Can we talk about video games for a second? Yeah, I know this is a movie blog, but bear with me – I’m bringing it back around to all things cinema. Or, more specifically, one thing cinema, to be precise.
I’m no die-hard gamer (unless you’re talking the Age of Empires series or anything by LucasArts in the nineties), but one series that I have always had a passionate amount of time for is Silent Hill. The first game was released in 1999, and the series was quickly vaunted into deserved cult status – spin-offs, print stories, and movie adaptations, the whole nine yards.
While not every game in the series is perfect, I’ve still never played a game quite as viscerally unsettling and unpleasant as the episodes Silent Hill has to offer. Monstrously effective psychological horror that forces you as the player into the frenetic, deeply unwelcome driver’s seat, this is Bryan Fuller-esque psychodrama via Jacob’s Ladder monstrosities and alien dog joke endings that still make me laugh. For me, Silent Hill (particularly the first three games) are pinpoint-accurate representations of how brilliant character work and commitment to atmosphere can turn a throwaway survival horror into something that stays with you.
But the movie adaptations are what I’d like to talk about right now. Because they’re both, famously, total dreck: the 2006 movie adapted the first game and somehow seemed to dash by the complex, emotional psycho-horror at its heart to replace it with Pyramindhead (who doesn’t even turn up until the second game, grumble, grumble) tearing off the clothes/skin of nubile young ladyfolk. Revelations, released a few years later in 2012, slipped under the radar completely (as well as starring my mortal enemy, Kit Harrington), and deserves to stay that way.
The movies made an unwavering commitment to adapting the storylines of the games, cramming in the incongrous iconography of the series because they knew they couldn’t sell a movie without it, and in the process forgot that what made them so interesting was actually playing them and getting to deem the morality and fate of the characters at hand. And it’s always frustrated me that we haven’t seen a good cinematic version of Silent Hill, because honestly, it’s such a gloriously rich premise for a horror story: all you need to make a Silent Hill movie work is twisted character development, freaky monster design, and one, mysterious location to drive everyone, including the viewer, a little bit mad over.
And that brings me to The Void. Directed by Steven Konstanski and Jeremy Gillespie, and starring pretty much nobody you’ve ever heard of, it follows a small group of unlucky small-towners who share complex relationships with one another as they are trapped by a mysterious, advancing cult in a run-down hospital. It received mediocre reviews upon its 2016 release, and honestly, if it hadn’t been for catching sight of one of director Konstanski’s excellent pieces of special effects monster work in another movie, I might never have bothered with it.
But let me tell you: The Void is the Silent Hill movie that I’ve been waiting for. Okay, let me temper that a little: it, of course, has nothing to do with the Silent Hill franchise in any way. But, for addicts of the SH series like me, this is the cinematic experience that comes closest to capturing the deeply unsettling and visceral nature of the Silent Hill stories. There’s plenty more that you could attribute this movie’s various influences too, of course – Croenenberg, John Carpenter creature features – but from the moment the first gruesome and gorgeously-realized real-effects monster lumbered on to the screen, I knew that I had found the Silent Hill movie I’d been waiting for.
From the everyman lead (a small-town cop played admirably by Aaron Poole), to the bleak storyline, to the tortured, compelling characters, to the grim, otherwordly advance of whatever the Great Bad might turn out to be, The Void has all the calling cards of a great Silent Hill story without the reverence to the series that brought down the other movies. Tonally, visually, in quality and in story, this is the actual movie that does those games justice, a gorgeous and brilliant homage that finally brings to cinematic life the beauty and brutality of the SH video games.
I know that this probably seems like a strange article to some people, but I’m certain I can’t be the only one looking for a movie that captures the individual terror of the Silent Hill series in way the canon adaptations just couldn’t. And I feel like it’s my duty to let you know that that movie is out there, and it’s everything you’ve been waiting for. And it comes in the form of The Void.
By Louise MacGregor
(Header image via Inverse)