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Blu-Ray Review: Scream Factory’s Silent Hill (Collector’s Editon)

Adam reassesses what is the best video game adaptation; Christophe Gans’ Brilliant Silent Hill.  The new edition comes from the fine folks at Scream Factory loaded with extras.

The Film

Christophe Gans has not had the career he should have. After The Brotherhood of the Wolf and Silent Hill, he should have been offered all the genre films that Hollywood had to offer.  He did not but we still have Silent Hill arguably one of the most underrated horror films in the last 15 years and one of the best Video Game Adaptations.

Rose (Rahad Mitchell) and Christopher (Sean Bean) have an issue with their adoptive daughter sleepwalking into dangerous territories (e.g. cliffs, highways) all the while mumbling about a town called Silent Hill.  Rose determined to figure out their young ward’s issue goes to Silent Hill. Tragedy, horrors, monsters, witches and what could possibly be hell awaits not just Rose and Sharon (Jodelle Ferland) but Motor Cycle Cop (Laurie Holden).  Will these three women find a way out of Silent Hill or is there no escape from a fate already written.

Gans working from a Script by Roger Avary creates a brilliant milieu and atmosphere throughout the film that is hard to argue isn’t a hell-worthy nightmare.  As the film begins to introduce us to the town and remaining citizens of Silent Hill, Avary’s script and Gans’ direction keeps everything slowly moving revealing small bits as the world literally melts away before our very eyes.  Once the nightmare begins nothing stops it, there is a sense of dread that feels like something out of Dante’s Inferno put onto the screen.

The artfulness that the imagery that is conjured up by not just Gans and Avery but the work of the Effects crews (both Make-Up and Visual FX) is astounding.  The film feels less like it is referential to cinematic versions of Hell but rather those seen by Master Painters Bosch and Bruegel. How Gans and Co. got away with some of the imagery is still astounding in 2019.  Furthermore, how Gans uses these images, not as some sort of “shock and awe” but as apart of the fabric of the story gives them that extra envelope-pushing that is understood by the greats that work in Horror.

It is not just the bleak ending that makes Silent Hill so powerful.  Rather its the time and care that Gans has put into not only the imagery which is striking and designed to tell some of the heavier expositions, especially at the end. The power comes from the strong work done by the actors who take the material with some heft.  With the work done here, it’s shocking that more did not fall in love with Silent Hill and hasn’t formed a cult following. Hopefully, this will change with this release.

The Transfer

This HD Master Approved By Director Christophe Gans is nothing short of beautiful.  The film shot on dual formats (both Digital for the Night Scenes and 35mm for the Grey Daylight Scenes) could have been a recipe for disaster.  The transfer feels apart of one cohesive whole rather than looking like it was shot on multiple formats.  This is something of a norm nowadays but as the film was shot using the same Cameras as Michael Mann’s Collateral, this could have been very problematic as the Sony Viper (the camera in question) had issues with Video Noise when ramping up the contrast levels.  It does not appear to be a problem here and the image we get here is as “filmmic” as the 35mm. One can see why this particular Master was approved by Gans as its a great representation of the film itself.

The Extras

They include the following:

Disc One:

  • Audio Commentary With Cinematographer Dan Laustsen
  • Theatrical Trailer

The New commentary by Cinematographer Dan Lausten is a solid technically minded commentary.  It’s a great listen to anyone that’s wanting to explore the difficulties of filming this film.

Also included on the first disc is the original theatrical trailer that runs about 2.5-minutes.

Disc Two:

  • Interview With Director Christophe Gans
  • A Tale Of Two Jodelles – An Interview With Actress Jodelle Ferland
  • Dance Of The Pyramid – An Interview With Actor Roberto Campanella
  • Interview With Makeup-Effects Artist Paul Jones
  • Path Of Darkness: The Making of Silent Hill – A Six-Part Documentary
  • The Making Of Silent Hill Vintage Featurette
  • On Set Interviews And Behind-The-Scenes Footage
  • Photo Galleries – Still Photos And Posters

The Interview with director Christophe Gans is broken into three interviews sections.  In lieu of a commentary by the director, this is the next best thing as Gans discusses everything you would expect him to discuss the making of the film, about his theories on film, and his history in the industry.  Taken as the 72-minute whole it is one of the best interviews of the year.

  1. The Origin of Silence – is a 26-minute interview where Gans discusses his origins as a French Director steeped in both American and Asian genre films.  He touches upon all his films including NecronomiconCrying Freeman.  The detail in which he talks about Necronomicon is great as it is a film that has been rarely seen in American post-1993 release. He talks about the troubles of shooting Crying Freeman in Canada with mostly TV-Trained crew. Gans also discusses with honesty about the budget, filming, and commitment it took to make Brotherhood of the Wolf.  The director even manages to discuss Producer Samual Hadidia, who recently passed away. Gans proves himself to be quite the Pop Culture ingester as he discusses Manga, OAV, and Video Games with a huge amount of authority and how this all relates to his adaptation to Silent Hill.
  2. Adapting a True Work of Art – is the 21-minute continuation of the Gans conversation. Beginning with a very apt elaboration on the difference between making French films and making American films Gans goes deep into making and adapting Silent Hill from videogame to actual film.  Gans discusses with all honesty he felt Silent Hillthe video game was a true piece of art and approached it with the sort of respect one would if considering a work of art.  Again, Gans is very honest about the process of filmmaking and the idea of compromise giving some great examples of the lunacy that he went through on Silent Hill and Crying Freeman. Additionally, he discusses fan reaction and fandom in general at the time and now how it’s gotten worse.  He also has some great works of advice (none of the rabid will listen) to the overblown reactions.  The most interesting aspect of the interview is the time spent discussing how he adds to his “toolbox” by ingesting not only film but art, in general, going as far to name drop Ridley Scott as an example how attention to detail and it’s relation to art in all its forms helps him. Finally, how this evolution from film to film lead to referencing contemporary art (painting, sculptures) in all its forms in Silent Hill.
  3. Delivering the Nightmare – is the 25-minute conclusion of the Gans interview. Gans discusses how his dictum about wanting to make a film with heavy influences to Modern Art let him to Del Toro’s crew on Mimic specifically Production Designer Carol Spier and Cinematographer Dan Laustsen.  How important it was to get crew that was more than technicians but rather true artists and as he puts its “intellectuals”.  The most interesting fact of the entire interview is that Lausten at Gans insistence was shot Video Night Scenes and 35mm of day scenes, which came out of Gans watching Michael Mann’s Collateral. Gans also discusses at length his work with Spier on the sets.  The best part of the interview is hearing Gans speaking of how films are similar to whispers of the dead and how he is going to watch Larry Cohen’s films, as he just heard of his passing, and how Cohen’s voice is one he would like to hear. Gans discusses the release and the release of the film.  Again, Gans is very honest about this process even discussing as a side tangent about Tony Scott receiving 20-pages of notes after the first screening of Domino. Finally, Gans discusses albeit briefly why he never was a part of the Silent Hill sequel.

A Tale Of Two Jodelles – is a new 26-minute interview with actress Jodelle Ferland.  Beginning with her life as a child actor, Ferland goes into her childhood and her mother getting her into acting at the age of 2-years-old going into commercials and moving into memories of the show Cold Squad.  The actress also discusses rather than mentors just learns from every experience and actors, and her experiences on Silent Hill, both making the film and the videogame which is the bulk of the interview.  The actress recalls a great deal for someone who was a 10-year-old at the time.

Dance Of The Pyramid – is a new 37-minute interview with dancer-turned-actor Roberto Campanella.  Beginning with his rough childhood moving to his beginnings as a dancer in Rome and then moving on from Dancing and Choreography and eventually Movement Choreography.  The interview is quite thorough on Campanella’s entire career, not just Silent Hill, stories about his early life, an Olympic Skater who offered him a chance to Choreograph, and also of course Silent Hill.

The Interview With Makeup-Effects Artist Paul Jones is actually a two-parter;

  1. Monster Man – is a 30-minute interview with Jones which is more of a full-form interview about Jones’ childhood and eventual work within the Make-Up Effects world.  The interview goes into detail about how Jones was hired by Bob Keene, working with Keene (the make-up effects guru from Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II), and the work that he did on films such as Hellbound: Hellraiser 2, Nightbreed, Hellraiser 3HardwareWishmaster, Bride of Chucky, and what its like to be a make-up tech.  Anyone that has an interest in Make-Up work will definitely want to watch this interview.
  2. Silent Hill – is the 25-minute follow up to the first interview with Jones.  This time the Makeup-Effect Artist discusses the work done in Silent Hill.  This is by far the best featurette on the disc because of the Behind-the-Scene stills, B-Roll footage and level of detail that Jones brings to discussing the effects work he and his group did for the film. Jones discusses how Patrick Tatopoulos worked with his group as the Creature Effects Designer. Great details are revealed like only having 6-weeks of prep to do the additional work he was hired to do and lose money on it. The designs and work they actually did; the burning of a character, the nurse costumes and makeup (Tatopoulos designed the faces).  His preference for Latex Rubber over Silicone and why. The creation of the Icon Pyramid Head monster, which was shockingly simple. There isn’t anything that is not covered, a fascinating interview even if one isn’t into make-up work.

Path of Darkness: The Making Of Silent Hill – is a 6-part making-of documentary ported over from the original DVD Release of Silent Hill. There is not an aspect that isn’t covered in ORIGINS (9-minutes), CASTING (10-minutes), SET DESIGN (10-minutes), STARS AND STUNTS (8-minutes), CREATURES UNLEASHED (13-minutes), and CREATURE CHOREOGRAPHY (12-minutes). The handsomely produced making-of is given full access to the production which gives this vintage making-of a unique feel that’s more akin to what was produced for the Lord of the Rings special editions. It’s that beautifully produced. The only minor quibble is the lack of a PLAY ALL option.

On Set Vintage Featurette is a 14.5-minute EPK style making of. Much of the footage is reused for the previously discussed full-on making of.

Around the Film Vintage Featurette is a 5-minute vintage EPK B-Roll interview footage from Stars, Gans, The Producers and various crews. This featurette does show some great clips of the Video Game if one has not seen it.

Rounding out the special features is a Photo and Poster Gallery.  The Photo Gallery runs 7-minutes with 90 production and behind the scenes stills and can be paused but not gone through individually. The Poster Gallery runs 3-minutes with 45 various posters from around the world and can be paused but not gone through individually.

The Final Thought

Scream Factory has outdone themselves with bringing Silent Hill to home-video. With a beautiful transfer and a wealth of extras, this is a contender for Top-Ten, End of Year lists.  HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!!!

Scream Factory’s Blu-Ray of Silent Hill is out July 9th

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