Every Saturday, Check the Reel features Trailer Trash, a close look at previews, trailer, and sneak peeks for films not yet released. What does the rest of the year promise for theatres and Netflix accounts? Which are the masterpieces? Which are the flops? Serbian Filmmaker reaches into the future and tells you what to expect from Hollywood’s up and coming.
The Silent Hill video games have nothing to do with the jump scares and “Aaaaah!” moments you see in modern horror. They’re much more quaint than their grotesque, fleshy imagery implies: journeys through the psyche disguised as physical thrill. In the namesake town, we learn about the main character’s mental states through the monsters they meet, the warps and contours of the architecture as the town descends into its hellish alternate form. Everything has a purpose: the mannequin legs tied to a bloody chicken represent the character’s repressed sexuality, or the father they never had, or their fear of commitment, or maybe they just had a bad childhood experience with chicken and mannequins.
My description doesn’t do the series justice. Neither did the 2006 movie, which like all movies based on video games mistook aesthetic for conceit. It viewed the video games passively, ignoring the self-evident reality that interactive media exists to be interacted with. Silent Hill the game unfurled over the course of fifteen to twenty hours, changing the story based on the gamer’s choices and all the subtleties of player-computer interaction, drawing attention to different playing styles, philosophies, and mentalities of the people who play it. Silent Hill cobbled together the games’ iconography – monsters, characters, music – into a freak show. “What creepy monster will we see next?” it asked when it wasn’t pontificating about the nature of motherhood and faith – understanding neither. Visually stunning, Silent Hill captured the look of the games, but then again they were never about superficial touches.
The film did well enough to justify a sequel, directed by Michael Basset instead of Christopher Gans, and it’s coming out this week after months of uncertainty when the film couldn’t find money for distribution. Its producers have promised a more “accessible experience” (Translation: “We promise not to fuck this one up”) and aside from a similar visual design and some returning actors (notably Sean Bean), Silent Hill: Revelations 3D features a younger teen protagonist and more thrills permitted by the 3D format. Advertisements have positioned this as the Halloween movie, and Universal Studio’s Silent Hill exhibition will also boost attendance.
But it’s not Silent Hill.
It doesn’t understand Silent Hill.
The thrills, screams, rings of fire around out-of-control carousels crowded with demon nurses have some basis in the video games, and the plot borrows copiously from Silent Hill 3, but the comparisons end there. Instead of an unbearable, growing anguish, melancholy that at short notice turns to dread, there’s only a race into chaos. None of the monsters have any basis in protagonist Heather’s psychology: the town has lost all layers of humanity and dreaded familiarity. It’s nothing now but “hell on Earth,” an empty label that makes a neat tagline. 3D demeans its psychology. Characters like Vincent (Kit Harington), a creepy librarian in the game, now a spunky romantic interest and James Franco lookalike, show us nothing of their fears, obsessions, insecurities, the thoughts that keep them up at night. I predict a roller coaster of a movie: quick, wild, a burst of adrenaline… Then the next day you won’t remember what it felt like.
Alfred Hitchcock is a myth. You can watch every movies, read all the literature on him, and still wonder what made cinema’s oddest genius tick. When you think of the fat man with the black suit and tight jowls, you’re seeing an image crafted personally by Hitchcock, tidied up and deftly presented by the screenwriters, producers, and actors he associated with. No director has skirted more openly with publicity while still defying it.
Hitchcock doesn’t care that it’s about a fiction. It embraces the Hitchcock who introduced Alfred Hitchcock Presents with a droll “Good evening…” and treated strangulation like a quotidian lunchtime affair. Anthony Hopkins doesn’t much resemble Hitchcock (aside from sharing his initials and private school upbringing). Then again he doesn’t have to. Hopkins adopts Hitchcock’s self-affectation to inhabit a similar aura, even if it has little basis in reality. Donning a fat suit, staring at the world with Buddhist tranquility, and speaking in a slow, calculated deadpan… this is as close as we’ll get to the Master of Suspense, and Hopkins manages the feat superbly.
The film is a celebration: it glorifies the making-of story behind Psycho as if, after forty years in the film industry, with enough money and prestige to put royalty to shame, Hitchcock was still the underdog and a rebel. I don’t know if that’s true or if the film intends to be factual. More interesting might be Hitchcock’s tenure with Hollywood baron David O. Selznick, mastermind of Gone With the Wind, who sparred and grappled with Hitchcock in a fight between two nation-sized egos. I would pay twice as much to see a film about Vertigo, the battle Hitchcock waged with his sexual impotence and duality on the big screen, or The Birds, a most horrible experience for actress Tippi Hendren when she inspired Hitchcock’s deepest, most toxic love (HBO plans to tell this story around the same time with The Girl, starring Toby Jones as Hitch). But, as biopics go, with the talent feeding into it and the promise of introducing a new generation to Hitchcock’s genius, Hitchcock has my guaranteed interest.
If there’s any potential for surprise, Helen Mirren’s turn as Alma Hitchcock, Hitch’s wife and collaborator since his earliest filmmaking days, hints that the film might explore her role in shaping her husband into an international icon. She was not a clinger-on by any means and matched Hitchcock in technical proficiency (she worked as screenwriter and film editor since she was 16); hers is a story, behind the myth of Hitchcock, that bears highlighting. Hollywood is a man’s game. The more films chip away at that prejudice, the more variety theatres will see in the future.
I… did not expect this. The Judd Apatow school of middle-class humor, obsessed with sex, scat, lazy men and the women who roll their eyes at them, has reached its logical conclusion with Movie 43. Originally titled Red Band – the only type of trailer that can describe the film – I’m assuming “43” refers to the number of vignettes in the movie. See, Movie 43 is not one narrative but a collection of short scenes built around SNL / Mad TV brand filth, grossness, and jokes about fisting iPods (really). The director’s chairs has been stretched to fit twelve men and women, five less than the number of writers, and as if to rub in that this is not a low-budget prank by the slackers across your street, the cast includes – I’m just going to list names off – Halle Berry, Kristen Bell, Gerard Butler, Hugh Jackman, Terrence Howard, Emma Stone, Uma Thurman, Justin Long, Kieran Culkin, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloe Moretz… Kate Winslet? Christ! Kate Winslet thought this was worth acting in?
I’m intrigued, honestly. The idea of a sketch movie is not new – Monty Python pioneered the format, Tarantino honed it, and for R/X-rated smut the “variety show” set-up has always been a cost-efficient means to titillate and offend – and the trailer isn’t funny: most the jokes boil down to “Boobs! Penis! Black people!” and you heard that enough in middle school. Still, the number of females listed in the credits, for a genre run by men, has me thinking. Could this be a more subversive film than trailers suggest? Another Dredd, adolescent on the outside, smart and scathing on the inside? I don’t know. With Kieran Culkin and Chloe Moretz, I want it to be decent; there’s a surplus of talent working here. And then there’s Brett Ratner. You need a lot of Oscar winners to balance Ratner.