Silent Hill: The Games vs. The Movie

Twin Peaks has nothing on this place! Rod compares the Silent Hill movie to its video game inspiration. 

Silent Hill is a psychological survival horror game. It was given the film adaptation treatment in 2006, directed by Christophe Gans from a screenplay by Roger Avary. This article will take a look at the differences and similarities between the first Silent Hill game and the film version.

The protagonist of the original was a writer named Harry Mason. He had a wife who died prior to the events of the game, and they had adopted a daughter who they named Cheryl. Gans decided it would be better for the film adaptation to change Harry into a woman, as he felt the way Harry acted was more feminine than masculine, and it fit with the theme of maternity he wanted the movie to have. So, Harry Mason became Rose Da Silva (Radha Mitchell), but instead of her other half being dead like Harry’s wife was in the game, the character of Rose’s husband, Chris DaSilva (Sean Bean), was created. The addition of Chris was enforced by the studio as they wanted there to be more male characters in the movie despite the director’s reluctance, so his inclusion acts as a subplot with him looking for Rose and Sharon. Many critics felt that this thread was unnecessary, and while I think Bean (who might actually survive this movie) does a good job, I can agree with that sentiment.

Alessa Gillespie, in both the game and film, is the daughter of Dahlia Gillespie. Alessa was seriously burned as a child, but is still alive and now a woman. The difference between the two versions of Alessa is that the game’s version was burned as a result of a ritual that was performed in order to bring forth the rebirth of a god, whereas in the film, Alessa was burned in a ceremony to “purify” her soul that was performed by a cult. They believed she was a witch for not having a father. However, this ceremony is interrupted when the flames get out of hand, setting the church on fire and burning through Silent Hill as well.

The game’s Alessa was chosen to be the vessel through which a god would be born, which is why the ritual was performed upon her. During this ritual, Alessa split her soul to create Cheryl, who was adopted by Mason and his wife. In the seven years since this event, Alessa was being kept alive through magical incantations said by her mother Dahlia, and she is kept in this state of excruciating pain in order to lure the missing portion of Alessa’s spirit (Cheryl) back to Silent Hill so that their god could be born. However, Alessa interferes with this by reaching out to Cheryl and calling her to the town to reunite with her there, and in doing so killing herself to ensure that the birth of this god could be prevented. In the film, Alessa’s rage after being horrifically burned causes her soul to be split into that of Dark Alessa, who is implied to be some other entity in the scene where she says to Rose, “I have many names. Right now, I’m the dark part of Alessa.” Many years later, Alessa splits her soul into that of Sharon, who is adopted by Rose and Chris Da Silva from the Toluca County Orphanage, and then beckons for Sharon to return to Silent Hill seven years later.

In the Silent Hill game, there are two different versions of the town. One is a snowy fog world Harry finds himself in once he awakes in his jeep and looks for Cheryl. The second is the terrifying Otherworld, which was created by Alessa’s rage and pain combined with her psychic abilities. As you play the game, events will shift between between the two, and towards the end, there’s a placed called Nowhere that you must pass in order to find Alessa. In the adaptation, there are three distinct versions of the town. One is Silent Hill as it exists today, which is the version of the town that Chris visits in his search for Rose and Sharon. The second is Silent Hill covered in fog; the ash from the fire that swept through the town constantly falling from the heavens. This is the version that Rose and Cybil are caught in, along with the surviving cult members. The final version is the Otherworld, which in the film is created by Dark Alessa who is helping Alessa get revenge on the cult. As in the game, things shift between the fog-covered Silent Hill and the Otherworld, but with Chris being in the “real world” as these things take place.

The biggest character change from game to film is Dahlia Gillespie. In the former, Dahlia was directly involved in the events that lead to Alessa being severely burned, as she was a member of Silent Hill’s cult, and wanted to use Alessa to birth a god into the world. Therefore, she is a villain who manipulates Harry as he searches for Cheryl, and wants him to trap Alessa in the Flauros, a strange artefact (not in the film) given to Harry by Dahlia earlier in the game. In the movie, Dahlia is a more sympathetic character who didn’t want her daughter to be burned to death, but was manipulated into allowing the ceremony to take place. When Rose meets her, she shows Dahlia a locket with a picture of Sharon inside, which prompts Dahlia to claw at it and exclaim that it’s her daughter. Dahlia looks very different to her video game counterpart, as she has messy hair and dirty clothes, whereas Dahlia in the game is neatly dressed. Despite the fact that I feel this change was unnecessary, actress Deborah Kara Unger does an excellent job and it would have been interesting to see her play Dahlia as she was in the game.

Cybil Bennett is pretty much the same in both the video game and the movie, with both versions helping the main protagonist in their search for their daughters. The difference between the two versions is that, at first, Cybil is wary of Sharon’s intentions, whereas in the game she is an ally of Harry’s from the beginning. But the Cybil of the movie eventually realises what’s going on and she helps Rose to find Sharon, ultimately putting her life on the line and dying in the process. Actress Laurie Holden does a great job, conveying the toughness of the character quite well.

There’s Lisa Garland, who is a nurse at Alchemilla Hospital in the game as well as the film. However, in the film her role is minor and pretty much just a cameo. Rose never interacts with her at all, unlike Harry does in the game. In the latter, Lisa speaks to Harry a couple of times, but her fate is that she realises she’s like the other nurse monsters in the hospital, and she begins to bleed profusely before dying. The version of Lisa in the film had her eyes permanently damaged by Alessa in a moment of rage after she peeks inside Alessa’s tent, even though she was just curious and didn’t deserve the punishment of scarred eyes that constantly bleed. Ultimately, the only thing that is exactly the same in regards to Lisa in the film is the fact that she looks very similar, and is in charge of taking care of Alessa at Brookhaven Hospital (in the game it’s at Alchemilla, but Brookhaven is a hospital from the other Silent Hill titles).

A character from the game who isn’t present, and doesn’t have a counterpart in the movie, is Michael Kauffman. He’s a doctor and the director of Alchemilla. He was also in on the cult’s goal of birthing a god through Alessa. However, in two of the game’s endings, he does have a change of heart and actually shoots Dahlia. There are a few characters added to the movie who aren’t in the game, too, such as Christabella, who is the leader of Silent Hill’s cult. Christabella was the one who tricked Dahlia into letting the cult “purify” Alessa, and wants to also burn Sharon, once she realises that the latter resembles Alessa when she was a child. There’s also Anna, the daughter of one of the cult members, who meets a violent fate at the hands of infamous baddie Pyramid Head (more on him in a moment). Then there’s Thomas Gucci, whose character originates from a note you find in the game wherein it’s mentioned that an Officer Gucci was found dead under mysterious circumstances. In the film, this character accompanies Da Silva in his search for Rose and Sharon. There is a sub-plot in the first Silent Hill game’s story which is excluded from the film, and this was concerning a drug known as PTV, which was made from a plant indigenous to the area called White Claudia. Cybil mentions drug-trafficking in Silent Hill to Harry Mason. Lisa Garland was a heavy user of this substance, and Michael Kaufmann was a distributor of it at one point.

In the original, the intro sequence plays accompanied by the awesome Silent Hill theme, and shows Mason and his daughter driving on a highway in his jeep. Cybil has crashed her motorcycle by the side of the road. Harry also crashes when he swerves to miss what appears to be a girl standing in the middle of the road. When you begin the game, Harry wakes up in his crashed jeep and discovers that Cheryl is missing, before setting out to look for her. In the movie, this scene is altered so that Rose pauses at a rest stop. When she returns to her jeep, she discovers that the pictures Sharon were drawing have been scrawled over with disturbing images, and Sharon gets upset because she doesn’t know how that happened. During this commotion, Cybil comes over to check that everything is okay. Rose assures her that everything is fine and then gets into her jeep and drives away. Still suspicious, Cybil follows. Shortly after, Rose sees a girl standing in the middle of the road, swerves to miss, and ends up crashing her jeep. Later, she comes to and discovers that Sharon is missing, leading us to the town we all know and fear.

The monsters featured in the film were real actors performing on camera, but some of them were later enhanced with CG effects. There are monsters taken from Silent Hill 2, such as the armless man who spits acid at Rose and Cybil, and the Nurses as well. The Grey Child monsters are taken from the North American version of the first Silent Hill (due to censorship, the Japanese and European versions of these monsters were changed and they were renamed Mumblers), and cockroach-like insects called Creepers, which actually have faces on their underside. The only original monster created for the film was a janitor implied to have abused Alessa as a child, and while he was still human no less. The most iconic creation from the games, introduced in Silent Hill 2 and also used in Silent Hill: Homecoming, is Pyramid Head. He’s a tall, strong man with a giant pyramid-shaped head (well, duh), carrying a huge knife that he puts to good use. In Silent Hill 2, this monster was a manifestation of the main protagonist James Sunderland’s guilt and desire for punishment. But in Homecoming and the movie, though, Pyramid Head’s existence serves a different purpose.

The music in the first game and the releases up until Silent Hill: Downpour were composed by Akira Yamoaka. His work is one of the major aspects of the franchise, and in my eyes (or ears as the case may be), it is an integral part of the DNA of the series. When it comes to the film, composer Jeff Danna remixed and/or slightly altered those compositions originally composed by Yamaoka, adding other contributions which really complimented Akira’s work. One of my favourite tracks from Silent Hill 4: The Room is “Wounded Warsong,” and another is “Never Forgive Me, Never Forget Me” from Silent Hill 3, and both of these are used in the motion picture.

There are a lot of references in this movie not only to the first game but others in the series. One of these is that you can see the same dress that Mary Sunderland wore in Silent Hill 2 in a shop window. Many things in this film influenced later titles in the series, such as the inclusion of cult members in their miner uniforms in Silent Hill: Homecoming, as well as how the process of the shift into the Otherworld looks when it happens. The provocative look of the Nurses in this film was also applied to that monster type in Homecoming.

There was a sequel to this film called Silent Hill: Revelation. I haven’t seen this yet, but from the reviews I have read and vlogs I have watched, it looks like they struggled to tell a sequel to the first film along with an adaptation of Silent Hill 3. I think this was the wrong direction to take the sequel, and they should have just devised a completely original story instead. Overall, I feel that Gans’ Silent Hill movie is a pretty good game-to-film adaptation. The movie really captures the tone, feel and atmosphere of the source, and has an excellent rendition of the town that really evokes how it looks in the games. In fact, I would say it’s one of the strongest aspects of the movie and the reason to give it a revisit.

Rod Petrie

Gamer since 1988 at the age of five. First system was the Nintendo Entertainment System. Favourite retro systems - NES, SNES, N64, MegaDrive, PS1, and PS2.

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