The 2006 horror film Silent Hill immediately became a favorite of mine when I first saw it. As a long time fan of the video game series, I felt it totally captured the atmosphere of the games but also stood on its own as a tense and suspenseful horror film. Naturally, many “purists” of the video game series say it’s trash and ruined the storyline of the game. Kind of funny, because while I love playing the games for the immersive horror experience, the only problem I’ve ever had with them is that the plots are a convoluted MESS!
The movie actually untangles all the confusion and streamlines it, removing the thick fog of speculation: does the evil of Silent Hill really exist or was the main character dreaming? Was it all a physical manifestation of the dark side of the main character’s psyche? Was a crazy cult to blame for releasing the horror? Was the main character involved with a drug ring and simply tripping??? Or was it that pesky UFO that is a possible ending in each game in the series (an ending I’ve yet to ever get while playing)?
Actor Sean Bean played the husband of a blonde wife looking for her daughter in Silent Hill, so one night while flicking through the cable channels, I caught a glimpse of a film with Sean Bean as the husband of a blonde wife looking for her daughter. I was perplexed. It looked sort of like Silent Hill, yet things were…different. Was this an alternate reality Silent Hill, just like in the game???
No. In actual reality, it was 2005’s The Dark. Yes. Within a year’s time, actor Sean Bean pretty much played the same role in two very similar movies. But make no mistake. The Dark could practically be a Lifetime movie of the week compared to Silent Hill.
Let’s consider the similarities. Both movies open with cliff scenes, waves crashing on rocks below, a blonde mother chasing after her daughter following a road trip. The mom spends the majority of each movie calling the daughter’s name to the point of nagging. I’d stay lost too if my mother had been on my case that much. The daughter is all Village of the Damned/Children of the Corn-like even before the horror begins, so you can’t really understand WHY the mother loves her so much and doesn’t just let her fall into the hellish abyss for eternity, where the devil child clearly belongs. Both films involve some sort of wacky religious leader creating a cult mentality that involves sacrifice. There’s a frequent need for use of a flashlight to reveal gnarly visuals of decrepit rooms, eerie empty chairs, bathtubs of sludge…you know, when good rooms go bad. And then, there’s Sean Bean trying to bring his family back together but actually being pretty clueless as to the truth of what’s going on. And finally, both films involve mom ending up in some sort of alternate reality.
While Silent Hill takes place in, you know, Silent Hill, The Dark is set on a sheep farm on a mountainside overlooking the sea below. In fact, at times, The Dark feels like it’s borrowing visual and conceptual elements from The Ring. Considering The Dark was released a year before Silent Hill and is based on a book, I don’t think its parallels with the game adaptation are intentional, just REALLY coincidental. Like, freakishly coincidental. So freakishly coincidental that when Sean Bean was offered the script for Silent Hill, he probably exclaimed out loud, “WHOA. This is freakishly coincidental!”
There’s very little in the way of gore, scares, or horror in The Dark, so it won’t stick with you, it isn’t worth a rewatch, and is definitely not worthy of a blind buy for your horror collection. There are some “ooh, creepy!” moments involving a blonde girl appearing and disappearing (compared to the nightmarish creatures of Silent Hill), a couple of evil sheep shots that won’t even make you gag on your lamb chop dinner, but instead make you wish you were watching the all-out sheep gorefest Black Sheep, and even a classic library microfiche scene so mom can get to the truth while allowing viewers to get a better understanding of what’s going on. This is like an old school Amityville Horror exposition technique (aka: cliché).
My favorite part of the film is the ending. And I don’t mean when the credits role signifying the film is finally over. I’m talking about the twist on the mom stuck in an alternate reality twist. There’s one more final revelation that almost makes the whole movie worth watching. And the funny thing is, the DVD contains an “alternate ending” to the alternate reality ending (confusing!). Luckily, the better of the two endings was used for the final cut, because the unused ending would have taken the film from a passable time killer to “time to kill these filmmakers for wasting my time!”
If you’re ever flicking through the cable stations and you think you’ve entered Silent Hill, turn on your flashlight and take a closer look. Because you may have stumbled into The Dark instead. And there’s just not much to see there.