it was both direct and directed well, bringing its hellish landscape to convincing life at nearly every turn. The distractingly digital and dense “Revelation” conversely demonstrates what half the budget and twice the story can do to turn a fake nightmare into a real chore.