The film follows Rose, who takes her adopted daughter Sharon to the town of Silent Hill, for which Sharon cries while sleepwalking. Arriving at Silent Hill, Rose is involved in a car accident and awakens to find Sharon missing; while searching for her daughter, she fights a local cult while uncovering Sharon's connection to the town's past.
Rose Da Silva and her husband Christopher are disturbed by their adopted daughter Sharon’s constant sleepwalking and nightmares about Silent Hill, a town that was abandoned 30 years ago due to a massive coal seam fire. Against Christopher’s wishes, Rose takes Sharon on a trip to Silent Hill to find answers. Her erratic behaviour concerns police officer Cybil Bennett. Rose flees from Cybil, but when a girl steps out into the road, Rose crashes and blacks out. Waking up some time later, Rose finds herself in the foggy dimension of Silent Hill and realises that Sharon is missing.
Exploring the town for Sharon, Rose pursues the same girl she encountered prior to the crash, but the town transitions into a nightmarish dimension inhabited by inhuman monsters, including the fearsome Pyramid Head. Rose learns of the existence of Alessa Gillespie, a young girl burnt by the Brethren, the town's fanatical cult. Her mother Dahlia wanders the streets as an outcast, guilty for her negligence that led to Alessa’s doom. Rose is later joined by Cybil, also trapped in the foggy dimension of the town due to a giant fracture isolating Silent Hill. Meanwhile in the real world, Christopher searches the abandoned town with policeman Thomas Gucci, but their search is in vain. Upon finding a photo of Alessa, Christopher goes to the orphanage where Sharon was adopted. Gucci appears, revealing he lived in Silent Hill and saved Alessa from the fire. He encourages Christopher to end his search and go home.
Rose and Cybil explore a hotel the Brethren once used, accompanied by Anna, a Brethren member, where they find the burnt remains of a ceremonial chamber. Rose also encounters the girl, revealed to be Dark Alessa, who resembles a burnt Sharon. When the town transitions into a nightmarish dimension, Rose, Cybil, and Anna flee to an old church but Pyramid Head emerges and skins Anna alive. Inside, Christabella, the high priestess of the Brethren, and Alessa’s aunt, suggests a “demon” knows where Sharon is. Her followers lead Rose and Cybil to a hospital, claiming the demon is in the basement. Christabella sees a photo of Sharon from Rose's locket and brands Rose and Cybil as "witches" due to Sharon resembling Alessa. Cybil fights the Brethren members but Christabella orders them to violently beat her.
Rose enters the basement but is barricaded by a group of knife-wielding nurses. She flees and enters Alessa's room in time. In a flashback, it is revealed that Alessa was stigmatised by the townspeople for being a bastard. One day, after being raped in an attempt to hide from her tormentors, Christabella convinces Dahlia, a formerly devout Brethren member, to "purify" Alessa. Christabella immolates Alessa during a ritual but Dahlia realises this and alerts Gucci. They arrive too late as the ritual goes awry, igniting the infamous coal seam fire. Hospitalised, Alessa's rage grew, manifested as Dark Alessa, who is responsible for the shifting dimensions of Silent Hill. Her remaining innocence is later manifested as Sharon, who is taken to the real world to be adopted. Desperate to find Sharon, Rose allows Dark Alessa to grant access to the church by fusing with her body. Meanwhile, Sharon, protected by Dahlia, is captured by the Brethren.
In the church, Christabella burns Cybil to death and plans to do the same for Sharon. Rose intervenes and confronts Christabella of her crimes but Christabella stabs her in the heart in retaliation. Rose’s blood summons both the original Alessa and Dark Alessa, who bisect and kill Christabella and her followers, except for Dahlia, with barbed wire. Rose rescues Sharon but she unwillingly merges with Dark Alessa before blacking out. Rose leaves the town with a fully merged Alessa and return home, still in the foggy dimension of Silent Hill. Meanwhile, Christopher is alone in the real world but discovers that the front door has mysteriously opened.Radha Mitchell as Rose Da Silva, the desperate mother who seeks a cure for her daughter Sharon's nightmarish sleepwalking by taking her to the town of Silent Hill.
Sean Bean as Christopher Da Silva, the father of Sharon and husband of Rose who opposes his wife's decision to find answers in Silent Hill.
Laurie Holden as Cybil Bennett, the motorcycle police officer from the city of Brahams who becomes suspicious of Rose and follows her into Silent Hill.
Jodelle Ferland as Alessa Gillespie, a powerful psychic born out of wedlock, which led her to be persecuted and eventually immolated by the Brethren. She also portrays Dark Alessa, the manifestation of Alessa's rage, and Sharon Da Silva, the manifestation of Alessa's innocence, who is eventually adopted by Rose and Christopher.
Deborah Kara Unger as Dahlia Gillespie, the mother of Alessa who walks the foggy dimension of Silent Hill after giving her daughter up for sacrifice.
Kim Coates as Officer Thomas Gucci, a kind-hearted police officer jaded and hardened by his experiences at Silent Hill.
Tanya Allen as Anna, a child-like and slightly mentally unstable Brethren member.
Alice Krige as Christabella, the high priestess of the Brethren, who burns those deemed as "witches" to prevent the Apocalypse and maintain a sinless existence.
Christopher Britton as Adam, a Brethren member.
Nicky Guadagni as Eleanor, Anna's mother.
Roberto Campanella as Pyramid Head, a humanoid monster wearing a triangle-shaped helmet who first appeared in Silent Hill 2, and as Colin, a school janitor implied to have raped Alessa, who now appears as a monster wrapped in barbed wire.
Emily Lineham as Lisa Garland (credited as "Red Nurse"), a nurse who was horribly scarred by Alessa just for peeking in her room, and as one of the Dark Nurses Rose encounters in the hospital.
Lorry Ayers as the adult Alessa Gillespie, who was kept alive for 30 years in the basement of a hospital and eventually returns as a scarred woman to exact her revenge upon the Brethren.
Eve Crawford as Sister Margaret, the headmistress of the orphange where Sharon was adopted from. She is implied to have cared for orphans whose parents died in the coal seam fire in Silent Hill.
Director Christophe Gans attempted for five years to obtain the film rights to the Silent Hill series from Konami. He sent a video interview to them explaining his plans for adapting Silent Hill and how important the games are to him. They were so impressed, he was rewarded with the film rights. In 2004, Gans and screenwriter Roger Avary began writing the script, which would be the first film in a series of Silent Hill films.
Silent Hill's screenwriter, Roger Avary, used the town of Centralia, Pennsylvania as an inspiration for the town of Silent Hill; Avary commented that as a boy, his father, who was a mining engineer, used to tell him stories about Centralia, where coal deposits from the local mine caught fire and released toxic gases into the town, as well as creating sinkholes when the abandoned mineshafts and coal seams began to collapse. This forced the town to evacuate forever. Avary was fascinated since childhood by the idea that fires underneath the town would be burning for such a long time. When the script was finished, a studio memo was sent to Gans and Avary that voiced concerns about the lack of a male presence in the film, since the original story contained a nearly all female cast. Gans and Avary added Christopher's character (named after Gans) and subplot and the script was approved.
Gans described the concept of the town's connection to the child Alessa and the cult: "It's a town of people trapped in dark dreams, and she inflicts onto the town what those people did to her body. That is, to me, the meaning of the darkness. The appearance of the town is corrupted in the way that her own flesh was wounded." He furthers expands on Alessa's connection to the alternate reality seen in the film, saying that the alternate reality is "in [Alessa's] head". "It's interesting because the town itself mirrors this fractured psychology—different dimensions, different doubles of the same person." In speaking about the creatures in Silent Hill, Gans said that "these monsters are [damned], with the poetic direction of the term: they are a little like the Japanese phantoms, i.e. residues of forgotten feelings as strong as hatred or [guilt]." "The monsters in the game are not really monsters, but rather a mockery of human beings. The real monsters are the people, the cultists who tortured Alessa. When I approached the film, I knew that it was impossible to represent the monsters as simply beasts that jump on you."
The film was greenlit on September 19, 2003. Principal photography commenced on April 25, 2005. It was filmed in both Brantford and Hamilton as well as on soundstages in Toronto in 2005 and on location in Alma College. American studio Sony Pictures bought the distribution rights for $14 million for the United States and Latin America to be released under its TriStar Pictures genre film subsidiary.
Gans said that casting of Mitchell as the lead for the film is "a matter of feeling. If you play Silent Hill you know that each character has a very special poetic quality. They are both twisted and sophisticated. We tried to keep that in mind when we did the casting on this film." Bean's role in the film was originally kept to the beginning and the end of the movie, but due to studio pressure for a male lead, his role was expanded into a subplot. Gans cast Holden after seeing her in The Majestic: "in The Majestic, she was beautifully feminine and I cast her so I could show her other side, make her strong and sleek. Gans saw Ferland as "the ideal actress" after viewing the television show Kingdom Hospital and her screen test for Terry Gilliam's film Tideland. To prepare for her role, Krige read the book The End of Days by Erna Paris, a book about tyranny during the Spanish Inquisition.
The movie was filmed in the Super 35 film format, except the scenes with the darkness, which were filmed in high-definition video, because of its ability to cleanly capture light and digitally manipulate it in post production. The film contains around 107 different sets specifically used to represent the different versions of the town. The bipedal creatures in the film were played by professional actors or dancers covered in latex and prosthetic makeup. After filming, over 619 visual effects shots were used in the film, with the most prominent uses being the fog that drenches the town, the transitions to darkness, and the insects that surround Pyramid Head. Some of the creatures were also touched up in post-production, with CGI effects such as the burning on the Grey Children, the changes in the dimensions of the Armless creature's legs, the disease that the Janitor spreads, and the barbed wire during Alessa's revenge.
In order to maintain the feel of the games, Gans had the sound designer of the original Silent Hill, Akira Yamaoka, flown to the set several times. Additionally, Gans had a 40-inch television brought onto the set, to which he attached a PlayStation 2; Gans then played the original Silent Hill on the system so that the actors and cinematographers could see how Gans wanted to emulate various camera angles and movements.
Budgetary concerns caused a few scenes in the film to be rewritten. The meeting of Anna in the film had been envisioned differently. It originally featured Anna being attacked by an injured armless creature, where she is saved by Cybil and Rose. Due to budget concerns, choreographer Roberto Campanella was sent home for the day, and without him the scene did not meet Gans's expectations. To rectify this, the scene was simplified and rewritten. Gans stated that his original vision of the film's finale revolved around six Red Pyramids appearing inside the church, each carrying a different weapon, and slaughtering the cult members in reference to Dante's Inferno. When budgetary and time constraints prevented this ending from being filmed, he created the new ending that revolved around the barbed wire slaying of the cult by Alessa, which was inspired by the erotic anime Legend of the Overfiend.
The score consists almost entirely of music from Yamaoka's soundtracks to the original four games in the series. The only other piece of music used in the film is Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire". Yamaoka's scores were arranged by film composer Jeff Danna, with some tracks appearing in almost identical form to their in-game counterparts, while others were recreated entirely.
Silent Hill was released to theaters on April 21, 2006 in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Ireland. France, Belgium, Hungary, and Greece also saw April releases. The film was later released in 19 other countries in 2006 which include Russia, Germany, Spain, Italy, Japan, and Mexico. The film's poster of a mouthless Alessa was the subject of some vandalism, with many malefactors drawing cartoon mouths (smiling, screaming, sporting vampire fangs, etc.) or placing stickers where her mouth would be.
On August 22, 2006, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and TriStar Pictures released the DVD, Blu-ray, and UMD versions of the film in North America. The DVD and Blu-ray were released in both Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1 and Pan and Scan versions and both included a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. The releases also included a number of special features, such as film previews and a six-part making-of documentary. The film was also released on UMD for Sony's PlayStation Portable on August 22, 2006; there are no special features but the disc includes a 1.78 widescreen format, Dolby Digital 2.0, and subtitles. An HD DVD was released in Germany by Concorde Home Entertainment on August 22, 2007, containing the film encoded in the VC-1 video codec and also has the main audio track in DTS-HD, and retaining the film aspect ratio of 2.35:1.
Silent Hill opened in 2,932 theaters and earned $20 million domestically on its opening weekend and opened at number one at the U.S. box office. As of January 3, 2007 the film has grossed $46 million domestically and $97 million total worldwide. At the DVD domestic sales, the film sold 1,316,169 units in 4 weeks, bringing a profit of $22,149,584, and making the total gross of the film jump to $119,757,037 worldwide. Silent Hill has landed in the top 10 highest-grossing film adaptations of video game properties listed on Box Office Mojo (from 1980 to present) at #9, grossing $46,982,632 domestic, just behind Resident Evil: Extinction, which grossed $50,648,679 in domestic box office receipts.
Advance screenings of Silent Hill were not given to critics by the distributor. Metacritic's average critic's score is 30 out of 100. Rotten Tomatoes reports a 30% rating on the review aggregator, based on 90 reviews. The site's critical consensus reads, "Silent Hill is visually impressive, but as with many video game adaptations, it's plagued by inane dialogue, a muddled plot, and an overlong runtime."
James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave the film a mildly positive review, awarding it two and a half stars out of four. He opined that "the film is overlong, with too many unnecessary scenes" and that "a lot of the movie seems like pointless running around", but added that the film "looks great" and that "it packs in a few scary moments and offers a nicely ambiguous conclusion." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film one and a half stars (out of four), calling it "an incredibly good-looking film," but noting that he "did not understand the story" and criticizing how "all through the movie, characters are pausing in order to offer arcane back-stories and historical perspectives and metaphysical insights and occult orientations." Don R. Lewis of Film Threat praised the film's visuals but wrote that "this entire film is downright confusing and not in an intriguing way," calling it "the best-looking bad film I've ever seen."
Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a score of D+, stating that "a few of the images are startling" but "Silent Hill is mostly paralyzing in its vagueness." Dennis Harvey of Variety opined that "above-average interest is generated for a time by [the] elaborate visual package," but "in the end, Silent Hill degenerates into an overblown replay of all those Twilight Zone and Stephen King stories in which outsiders stumble upon a time-warped location from which there's no escape." According to Nathan Lee of The New York Times: "It begins as a quest, develops into a ghost-town mystery, devolves into a preposterous cautionary tale about witchcraft and religious fundamentalism, and wraps up like the outrageously overwrought fantasy of a movie nerd obsessed with horror who has been given obscene amounts of money to adapt a video game."
A sequel, Silent Hill: Revelation, taking place six years after the first film's events, was released on October 26, 2012. Christophe Gans could not direct the sequel because he was busy directing an Onimusha film adaptation. Roger Avary was originally attached to write the screenplay and had written the first draft before he was arrested for vehicular manslaughter on November 2010. Michael J. Bassett was later hired to write and direct the sequel. The sequel was panned by critics, holding a 5% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.