While there have been no great films based on video games to date, there has been a handful of decent ones. “Mortal Kombat,” “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” and the Jolie “Tomb Raider” films usually score fairly well on those lists, but one film that makes it frequently near the top is Christophe Gans’ “Silent Hill” from 2006.
It’s barely coherent and certainly frustrating, but it also is atmospheric, visually quite stunning and inventive at times with its horrific visions. Six years later, a sequel was ordered but without the involvement of Gans. Instead, the director’s chair was taken by M.J. Bassett (formerly Michael Bassett) – a British filmmaker known for her indie horror films like “Deathwatch” and “Wilderness” along with the James Purefoy-led film adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s non-Conan pulp hero Solomon Kane.
Unfortunately for Bassett, not only did the film have to satisfy both gamers and a wider audience, her work was handicapped from the start. Granted just 40% of the original’s budget, she had to craft a direct sequel expanding upon the conflicting storylines of the original movie whilst at the same time incorporating a direct adaptation of the third game in the series – which led to a whole lot of retconning.
The film tanked with critics and audiences and Bassett got fairly honest about the film’s failings on a recent episode of The Movie Crypt when she was asked if there was a film she worked on where she knew it wasn’t coming together:
“Well it’s Silent Hill for me, isn’t it? You know I went into it trying to make a certain kind of film and it just didn’t work. It didn’t fall together, pieces didn’t fall together, and that was partly me trying to second guess what my producer wanted. We’d made Solomon Kane together. You know, so I really loved this guy and I wanted to make a movie he liked. With Kane, it was like that’s my movie, it was like ‘F–k you I know how to make this movie,’ and I’m going to argue with you and I’m going to get what I wanted.
With Silent Hill I felt it was much more a collaboration, and by the way, I wrote it and directed it, so its failings are my failings. But in hindsight, I should have fought for a more personal kind of vision for it. But I couldn’t satisfy the gamers, I couldn’t satisfy the audience, it was one or the other. And then they made me shoot it in 3D, which is a horrifying format, I despise it! Two cameras, the whole thing. You couldn’t move the damn camera; you couldn’t put it in interesting places.
Adelaide Clemens and Kit Harington starred in the film which also saw the return of previous film actors like Radha Mitchell, Sean Bean and Deborah Kara Unger. Bassett admits she went into the project knowing it didn’t feel right and should have fought to make a darker and more esoteric movie. She also discussed the main problems filmmakers face when adapting video games:
“I can claim all these things now, I mean at the time you have to go ‘This is a great movie’ and you do all the press and you say how great it is. There’s a point where you feel your heart sinking a little bit. You go ‘I’ve just not got it right’ and I kind of know where it went wrong, but it went wrong so far back up the road. When I should have been saying these things, and fighting for this thing, and making it this more personal, tense, sexual, less accessible movie.
With Silent Hill the mistake I made, I think, was trying to be too true to the game plots. You know, it’s a valuable piece of material, the game owners own it, if you start fucking around with their canon they’ll come and get you. Game fans will come and get you. I like the games. So I wanted to make a game story, but that’s the mistake, it should have been the games are the games and the movies are the movies.
So with Silent Hill I had to make a sequel to the movie, so I had to take all Christophe’s story that he baked into it, but he deviated from the game, [so I] try and get back to the game and then make it accessible for a mainstream audience. It was just a nightmare dance and I couldn’t do it, so I’m very sorry to everyone who didn’t like the movie.”
The full interview can be heard at MovieCrypt. “Silent Hill Revelation” ultimately closed out a worldwide run with $52 million. No further sequels have been ordered, while the game series currently stands in limbo.