Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Musings on "Silent Hill"

I don't go to the movies that often. Even more rarely do I go to see a modern horror movie. Last night, I went to see "Silent Hill."
I'll do my best not to spoil it for you, but Silent Hill was one of many horror movies/ supernatural thrillers that doesn't really resolve all the issues in the plot. This works especially well when you have a film whose logic is so... absent. Now, don't get me wrong, I like a movie that messes with your head once in awhile, or has an unresolved ending that leaves you unsettled. In S.H.'s case, though, no one acts rational in this film! The initial premise is even irrational! A small adopted girl is having nightmarish sleepwalking fugue episodes in which she cries out about "Silent Hill." So her mother basically kidnaps her to drive cross-country to visit the ghost town of Silent Hill, since she apparently came from there. She's having nightmares about this place, and so you're gonna take her back there? I don't know... The end result is that, even when the ending doesn't seem quite rational, it's not as shocking as it should be, since nothing in the movie is rational!
What is unsettling to me, however, is not the eerie sound work, creepy sets, and gruesome special effects. What disturbed me is the subtext of the film, in its commentary about conservative Christianity.
***Possible spoilers ahead!***
Central to the the plot is an extreme rightwing religious group--a sort of Pentecostal Holiness Puritan Witchburning group. The leader of this group is a woman played by Alice Krige (who I remember best as the Borg queen in Star Trek: First Contact,) who resembles, in actions and dress, Pentecostal evangelist Kathryn Kuhlman. I don't know if that was intentional or not. In order to "purify" their community, and so avoid what they believe to be the impending apocalypse, they burn a young child who they believe is a witch, at the stake. This took place in the 1960s, I gathered--maybe the 40s. It was hard to tell in the grainy flashback sequences. Apparently, people remember in low-quality film stock.
Christians are depicted here as continuing to carry out the activities of our Puritan ancestors, hiding from the world in our church buildings and burning witches or whatever else we do not understand. Implied in the movie is that we are still, metaphorically, burning witches. Every time we speak out against homosexuality or abortion or other immoral practices, we are "burning witches" out of fear, because we "don't understand" those practices!
Right! It has nothing to do with the fact these things are condemned by the Bible--even the Jewish "Old" Testament! It's all about irrational fear of the unknown!
Ironically, God is utterly absent in this picture. Ghosts and demons seem to run rampant, and those who claim to follow God are fanatical wackos, who, while occasionally quoting from Revelation, never bother to cite any of the rest of Scripture to back-up their "looney" ideas. One would think that God would at least sit in judgment on these nut-burgers who claim to represent him. But, no. They are judged by demons and the ghosts of their victims. (Perhaps there is something Biblically-orthodox about this, after all. Judgment is, for the most part, reserved for a future time in the Bible.)
I give Silent Hill a P.O. rating, for "Pretty Offensive" to Christians. (You thought it would stand for something else, didn't you?)

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