Can a video game become a decent film?

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Silent Hill is another of a long line of video games that have been adapted into a film. Themes of horror and mystery are present in the game series, so on a genre level an adaptation would make sense. Unfortunately, the Silent Hill series is also one of the most abstract as far as narrative goes. The filmmakers had to not only tackle a seemingly impossible medium switch, but also to do it with one of the least accessible narratives.

Are they successful? Yes, and no. There are elements of the film that are interesting. The acting is better-than-average, particularly for an adaptation. The set designs are excellent—one of the best aspects of the film. On the other hand, the CGI is not aging well.

The story is interesting in several areas. A child being beckoned to a destroyed town with a dark secret. A mother desperately searching for said child while trying to figure out what is happening. The individual narrative threads are interesting, but pulling them together into a fully coherent story is not as successful.

Part of the film’s limits is that it is being adapted from a videogame. The videogame series is tense and frightening because you as the player do not know what is happening and must figure it out on your own. The movie switches this to the audience watching characters struggle to figure everything out. The passivity changes the dynamic and raises the narrative stakes. An error that I think videogame films make is that they are uncertain of their audience.

Are these films meant for people who have played the games or not? What does that distinction mean? Which audience would give more money? To me, it seems that videogame films try to cater to both audiences, which leaves both groups slightly unsatisfied. This film (and many others) give nods to the game through camera angles or specific events—these will appear as empty gestures to anyone not familiar with the game. Alternatively, the somewhat lengthy exposition is not needed for the gamers. The film should have stuck with a more specific audience choice.

At the time of this writing, the new Assassin’s Creed film has not yet released. I am not certain whether I will see that one in theaters, but I do believe there can be a great videogame film. As videogames become more complex and their narratives more nuanced, the transition to film seems to be common sense. We shall see in the future.

For Silent Hill, if you’re a fan of the series, you will likely enjoy the film. I don’t know how much a newcomer to the series can realistically get out of the film. Some creepy moments, good acting and sets, and an interesting (albeit somewhat predictable and troubled) story await viewers. 5/10

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