Silent Hill Movie DVD/BluRay featurettes
Path of Darkness : Making Silent Hill
After receiving their copies of the movie script each actor had a different reaction upon their first read through. Radha Mitchell (Rose Da Silva) couldn’t get through the entire script on her first attempt when she tried to read the script alone and at night. Mitchell could only get through ten pages before she became too creeped out and had to put it down and was only able to finish reading through in little doses within the safety of the afternoon sun. While the script put the film star on edge her costars had less trouble diving in. Deborah Kara Unger (Dahlia Gillespie) and Laurie Holden (Cybil Bennett) found the story absolutely fascinating, Unger described it as “Alice in Wonderland meets Dante’s Inferno” and Holden found it too riveting to put down. Sean Bean (Christopher Da Silva), on the other hand, found himself bewildered by the contents and wondered who could come up with such a story like Silent Hill!
Gans’s first experience of Silent Hill came through the same source as most fans he played the first installment of the Silent Hill series on the Playstation. Gans is a huge fan of the game and after finally gaining permission to make the adaptation and inspite of Silent Hill’s protective fan base deemed it necessary disassemble and reassemble the game plot to make it into a good movie. Gans and his writers did resolved to keep the game’s original spirit intact and he believes it has been accomplished by continuing to “bring into the foreground the background story” while his star Mitchell felt it is shown through how the movie and game both explore “the boundaries of reality.”
The spirit of the original game is also felt through the recreation of game camera movement and angles though out the movie. These recreated shots are so uncanny it’s like the audience is once again controlling Harry Mason through the foggy streets of Silent Hill. Unfortunately even though the shots were recreated the character of Mason Mason was cut in favor of a female lead. Gans thought the simple motive of a mother loving her daughter would fit better for the movie so the film’s theme became a comparison between “Who’s a good mother [and] who’s a bad mother.” In addition to revamping Harry’s role Gans attempted to make each film character “emotional and vulnerable” as well as “iconic.” As a result original game antagonists like Dahlia (and others like her) operated in a “more [morally] grey than black” area.
There were many similarities and differences between the movie and the video game, but Gans argues that neither can really re create the feel of the other since “A game is a game, and a film is a film.”
When casting for the Silent Hill movie, Gans decided to go against the big Hollywood adaption norm by using actors from independent films and give Silent Hill a “different quality.” A mostly female cast was also used to help the audience focus on the idea that males were grounded in reality and females were trapped in fantasy nightmares. According to Laurie Holden (Cybil Bennett), this female-driven set fostered a “very playful environment.”
While casting for the movie Gans had specific characteristics in mind for each central character. In Rose it was important that her actress could show “vulnerability but strength and determination [as well]”.The audience had to feel for her in during her fear and her empowering moments and notice her increasing strength throughout the film.
While Rose gained strength throughout the movie her husband, Christopher, unfortunately stayed in a constant state of hopelessness. The actor had to play the role with a “desperate stare” throughout the film but when the movie stopped rolling, he would change completely.
As for Cybil’s character Gans felt her actress needed to be strong and authoritative, yet empathic. It was important for the audience to really feel bad for her fate in the end. Laurie Holden describes her character Cybil as having duality who is strong and yet misunderstood.
Deborah Kara Unger , who plays Dahlia Gillespie, has had a relationship with Gans for many years and jumped on the chance to work on his latest film. According to Radha Mitchell (Rose), Unger’s Dahlia characterization was the result of Unger’s own investment into her character. Unger herself said as she was preparing for her role she visited many websites and the comments from gamers on there were a big influenced her characterization of Dahlia.
Although she plays Christabella, the strict and solemn big bad in the film, Alice Krige in reality, is quite enthusiastic and playful. Looking at the two you would wonder why Gans would cast such a lady to play the mean-spirited antagonist. Krige herself was confounded by the script and had to read it several times to get a better understanding of her character and even then she still had difficulty giving Christabella’s long winded speeches.
Unlike with casting the adults Gans worried about finding a girl that could not only play the duality of Sharon and Alessa, but also someone whose parents would allow her to play such a dark role. Luckily Gans spotted little Jodelle Ferland in Stephen King’s Kingdom Hospital television mini series. Ferland played quite a dark role as Mary, the ghost of a girl murdered and became a symbol of death during the entire series. When approached by Gans and the the Alessa character explained Ferland happily took on the role claiming she “always wanted to play a devil.” Costars on the set were amazed by Ferland’s ability to go from herself and into the Alessa character, between happy and dark like a switch.
Set Design wrote:
One of the goals of the set designers was to present a feeling of enclosure throughout the entire film. This was a little difficult at times because some sets required multiple designs to depict the present day Silent Hill, Silent Hill as it was 30 years ago, the Foggy World and the Otherworld of Silent Hill. These multiple set designs had another function as well, the age and history of Silent Hill was stressed in the foggy world to show “benign malevolence” and the Otherworld filled with blood and rust was meant to show a slow contamination the entire town by the end of the film.
Many Silent Hill outdoor scenes were all shot in the town of Brantford located in Ontario, Canada. During filming of Silent Hill in 2005 Brantford was going through a major renovation which allowed the set designers to play with the town as they wished. A perk of this freedom was being able to use large hoses to spray and cover entire streets and buildings in ash.
Even though they had an entire town to play with it was necessary for a few sets to be built by hand. One such set was the road where Rose has her car accident in the movie. It took a total of eight weeks to build a mountain and pave the road but it was important that the crew could control the fog themselves with fog machines instead of relying on the use of CGI to add it in later. Another set that required hand building were the stairs leading up to the church. Set designers were unable to find a satisfactory location to shoot so they built the stairs themselves and later placed them outside the church in post production.
For the church building an old factory location was used and a lot of work went into setting it up for the movie. Using an old Amish meeting hall as a basis designers spent eight weeks putting together the interior of the church. Three of the eight these weeks were spent by local artist, John Fraiser who worked nights to paint the huge mural within the church while the rest of the church set was built during the day. Fraiser used crew and actors as inspiration for the faces in the mural and you can see a strong resemblance to Dahlia and Christabella’s faces who were used as inspiration for the woman burned alive at the center of the painting. The painter wasn’t really trying to imply that the Dahlia or Christabella character were being burned but hoped the look would imply that the woman was some sort of old ancestor of either.
In general it was important that the church didn’t look too Christian (why? Did they say?) Additionally, the pulley system used to hang the miners’ outfits were inspired by the real storage devices found within the old factory ( or were these pullies found somewhere else?). When shots of the normal church were completed the set was ripped apart and wood was burned to create a “fire aftermath” look used in the Hotel scene (Is this correct? The only “burned out” scene I remember is that room behind the painting in the hotel) which set designers claimed was the dirtiest set of them all.
Out of all the sets Midwich Elementary was Jodelle Ferland’s (Sharon/Alessa) favorite. A real all girls’ school was used but the real school’s layout was disregarded in the film. Rooms that looked connected really weren’t and all the corridors were shot to look like they laid out differently.
All the Midwich school scenes were shot in chronological order and all the walls were repainted with a release agent underneath the coats of paint. This was done so after the clean and new looking school was all shot for the past flashbacks the set designer could simply peel the paint and remove tiles for the dilapidated version Rose investigated in the in the foggy Silent Hill.
The school set actually worked double duty for the film. For the hospital two sections of the school main corridors were revamped into the basement of the Alternate Hospital with the elevator built separately. All in all, the final hospital set was described as “a visual feast” by those in charge.
Stars & Stunts:
Rose (Radha Mitchell) is supposed to be a “normal person in an abnormal world”. As such, she is put through lots of things that require abnormal actions the required some stuntwork by the actress. One problem arose for the crew when Mitchell’s clothing would shred whenever a scene required Rose to be dragged across the floor. To solve this problem a skid plate was modeled to Mitchell’s body so it was possible to drag Mitchell as many times as needed without the need to change or repair her costume. One of Mitchell’s greatest stunts involved Rose’s leap to Dark Alessa over a deep pit in the Grand Hotel. Mitchell watched her stunt double jump across the pit first and the followed by mimicking the double’s movements. Although Mitchell was strapped to a safety harness she says the fear seen in Rose’s face during the film is very real because she had to make the leap herself on film.
One of Mitchell’s easier stunts involved dodging Pyramid Head’s blade swings with Laurie Holden who plays Cybil Bennett in the Alternate Midwich Elementary. The blade was swung slowly and the speed was slowly increased to maximum speed as both actresses bobbed and weaved in fashion both described as “playing limbo.”
Rose’s character was not the only one who had to perform stunts Laurie Holden, who plays Cybil Bennett, found herself performing quite a few stunts of her own. One of her major stunt work involved her fight with the miner men outside the hospital elevator. Holden lamented that the miner actors had it a little easier with costumes padded with 1.5 inch thick metal while she had nothing but her short sleeved cop uniform to protect herself. With her lack of protection Holden found new scratches and bruises daily while filming that scene. The minor scrapes Holden suffered from her battle with the miners was nothing compared to the stunt later in the film where Cybil was hung over a fire pit. The fire was extremely hot and since she was really tied to a ladder and suspended over real spikes and fire she was understandably quite nervous filming the scene.
While creating the monster designs for the Silent Hill movie it was important that the creatures were not seen as gory. Gans insisted this point to his staff and said “I don’t want disgusting. I want disturbing.” The creature costume designers then aimed for was, in their own words, “elegant”, “disturbing”, “slightly beautiful”, and yet “completely revolting” designs. The basis of these designs were of course the original creatures found in the Silent Hill game series and the monster make-up artist even said the games were used as “the Bible” in the design of each of his creations. Behind each creature design Gans wanted to give the impression to the audience that each creature was in pain and suffering and each had to look “real yet artificial”.
Radha Mitchell’s (Rose) favorite character is the Armless character with the Red Pyramid in close second. Made up of two lightweight costume pieces the suit for the Armless Man covers the actor completely. The costume consists of skin tight silicon legs, a plastic-foam ribcage and a big silicon “condom” about four feet long that completely covers the ribcage. Surprisingly, this costume doesn’t take the actor very long very long to get into and due to the costume’s construction the Armless Man had a few nicknames around the set including: “Trojan Man” due to the fact that the actor “looked like a gigantic condom walking around” and “had a big hole in his chest that shot acid”. This large hole had a manifold with a vent and hose that could be plugged into black menthosel (spelling?) made up of a food thickening agent mixed with water and black pigment. This menthosel could spray out of the Armless Man’s chest on cue. One major drawback of this costume however was the difficultly the actor had breathing in it so it was fitted with an air tube that came out of the back connected to a mouthpiece in the front of the suit.
For the Grey Child main design element was to emphasize the skin sliding backwards over the skull. The costume itself was made of latex and a silicon body suit with the hands and head glued onto the actress’s own. Overall the make-up took two and a half hours to complete every day. One interesting tidbit about this costume design is that it became necessary to install a flap during filming because the actress inside had to constantly use the bathroom.
The cast was quite excited when it was time for the Nurses to shoot their scenes due to the fact that it involved tons of identical women on set without faces. Like the other monsters the Nurses were based closely off the game and had their faces adjusted for expression via CGI. Twenty latex nurse costumes were made with zip ties and velcro included in their fastening since the costumes needed to be very tight on the girls. Radha Mitchell was promised one of these nurse outfits during filming but unfortunately never got one.
The Janitor’s costume had to be put on while he was on set and additionally, two casts were taken of the actor’s body and dressed for the set, including the one seen when Rose must reach into its mouth. The Janitor had artificial legs tied around his waist and were given bright green pants he called his “Kermit pants” so that they could green screen and cut out his real legs and give the impression that he was bending over double.
As far as Red Pyramid goes his design was hardly adjusted for any costume adjustments. The costume was made out of light material so the actor could carry the stuff for hours. Roberto Campanella, the actor for Red Pyramid, the Janitor and Colin, had artificial skin used for his chest that acted “like a second skin” and didn’t let his skin breathe. A five part prosthetic was blended into his skin, butt and legs that also had to be painted since Campanella couldn’t wear underwear while in costume. Getting all the prosthetics on took between two to three hours. Leg extensions were also created for Campanella so that Red Pyramid could stand just short of seven feet. The extensions consisted of a 15 inch heel with two metal strips on either side to give his ankles support. Since Campanella was not completely stable with his leg extensions when Red Pyramid “grabs someone by the bloody neck”, in the words of the cast, dummies were created for safety.
Roberto Campanella was not only played the Red Pyramid Head and Janitor he was also the choreographer for every creature in the Silent Hill. His talent as a long time dancer greatly helped him create unique and artful movements for every creature in the film. Out of all the creatures the consensus on set is that the Armless Man truely is a work of art. Michael Cota, the actor inside the Armless Man costume, had a body movement that was not only creepy that was so “smooth yet angular” that he captured the Armless Man’s movement without any choreography. Under Campanella’s instruction Cota incorporated many new movements in his Armless Man routine from jumping, and twisting to writhing on the floor. A lot of these movements were difficult to recreate while in costume because Cota’s movement and vision was heavily restricted. With his arms bound across his chest and trapped in total darkness every movement required a great amount of concentration and lots of step counting when he moved.
Yvonne Ng, the actress the grey children ,was picked instantly after her initial audition which she credits to her extensive background as a dancer. When asked to describe the movement behind the grey children she said the action was like that of “a tightrope walker” because she had to constantly use her arms for balance in costume while walking. Unlike Cota in the Armless Man costume, Ng could see a little bit out of the ear of the costume, but because her head had to constantly on the move she never had any reliable visibility. Since her costume blocked a lot of noise she and anyone talking to her had to shout to get to hear anything. Since Ng was rarely out of costume, Radha Mitchell (Rose) never has seen Ng in person.
Even though most of the creatures in Silent Hill had movement similar to their games counterparts the nurses’ look and movement were heavily based off their game models. Like the other creature the Nurse costumes did not lend itself to great visibility, in fact during filming of the hospital nurse confrontation of the nurse actresses accidentally punched Mitchell in the jaw instead of faking the hit!
When acting as the Janitor and Red Pyramid Head Roberto Campanella tried to be obsene for the former and “simple yet poetic” as the later. Since his movement was restricted while in the Janitor’s costume Campanella could only move his tongue to express the creatures obscenity. Red Pyramid had more freedom to replicate the movements of his game counterpart but the weight and design of the costume proved quite a challenge for Campanella to act in. The helmet itself weighed at least twelve pounds and on top of that he was required to carry a somewhat heavy sword. Since he could only view the floor with the helmet on balance and movement while in costume was rather difficult. Overall the Red Pyramid Head was a female fan favorite on the set due to Campanella’s naked bottom being revealed when ever he was in costume. This made Red Pyramid Head’s design “scary from the front but not scary from the back,” according to Radha Mitchell.
Silent Hill Ultimate Box [Limited Edition]
The Japanese DVD and Blu-ray release of Silent Hill. This ultimate boxset includes the movie, 2 bonus featurette discs with an hour making-of footage and an hour comparison between the movie and game series by the Konami staff, a Blu-ray disc with the original contents of discs one and two and finally a booklet with past games and movie information
Silent Hill Guide of Chaotic Town Book:
A paperback book that has Silent Hill movie and game information. Based on the limited English and pictures presented it seems to include:
- Strategy for Silent Hill 1-3: how to get the different endings and riddle solutions
- World of the Game Silent Hill: Overall description of Silent Hill 1-3, how the games work, character relations, creature index, item, weapon and save points
- World of the Movie Silent Hill: Character and story information and a section called “Contrast” which I think compares the game and movie.
Extras on the Dvd
- Path of Darkness: behind the scenes Making of Silent Hill feature that’s also on the American release
- Stars On the Set: Silent Hill 15 minute “Making of” shown on Starz with interviews with the cast, producers and director.
- Trailers – Silent Hill movie trailers and commercial spots
Truth of Silent Hill DVD
A cool Japanese only features dvd with:
- Silent Hill Town Map: An interactive Silent Hill town map. Clicking on the various locales plays a scene from the movie at that location
- Original Game: Game overview of Silent Hill 1 and 2, character relations, story, etc. Also contains videos of the Opening movies and Blooper Reel ending from Silent Hill 1 and opening movie from Silent Hill 2
- Game Vs. Movie: features side by side game and movie scene comparison, game and movie character comparison and game and movie creature comparison.
- Interview: Interview with Akira Yamaoka about the game and movie all in Japanese.
- Additional Products: Silent Hill Origins Tokyo Game Show trailer, Silent Hill Cage of Cradle Digital Comic Preview, Silent Hill Novel (1 & 2) trailer, and Silent Hill 3 trailer