Michael Bassett wants it known that he is a gamer. He has heard several complaints about Christophe Gans’ 2006 film adaptation of the popular Silent Hill video game franchise, and wants to put any worries to rest. He has played the games. He knows the games. And it is foremost in his mind to remain as faithful as possible to the games. His new film, Silent Hill: Revelation, is based largely on Silent Hill 3, and assembles talent from the previous film, as well as a notable guest from the games themselves.
Bassett was kind enough to sit briefly during his hectic Comic Con schedule to discuss a few details of the upcoming film, and to express his passion about the project.
CraveOnline: How familiar are you with the Silent Hill games?
I’m a gamer! I’m a gamer, so I’m completely familiar. I’ve been playing games for 25 years.
Ah, so you know it well…
Well, I wouldn’t say inside and out. I’ve completed it. I’ve completed most of the…. I’m not a good completer of games. It is a horrible truth, actually. I play ‘em. Then I run out of time. So I usually just go into God Mode, ‘cause I just wanna get through it and see it all, like “that’s really cool, that’s really cool.” But I can’t abide the fighting ‘cause I can’t figure it out. Silent Hill, the thing about playing that, is that it’s so immersive that, y’know, you wanna take the time. And there’s not many games like that. Certainly not back in the day when they first came out. The survival horror genre. And the fact that it’s incredibly f*cking scary was totally a unique experience. So I was very familiar. I’m not an obsessive geek fan. I love it, but I play other games as well.
When Sammy Hadida, the producer for the first one, came to me (and we had worked together) he said “I wanna do another Silent Hill, are you interested?” And, uh… yeah of course I’m interested. What a great world to play in.
A lot of my friends are obsessive geek fans, and they had some concerns. It was pointed out to me that the game is largely about Freudian sexual images, which had been eschewed in the first film. Firstly, I’d like to know what you thought of the Christophe Gans film…
Well, I think it’s a fantastically realized artistic vision. I think the story is a little muddled. But in terms of what Christophe Gans put on the screen with Dan Lauastsen his DP, and the designer, I don’t think there’s been anything better in a game adaptation. And I say that from the heart. I know Christophe. I know he was obsessed with the game. He loves it. And he got a lot of sh*t from different people who thought he wasn’t. He is – more than me – a total obsessive for the game. He really wanted to deliver that abstract, obtuse world.
The sexual element of the Silent Hill games is very hard to deliver to a mainstream cinema audience. It just is.
Especially in an American film.
Exactly. It’s a horrible practical reality. And, yeah, it is a psychosexual world. It really, really is. I mean, you’ve got Red Pyramid taking away nurses and f*cking them off in corridors! That’s not something my movie trades in, I gotta tell ya. I didn’t avoid it. It’s just … the story does not take me there. The imagery is not required. Another thing is that I was more interested in the mythology and the underlying concepts of the religion that drives the people in the game. Psychosexual stuff. If I wanted to do a Silent Hill like that, I’d have to do a really low-budget one, seriously, with no one looking over my shoulder. And they don’t have to make it as mainstream as it has to be in order to be relatively expensive and to make is money back.
Like a proper exploitation movie.
You could do proper exploitation. But then you’ve got to make it sophisticated. ‘Cause the visuals of Silent Hill are incredibly sophisticated. So there’s always the trade-off. But for this one, some of the imagery… it’s not a violent movie, it’s a graphic movie. There’s a difference, y’know? It’s not Saw. It’s a world that is somewhat disturbing. It’s off-kilter. It’s unpleasant.
Yeah. It’s fantastically surreal. And that’s the joy of the artistry of the games, and also the first movie. And hopefully, we’ve brought some of that into this one.
You shot the film in 3-D, yes?
Sure did. Now ask me what a pain in the ass that is.
How much of a pain in the ass is that?
It’s a considerable pain in the ass working in 3-D. Not doing it in post, but actually doing it on the set, shooting with 3-D cameras, and making that world work.
And they’re enormous cameras, yeah?
They are enormous. It’s like having sound all of a sudden. The bizarre thing is: you have a whole bunch of tools you rely on as a 2-D filmmaker suddenly taken away. Taken away. No handheld. No Steadicam. So you’ve got to think in different terms. It takes a very long time to change a lens. Whereas in 2-D, you just go “Swap the lens out, let’s try it again!” So you have to plan very carefully.
How will you be using the 3-D? More “Boo!” moments, or more to explore 3-D spaces?
The reason I agreed to do it is to give a sense of being immersed in the world. And everybody talks about this now. You want to look through a window, not have a “reach out and get you.” I absolutely do reach out and get you a couple of times. And unashamedly, to be honest. Because it’s a horror movie. And now everybody talks about Silent Hill, the games, as these sophisticated things, but their job is to scare you. And they do do that. Sometimes they do these disgusting and unashamed things, more freaky things, ‘cause they’re manipulating you to be frightened. And that’s o.k. And… You know, a 3-D Silent Hill game would be fantastic! Konami should really think about that.
But it’s what 3-D gives you. It gives you an immersion which you can’t get any other way. Y’know, and I think that’s what makes it… Hopefully we’ve done it in a successful way.
What has always worked to immerse me in a horror film is the sound design…
Sound design in Silent Hill is hugely, profoundly important. First of all, again, you go back to the games – and the first movie as well – they’re all about sound environment. The first game, the graphics aren’t very good, but the sound design is fantastic. So you’re playing in a darkened room, and you’re hearing the creepy, strange world that Akira Yamaoka designed. He designed all the music and the sound. Perhaps with the Konami team. So that, for me, was huge. 50% of the movie is its sound. Where there is sound, where there isn’t sound. Where there is music, where there isn’t music. Those are the choices.
Is it original sound design, or did you take anything from the games?
No. We brought Akira back in. He was a fan favorite. One of the first things anyone said online [when asking about the film] was “Are you getting Akira to do the music?” And we talked to him, we showed him the movie, and he wanted to come back. Jeff Danna who did the music for the first one again, although without Akira. I’m using him again, ‘cause if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! This dude’s got it right. And Akira has done some original score for us. And Jeff has, with Akira, adapted some of the old themes from the games. There are some classic Silent Hill themes, and obviously you want to keep it. So they’re present, and there’s some new stuff as well.
Excellent. I heard from some concerned fans.
Tell them it’s all Akira. And it sounds f*cking great.
Also, you pay attention to the way the world is created. Just the odd audio environment you put people in. And when you’ve got 3-D, you’ve got make that space a little more immersive. You’ve got to be a little more concerned about sound anyway. And I’m a sound obsessive. We spent forever mixing this damn movie.
Any sound design you can point to or enjoy?
I like the Coen Bros. design stuff. Skip Lievsay, who does their stuff, is fantastic. Because small things have a profound effect. I like that kind of thing. As for big sound design, the sound design in Transformers is, oddly enough, is good. Although it’s a bit big and bombastic. But then there’s small things going on in the background. Master & Commander. Dude, that film is brilliant!
You’re now my favorite person. I love that film.
If you watch the first five minutes of Master & Commander on a good sound system…
The winds and the ocean, and the creaking hull…
The creaking! It’s just awesome!
Here’s my “sucker punch” question for the end…
Oh God. Hurt me now.
Don’t worry. It just has nothing to do with anything. What was the first record you bought with your own money?
[pause] Thinking back…
If it’s embarrassing, let fly.
It is embarrassing. With my own money… I was given, as a kid, Elvis Costello’s Oliver’s Army. Right? From a friend. It was a birthday present. And I took it back, and swapped it out for Bright Eyes by Art Garfunkel from Watership Down. I was like, 5, I think.
Not quite as cool, but better for a 5-year-old.
Let me try to remember something a little bit more cool. The first CD I ever bought – because I was around when the vinyl-to-CD change happened – so I bought a CD player first with no CDs. And thought I gotta go buy a good one. I bought Operation: Mindcrime by Queensrÿche.
How old were you?
I think about 14. I still think that’s one of the best concept albums ever done. I wrote a screenplay for it! I wrote a screenplay for Operation: Mindcrime.
Are you tempted to make it? Is it still in a drawer somewhere?
It’s still in a drawer somewhere. That would be a violent movie! Good God! No one would let me make that!