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The Untold Truth Of The Silent Hill Franchise

After its release in 1999, the "Silent Hill" video game quickly rose to the top of the survival horror genre to be on par with other classic series like "Resident Evil." So, just like the other major franchise, it was only a matter of time before the utterly disturbing world of "Silent Hill" made it to the silver screen to shock moviegoers as much as the gamers before them.

Like most films based on video games, both "Silent Hill" and "Silent Hill: Revelation" have their major differences from the source material, yet the theatrical adaptations have successfully captured the essence of the original to fuel intense feelings of uneasiness, terror, and even outright disgust. A lot of dedication, research, and especially patience was required for the filmmakers to pull it off, but it was happily done by people who loved playing the games just as much as the diehard fans. Here are the inside stories behind the effort to convert one of the most horrifying video game series of all time into live-action spectacles of supernatural debauchery.

Directors Christophe Gans and M.J. Bassett are huge fans of the video games

In 2000, a year before the release of director Christophe Gans' French monster masterpiece, "Brotherhood of the Wolf," he played the first "Silent Hill" video game and was blown away. Not long after that, he began a conversation with his producer about adapting the survival horror game to film. Gans also admitted that "Silent Hill 2" is his favorite game, and when he eventually worked on the first film, it was clear to cast member Alice Krige that the director loved the source material.

In an interview with ComingSoon.net, Gans explained his strong interest in the franchise by saying, "For a long time, I wanted to make a horror movie, but it's difficult to come up with something really original. When I played 'Silent Hill' one, I had the feeling that it was actually something that I didn't see before on the big screen. It was completely original."

Likewise, M.J. Bassett, who helmed the sequel, "Silent Hill: Revelation," is also a huge fan of the video game franchise. Not only has the director admitted she loves the games, but her earlier WWI-themed horror movie, "Deathwatch," was influenced by the highly popular survival horror series.

Christophe Gans struggled for years to get the film rights

After wrapping up production on his film, "Brotherhood of the Wolf," Christophe Gans was desperate for the film rights to "Silent Hill" since he was greatly impressed by the game. However, the process to get approval from Konami was a struggle, to say the least, because the Japanese studio was so protective of its intellectual property. The one thing the director had going for him, though, was the fact that even major studios like Paramount and Miramax — as well as big names like Tom Cruise and Sam Raimi — were also being snubbed, so Gans persisted as long as there was a chance to make the film (via ComingSoon.net).

When asked by ComingSoon.net if it was hard to obtain the rights, the director answered emphatically, "Yes, it was extremely difficult, because the game is Japanese, and the Japanese people aren't always willing to make deals. Sometimes, they can wait months, and in many cases, they wait years on these games. We were chasing the rights since the beginning, and we had no answer. We were sending tons of messages, emails, and letters and no answer."

After years of failed attempts, it was not until Gans changed his approach that he finally broke through. He explained, "Basically, I did a note of intention in video. I shot myself speaking to the camera, explaining why I wanted to do so badly this game on the big screen, and it was 37 minutes. I put Japanese subtitles, and I sent it to Tokyo; two months after, we had the rights."

Christophe Gans first wanted to adapt Silent Hill 2 instead of the original game

Christophe Gans has publicly voiced his preference for "Silent Hill 2" more than once, so it only makes sense that he would want to make his favorite video game into a film. In an interview with 1UP, the director explained, "When we decided to do 'Silent Hill,' we wanted to do the second game. It was very natural, since that game is the favorite of every fan, and it's the one with the most beautiful world, and it's the most emotional one of all four. Every gamer who finished the game knows what I'm talking about — it's a very tragic and romantic game, and it's a beautiful adaptation of the myth of Orpheus — going to hell to bring back Eurydice."

On the other hand, Gans realized pretty quickly that there was no way to completely skip the first game because it delved into the disturbing mythology of the town of Silent Hill, which is the most important part of the series. The director then decided to compromise by making the movie look like "Silent Hill 2" but not use the storyline. Instead, "Silent Hill" was based on the original game, with bits and pieces added from "Silent Hill 3" as well.

A horrific disaster in a Midwestern town served as inspiration

For inspiration to create the terrifying town of "Silent Hill" in the silver screen adaptation, screenwriter Roger Avary looked to the catastrophic situation in Centralia, Pennsylvania. In 1962, residents of the midwestern town made the colossal mistake of using an abandoned mine pit as a landfill, which they then tried to dispose of with fire. Their failure to put the flames out caused the fire to spread on nearby coal, igniting an inferno underneath the inhabitants that has lasted ever since.

Massive efforts were made to contain the hellish subterranean conditions, but they were to no avail even after millions of dollars were poured in by the state and federal government. Many people tried to ignore the horror beneath their feet and remained in Centralia regardless of the failures until the blazing fires began to reach the surface. By the '70s and '80s, sinkholes began to randomly open up, leading to the horrific depths below, so Congress helped the residents escape with $40 million approved for their relocation (via World of Silent Hill).

With a population of more than 1,000 in 1981, the number of residents in the town decreased dramatically, and less than a dozen people remained. Yet while the real-world events of Centralia could work as a disaster horror movie on its own, it is the nightmarish fog realm and barbaric cult members that drive the fear of the films and video games.

Main character Rose Da Silva did not exist in the video game

When "Silent Hill" was released, one main difference fans of the video games quickly noticed is Harry Mason's absence. In place of the original protagonist is Rose Da Silva, played by Radha Mitchell, who pointed out that her character is an exception, as several others appeared in both mediums, including Cybil Bennett, Dahlia, and Christabella.

When developing the story, Christophe Gans had intended to keep Mason as the lead character but ultimately decided he was too strange to portray in film. Since the character is primarily motivated by what appears to be maternal instincts, it made more sense to the director to have a female lead instead. Gans elaborated about this to 1UP by saying, "If we wanted to keep the character, we would have to change other aspects of him, but it seemed like a mockery to keep a guy called Harry Mason and change everything about his character. Essentially, all the people who love 'Silent Hill' are more interested in seeing the mood and atmosphere of the games, whether than if a certain character is wearing pants or a dress."

Radha Mitchell was immediately creeped out by the script

"Silent Hill" is an amazing horror film with its utterly disturbing visuals, but even reading the beginning of the story was enough to freak out Radha Mitchell a bit. The actress made the mistake of starting the script late at night and quickly realized that she could not continue after only a few pages.

All it took was for the little girl to beckon for the town of "Silent Hill" — the unsettling scene was enough. Mitchell explained to World of Silent Hill why it got so under her skin, saying, "For me, whenever there's something evil going on with kids. I hate that because when innocence becomes evil, it sort of gets you right in the gut. I don't know what it is, but it's always the creepiest thing." The actress was able to pick it up the following day when the sun was out, but once she finished reading it, the story haunted her for days.

Filming the movie was like physical training for Radha Mitchell

Throughout "Silent Hill," protagonist Rose Da Silva is constantly evading and sprinting away from the nightmarish creatures brought on by the creeping fog of the Otherworld. This meant that Radha Mitchell had a lot of cardio work to do in order to keep up with the strenuous survival tactics of her character.

There was no actual physical training as filming began almost immediately after everyone arrived on set, but the project itself was hard enough that Mitchell referred to the production as Christophe Gans' boot camp. She described what her experience to World of Silent Hill, saying, "I just ran for two weeks. I was puffed out at the end of every take. By the end of the film, I had probably lost weight and gained muscle. We all got really fit by just shooting the film. We didn't even need to train in any extra way, because the movie itself was so physical every day."

Some scenes were actually funny — not scary — during filming

Given the ghastly settings depicted in "Silent Hill," it may be hard to believe that Radha Mitchell struggled not to break character at times while filming because of the humorous situations she was in. Audiences were shocked by the grotesque monsters committing acts of graphic violence, but with green screens and CGI animation implemented later, Mitchell's experience on set was quite different. So, even though the finished scenes looked absolutely terrifying, Mitchell admitted it was sometimes difficult to pretend like the small actress Jodelle Ferland was an intimidating, evil entity when she played the demon girl.

While talking with World of Silent Hill, Mitchell explained, "In the movie, it was very scary, but on the day, it was quite funny. At one point, I'm kneeling down before her, surrendering to her, and it was funny because she's three or four feet tall. That was really funny. I had to try not to laugh at times."

Nine different vendors were used for the special effects

Visual effects producer Holly Radcliffe had a difficult job ahead of her when hired to work on "Silent Hill," but the level of complexity may not have been as apparent at first. Even though Christophe Gans preferred to use practical effects and actors as much as possible, there were many parts of the film that had to be done with CGI, including the numerous insects and the transformation of locations into the rusty, decrepit Otherworld. Special effects for these scenes were initially done with just three vendors, but it became apparent in post-production that new digitally enhanced shots were needed.

The three original companies, BUF, C.O.R.E. Digital Pictures, and Mr. X, still provided the lion's share of the 619 visual effects shots, but Radcliffe eventually had to oversee the work of six additional vendors, according to AWN. In the end, over 100 of the total shots were done by Intelligent Creatures, Invisible Pictures, Frantic Films, Mokko, Kook Ewo, and Optix Digital Pictures.

The name switch between movies was confusing for Sean Bean

When Christophe Gans decided to make the lead character of "Silent Hill" a woman, the main protagonist of the video game, Harry Mason, was left out of the film. However, the husband of the new protagonist, Rose Da Silva, was played by Sean Bean, and in the sequel, "Silent Hill: Revelation," the actor became Harry Mason. Even though he was playing the same character, his name changed from Christopher Da Silva because he and his daughter, Heather Mason (Sharon Da Silva), are on the run in an attempt to keep their true identities hidden.

The return of Harry Mason was a nice nod to the fans, but the name change may have been somewhat confusing for some — and definitely for Bean. When interviewed by Den of Geek, the actor said, "Everybody has got a different name and I'm just getting confused! [laughs] I think I was Anton Da Silva, or was it Paul?" With a little help, he continued, "Christopher, yeah that's right! [a deep throaty laugh] I just did about 15 interviews, telling everyone it was Paul or Anton! Yeah Chris Da Silva and I'm now called ... oh come on." A PR woman had to help one more time to prompt Bean to yell out, "Harry Mason!" And he then laughed again and thanked her.

Adelaide Clemens was recruited for the film in an odd way

In the video game series, "Silent Hill 3" continues the story from the first one, so the sequel, "Silent Hill: Revelation," is based on the third game. Unfortunately, it took six years before the release of the next film, but in that time, the team found an actress that looks eerily like the protagonist of the third installment, Heather Mason. Adelaide Clemens would eventually become the star of the film, yet she found out about the project in an odd way, to say the least.

In an interview with Daily Dead, Clemens explained that she was at the Sundance Festival for the first time and said, "My mom was with me and this strange French man comes barreling down the street at us, saying 'I want you to be in my film.' He followed me around the festival and pulled up a photo of Heather on his Blackberry. It was scary, because my hair was done the same way and I was wearing similar clothes. It was absolutely bizarre and quite creepy. Then we got to talking and he's just the most charming man."

Horror games disturb Kit Harington

Luckily for Kit Harington, his character in "Silent Hill: Revelation" had very little to do with the video games because he would have been in trouble otherwise. Like when he read the novels before appearing in "Game of Thrones," the actor tried to do some prep work by playing the survival horror series, but it was almost torturous for him since the "Silent Hill" games are so frightening to him.

Harington thought that maybe because he was older, the fear would not get to him as much as it did when he played as a kid, but he quickly realized he was horribly wrong and still terrible at horror games. The actor admitted to ScreenCrush, "I'm being absolutely genuine when I say they scare me. They really scare me. Any kind of horror video game where I'm the first-person player and I'm ... I suddenly stop caring about the video game dude and I'm like, 'I really don't want him to die,' and then the minute he dies it upsets me. I can't play those games."

Silent Hill: Revelation seemed destined to fail

Unfortunately for fans who really enjoyed the first installment, "Silent Hill: Revelation" was plagued with behind-the-scenes issues from the very start. First off, there were too many people involved in the decision-making process, and writer-director M.J. Bassett was not able to make the film the way she wanted (per Bloody Disgusting). Plus, the budget was cut drastically to less than half of what was available for the first film, even though there was a push to use more CGI with far less money.

In the end, the finished product was nowhere near as good as the first "Silent Hill." The film may have surprisingly managed to bring in almost three times its budget at the box office, but overall, it was deemed a massive failure, especially by critics, as the film had a pathetic Rotten Tomatoes score of 10% after its release.

A possible Silent Hill reboot

After the massive disappointment of "Silent Hill: Revelation," gamer fans were even more devastated when the highly anticipated new release by Hideo Kojima was canceled indefinitely without any other installments announced since. So, many fans would probably rejoice to hear that not only is the franchise alive, but Christophe Gans has also returned to direct the next film in the series.

The latest movie will be stand-alone and updated for modern standards. Gans explained his reasoning to Jeuxvideo (via ComicBook.com) and said, "'Silent Hill' is a bit like 'Twilight Zone,' the Fourth Dimension, a place where anything and everything can happen. I worked on a new 'Silent Hill' which is a 'Silent Hill' of the year 2023 since the film would be released next year, in 2023, and not a 'Silent Hill' as I imagined it in 2006. It is a 'Silent Hill' for today's audiences while being ultra respectful of the saga."