Notes from the Director

These are the posts from the official Silent Hill blog written by the movie's director Christophe Gans in which he answered questions from the fans before the official premiere.


Friday, February 24, 2006

Greetings from the cutting rooms and sound stages where Silent Hill is in the final stages of the journey to the screen. It’s been very exciting to see the reaction of fans to the trailer, the images and to the reports of the scene we ran at Wondercon. I’ve read an amazing dialogue in chat rooms and forums with many writers developing complex theories, and many many questions being raised. This page gives a place for me to join that discussion, and I hope to provide some answers for you.

Of course we are frantically working to complete the film, and are in the middle of sound mixing and visual effects work, so you’ll have to forgive me if it is sometimes days between answers.

On Harry Mason, the WonderCon Footage, and Capturing the Horror of the Game

Monday, March 6, 2006

Silent Hill looks very good thus far, but Mr. Gans I have to ask why it is that you didn't stay true to the story and use the father, Harry Mason?  In an interview you mention that the main character was changed to a woman because you believed Harry's qualities were feminine but isn't the protection and well being of a child the responsibility of every parent? 
- Stuart A.

I think when Roger Avary and Nickolas Boukhrief and I started to work on the project we assumed, because we are all fans of the game, that we would start writing with Harry Mason as our lead. 

It quickly became clear however Harry never acted like a masculine character. He was constantly dizzy, fainting, talking to himself, screaming and in fact was very vulnerable. We didn't want to betray the nature of the game by changing the character's feelings and motivations, so we felt it was better to change to a female protagonist and retain all those important qualities. I don't want people to think that I have been "politically correct" because we changed Harry into Rose. There is no political correctness in Silent Hill. 

It's important to mention that we were conscious that allowing the Gamers to have to face a new character would help in the transition from Silent Hill the Game to Silent Hill the Movie. 

The footage at WonderCon - was it intentionally super shocking, and what effect was desired? 
- Christian W.

It was intentionally supershocking! 

The trailer went out into the theatres a month or so ago. Of course there were many restrictions in regard to the intensity and the violence of the images that could be used. I was concerned that this trailer could be perceived as a little tame to the fans of the game. The movie is anything but tame. The movie is pretty brutal, intense and disturbing. I wanted to send a message saying the movie is going to be full of surprises. After Wondercon we could see everywhere on the web that the fans were confident that we were going to be respectful of the game and its intensity. Yes, we received the desired effect. 

As a huge Silent Hill fan, I have high hopes for this film. It would seem that you really want to capture the psychological horror of the game, which is great because that's what the game is best known for. But are you putting equal effort into the gore of silent hill? It is a mature series after all and the games definitely doesn't pull punches when it really wants you to know that. Will your film reflect this element well?
- Allen W. 

Allen, its true that we wanted to stay true to the idea that the horror of Silent Hill was psychological. Our key to being true to this was good casting and design. 

It was very clear to me that the casting would reflect our intention to make a serious movie. Instead of casting unknown, attractive teenagers our cast was made up of strong actors from independent, auteur, high class pictures. We allowed time to cover the individual arc of each character and explore them and the games mythology at an appropriate pace. 

The atmosphere, aesthetic, palette of colors, sound design and music are all very disturbing. 

The aesthetic of the game and that disturbing quality is what attracted me to directing this film in the beginning. But it is impossible to create a movie of Silent Hill and not put the horror and indeed gore on the screen.

On Preserving and Contributing to the Mythology of the Games

Friday, March 10, 2006

Hello Christophe. From all reports it looks like you're doing us all proud and that your fervor for the games is as strong as ours. It's obvious already you've remained very true to the mythos of the Order and the heart of the games. What have you changed?
- SilentHylian X

Thank you for supporting the movie it is really great to feel that the Game fans are backing this project. This is really important to me. 

The backstory of Silent Hill was not only the story of Alessa but a much older story about the first burning of the Arch Witch, Jennifer Carol. That burning has defined Silent Hill as the ground for the primeval battle between the 'perception of good and the perception of evil.' 

We realized at once that we were not dealing with a small story but dealing with a whole saga. With the support of our Producer Samuel Hadida we decided to write what would be the first film of a series. We then had the luxury of exploring in depth just one part of this huge story. Unlike the game we are able to develop the characters and make them more complex and organize the eclectic mythology of all the games into one clear story. This is the biggest difference between the film and the game. I think the fans will understand any variations are because we have been ambitious. Akira Yamaoka and the Silent Hill team have supervised this project from the beginning so I hope between us all we have been successful in keeping to the true mythology of the game. 

I know the movie is based mostly off SH1, and has bits of SH2, and 3... but are there ANY references to SH4? Also, are all the monsters taken from the games such as Pyramid Head and the nurses or did you create some exclusively for the movie? Thank you
- Guillermo C 

For me SH 4 is one of one of the best in terms of visuals and framing of all the games, so yes I definitely used some details from SH4. 

We did create a new monster called the Janitor. We had a scene in the movie where one of the characters goes into a restroom and hears some crying in a cubicle, she goes to see where it is coming from, she opens the door and there is nothing there. 2 days before we were to shoot this scene I decided we needed to have something shocking in the cubicle. I went to talk with Paul Jones and his SPFX makeup team and we talked about how we could create a new monster. Of course the big question was "what did this guy DO to deserve to become a monster?" This question was pivotal in helping us determine the look. So, in just 2 days we designed and created him. I was actually a little nervous about it because we had to have all the monsters approved by Akira Yamaoka and Konami. So when Akira came to visit us in post-production. I showed him and luckily he loved it. In fact he asked if he could use it for a future game. He is the only creature that does not already exist in the game. He is my humble contribution to the Silent Hill Mythology.

On Adapting Silent Hill Lore, The Red Pyramid, and Using "Centralia" as a Temp Film Title

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Christophe, what aspect of the Silent Hill lore did you find the most compelling and intriguing, and how did you use it in your film?
- Michael V

Perhaps the common link between all the stories of the Silent Hill world is the concept that this is a place where both reality and personality can be split. 

I like the fact that this is where many dimensions intersect, and where you can exist on many planes. This fracturing between realities is reflected as a fracturing within a character. Characters can become multiple, like Mary and Maria in Silent Hill 2, and Alessa in SH1. 

Because this is such an abstract concept, this was the most challenging aspect of trying to adapt the game. The first game tells the amazing story of an adult woman who also exists as two little girls, good and bad doubles representing who she was when she was hurt. 

We are forced to realize in Silent Hill that we can be our own devil, our own God. This very Asian perception is so completely different to the Anglo/Christian concept of God and the Devil as separate beings. 

So, what's the deal with Pyramid Head's head? That's not the way it's shaped. Maybe you might say its not the pyramid head we all know and love, to which I say: Ok, but what's the point of going all out to recreate the game's most famous antagonist but then take his head (for which he is named after) and change it entirely? Don't get me wrong - he looks super in the trailers, but would it have killed you guys to chamfer that leading edge he has?
- Ryan M

It is always interesting to take a CG character and try and make him real. Some time the logic of the design just can't work. The Japanese name for this character was actually 'Triangle Head.' It is not Pyramid Head or Red Pyramid as many fans call it. In fact, on his head is a basin and not a triangle at all. This shape works great as animation but it was impossible to make an authentic replica of the shape and actually have a real person move under it. We know as we tried. The big change in Red Pyramid for me was not his head as much as his body. In the game he has a very deformed body almost a hunchback. Instead we decided to make him a tall, powerful character a little like the Warrior God in " Stargate" that Patrick Tatopoulos created. Why? Because for me there is a little of Anibus, the Egyptian God of Death in the Red Pyramid. 

Of course we consulted Konami and Akira Yamaoka with before signing of the new design which they were very enthusiastic about. 

When Silent Hill the movie was first announced it had an alternate title. The title was "Centralia". Is there a truth to this and why if so?
- Mark M

I love this question. I was astonished by people's reaction to this title. The most important and obvious reason we called it "Centralia" was to keep the shooting secret. We didn't want the name Silent Hill to appear anywhere. The reason that we choose Centralia, which is a very famous ghost town in America is because it is actually is the basis of our script. Roger Avary discovered this town that had been destroyed by a coal fire and was completely uninhabitable. In the game, Silent Hill is also a mining town caught between the "Foggy" world and the "Darkness." Centralia was used as our reference to create a third dimension "Reality." I loved the fact that a lot of fans discovered that it was a clue.

On Capturing the Essence of the Silent Hill Experience and the Symbolism of the Creatures

Friday, March 17, 2006

As you say you have read the blogs and forums of Silent Hill fans, and I'm sure you've seen the fans going over screen captures with a magnifying glass comparing every available pixel of the film to the original games, having heart attacks over every detail that hasn't been duplicated exactly to their expectations. How do you feel about the expectations inherent to the adaptation of material with such a devoted and established fan base?
- Bogart S

Bogart, as I have mentioned before adapting a game is not like adapting a book. It is like a trip to a foreign country. We all have different memories of our travels but there will be common perceptions that we will all identify. We can all talk about having been to the same place referencing details even though we had completely different experiences. 

Roger, Nicolas Boukhrief and I constantly compared our memories and impressions of the game and tried to identify the common perceptions that we shared. A corridor, a street, a line of dialogue - what are those qualities that make us know we are in Silent Hill? 

As a fan I knew I had to be respectful of the original material but at the same time I knew I had to focus on the arch of the characters and the narrative from a filmmakers perspective. For both the fans of the games and non-gamers this was the only way to do a successful adaptation. You must also remember that my adaptation was done through the eyes of a Westerner not through the eyes of someone from the East. This movie just had to be different even though I hope I have successfully captured the essence of the Silent Hill experience.

The Silent Hill series has been known for the subtle symbolism in the creatures and the environments that pertains to the protagonist. Will this symbolism carry over to the movie?
- Vince G

Absolutely, yes. The creators of Silent Hill the game are so highly intelligent and used so many abstract and interesting references to create the creatures that of course it was such challenge for us to replicate this. Silent Hill the game heavily borrows from Modern Art especially the paintings of Francis Bacon. As in Bacon's art we see the monstrosity of his figures is actually a reflection of their souls. They are the embodiment of anxiety, fear and self-destruction and exist in world where cruelty is absolutely accepted. Hence the fact the creatures of Silent Hill are so absolutely unique. They are not your typical wait around a corner and jump out to scare you type. They are promiscuous pathetic and disturbing... standing naked in the middle of a room or alone on a street. Every fan of Silent Hill knows the creatures have been conceived by a child at least in the first game. They are the creation of Alessa's mind. They embody a strange, naïve, candid sense of cruelty that only a child can have. They are more like broken dolls than horrible creatures. As in the great classical text Dante's Inferno. Dante goes to hell and watches the dammed people and realizes the human condition. That is how we must perceive the monsters in Silent Hill. The real monsters are human.

On Making the Film I Want To Make, West Virginia as the Setting, and Costuming the Monsters

Monday, April 3, 2006

Just to let you know that I am back after an immensely absorbing few weeks of editing, mixing and grading the film. 

I have read that Silent Hill fans are worried that I have not been able to make the film that I wanted to make due to restrictions imposed by MPAA and the studio. Just to clarify that the film you will see is the Directors cut and has not been compromised in length or content. Throughout the entire process of making Silent Hill, I have been overwhelmed by the generosity and trust extended to me by the team at TriStar Pictures. It is very exciting to work with people who are as concerned and respectful about successfully depicting the world of Silent Hill as I am. 

The only person who is disappointed that it is my cut is the guy doing the DVD.

What made you choose West Virginia as the backdrop to the movie?
- Lee S

Roger Avary was doing some research on abandoned towns, and discovered the story of Centralia, in Pennsylvania, where an underground coal deposit had caught fire and is now slowly burning out of control, filling the town with noxious gasses and causing havoc and destruction. 

Centralia seemed like the perfect real-world version of Silent Hill. While we had no intention of keeping the "Centralia" name, we used the town and its history as the basis for our 'real world' Silent Hill, changing the state to West Virginia for legal reasons. 

The trivia on says that little computer animation was used for this movie, and many of the monsters are people in latex costumes. I appreciate your deviation from the common way of making movies, but what would make the costume usage better or scarier than computer animation?
- Vince G

In a complex movie like Silent Hill, where you deal with different dimensions, rules and realities, I think it is too much to ask an actor to imagine an encounter with such strange monsters. As in the game, we were constantly putting the characters into confined and intimate situations with the creatures and needed their reactions and interactions to be real. If we just used CG, I think we would have lost that feeling of promiscuity that comes from the direct physical relationship between the characters and the monsters. From the very beginning, Patrick Tatopoulos and I loved the idea of putting the actor and creature in the same shot.

I come from the action film genre where I am used to working with choreographers, acrobats and dancers so I am very comfortable collaborating with these physical artists. Each individual performer offered a unique interpretation of the creatures' physical world. In Silent Hill the creatures are living sculptures - bizarre, grotesque components of humanity. Having real people as the monsters enabled us to breathe life into them. Of course I refined certain movements and their look with CG. It was a perfect blend of techniques. 

On The Red Pyramid, Carol Spier as Production Designer, and Exploring Society in Horror Films

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Mr. Gans: A lot of people feel that it doesn't make sense for the Red Pyramid to be in the film because he was a delusion specifically for James. While I think it makes perfect sense, can you shed some light on the subject so that peace may finally be restored to all the Silent Hill forums of the world?
- Jared S

Akira Yamaoka and I agree that Red P is not just a creation of James. Saying that Red Pyramid was solely conceived by James in Silent Hill 2 is just one of the explanations for his existence. James is just one point of view. Another perspective is to remember that Silent Hill existed before James and that Red P was one of the executioners in the original history of the town. So clearly, there is not one particular or exclusive manifestation of him as an entity. 

My version of the Red P was adapted from the perspective of the female characters. I felt it important that their psyche influence his shape, dress and physicality. 

Christophe, I am a design student and am really interested in why you chose Carol Spier as your Production Designer? Having to successfully recreate the environment of Silent Hill must have been one of your biggest challenges.
- Mia

The Design and Environment are massively important in my movies. This is especially true in Silent Hill. I chose Carol Spier to be my production designer for her female perspective and because she is one of the Top 5 production designers in the world. How can you accurately represent the essence of the world of Silent Hill without leaning towards a female perspective? I really wanted to have a feminine eye to collaborate with because Silent Hill is really a matriarchal world. And as the production designer for David Cronenberg, she gives an intelligent edge that this film genre demands. 

In the Silent Hill games, there were always issues and problems of modern society explored, which is a big part of what made the games so shocking, above and beyond the obvious terror and will to survive. My question is: Will this movie contain this element and subtly exploring such global problems or issues through the stories of the characters?
- Vasia T

It is the responsibility of every horror movie to ask questions about society. I think that is the purpose of the genre. Horror movies always appear when there is crisis in a society because it is a reflection of our fear. 

The horror films that I consider to be the most important always contain a very strong statement about society, most of them can be considered even as political films. Many of these great genre films were from the 70's, directed by the likes of George Romero, John Carpenter, David Cronenberg. They are not only important artistic achievements but also tackle difficult social issues that make us deal with our own fear. 

For me, it was obvious that if I was going to successfully represent the fear that is inherent in the world of Silent Hill, I would have to deal with the fears that are present in our modern world. Every gamer knows that the terror in Silent Hill is not something that is easy to pin point. It is a combination of internal and external fear. When we were working on the script we knew that we weren't making just an illustration of the game but had to capture the complex elements that make the game so shocking. 

On Interpreting Silent Hill's Monsters and Preserving the Atmospheric Quality of the Game

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Hi, there. A lot of Silent Hill game fans have wondered about the nature of the monsters. Are they people turned into monsters or just manifestations of the character's mind? Will the movie answer this question or will it keep the mystery about the creatures that we all find so freaky?
- Rebecca M

I think that every interpretation is possible. The easiest and most basic explanation of course is that the monsters are victims of the vengeance of Alessa. Grotesque figures of doomed people. People in hell. Another explanation is that they are hallucinations. Monsters coming from the psyche of the protagonists. eg: The Mumblers, small child like creatures ( that we call the Greychildren in the movie,) Harry Mason meets them as does Rose as they search for their little girls. They are not only the twisted figures that inhabit Silent Hill but the reflections of the fear and anxiety of these desperate parents. 

The only concrete exception I have made in revealing the origins of a creature is a new monster we created called the Janitor. We see him as a human being (in the past), we see him dead (in the foggy world) and we see him as a monster (in the darkness.) This is one of the explanations of our work. I have said many times Silent Hill is a place where dimensions cross and you can exist in different manifestations. The Janitor is a great example of this concept. 

For Rose, did you purposely not give her any weapons to add even more to the terrifying atmosphere of the film? It is rather realistic that she wouldn't be running around the film toting a shotgun at every little thing.
- Richard E

Everyone knows that Silent Hill is not an action game. It is an atmosphere game, a psychological game. I love that in the game you can find a gun but you can only find a few bullets and we have respected this convention in the film too. As soon as you put a character with a gun next to a monster it means that the monster is an enemy. Something evil that must be slaughtered. That, for me, kills their identity and reduces them to a one-dimensional threat. The monsters of Silent Hill have a unique quality because characters can't just shoot them dead. This makes them more complex and much more disturbing.

On Translating the Pace and Rhythm of the Game to the Film

Thursday, April 20, 2006

I am curious as to how you manage to translate the pacing of the game into the film? In Silent Hill 2, for example, we go from an apartment building to a hospital, prison, and hotel (and that doesn't include the whole town in between). In a game world, however, we are free to take our time and aren't restricted to a 2-hour running time.
- Nick G

A very good question. The idea of the game of course is that you are lost and you must find your way. Then you are given tools like the map to help you. You are constantly referencing the map to work out where you are. I think we succeeded in finding a nice alternative for Rose to work her way through the town of Silent Hill without a map. We had to find an equivalent logic for telling the story. The complexities and the richness of the narrative set the pace. If we had gone too fast it would have been anti-Silent Hill. 

Another important factor that we were conscious of in establishing the rhythm for the film is the sound. In the game it isn't just a matter of speed or movement. I think the very specific pace of the game comes from the sound. The sound and the silence. When I play the game I am sitting in the dark wearing headphones. The tempo is heavily influenced by the amazing work of Akira Yamaoka's sound design. With luck he was able to collaborate with us on our movie. I don't think you will be disappointed. 

On Casting the Movie

Friday, April 21, 2006

Greetings from cold Finland! My question is about the casting: SH's cast just about the finest, most visually consistent with the original I've ever seen in a movie based on a comic book, game, or any other source. For example, Laurie Holden is a dead ringer for Cybil. She looks like she was born for the role! How did you manage this? Was there an audition, or were the actors and actresses specifically hand-picked for their roles? If so nice picking! Very enthusiastically (and impatiently) waiting for the movie! Wonderful job, kudos!
- Nonnu P

I didn't try and cast according to the physical type. I prefer to focus on the quality of the actor and how this quality relates to some part of the game. Cybil has an organic quality that I identified in Laurie. When I first saw Laurie she looked nothing like Cybil but I knew she would be perfect because of the way she naturally moves, her inner strength and beauty. When I am writing I have a really good idea of the type of actors I want. My main auditioning technique is actually watching movies. I didn't have to audition any of the cast in Silent Hill. I knew all of them very well through their body of work. 

On the Movie's Appeal to Fans of the Game

Friday, April 21, 2006

Now that the film is opening, do you believe that this movie will truly satisfy fans of the game? If the movie is successful, what will your plans be? Any chance of a sequel?
- Rob L

It is very difficult for me to be objective and to say that this movie will satisfy every fan of Silent Hill. I know a few fans who have seen the film and I have listened carefully to their comments. I think overall we have been very respectful and that fans will not be disappointed. Silent Hill fans want a movie that they can respect and a film that generates conversation and an exchange of ideas. I want the movie to reinforce the cult and intelligence that surrounds the game. 

If the film is successful in the eyes of the fans then I will be happy to make a sequel. If the fans aren't happy with my adaptation then it will be difficult for me to tackle a second one. 

I approached this film not as a Fanboy but as a director knowing I had a story to tell in 2 hours. To do this well I had to sacrifice key elements in the game. But there are plenty of moments and characters, and so much more of the saga, that I would love the opportunity to explore. 

The process of the cinema is that you create a tribe of people. Actors, technicians and artists. They have all put their energy and talents into this picture and I respect them greatly. I want to return with them all to continue our journey through the world of Silent Hill.