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Jamie Ashen and his wife, Lisa, receive a rather odd package in the mail: a ventriloquist doll. Shortly after its arrival, Lisa is found dead. A solemn Jamie must travel back to his hometown of Raven's Fair to find answers and to stop the evil presence that pursues him. All he must do on his journey to discover the truth is stay dead silent. If he doesn't, his tongue will then belong to the long since dead spirit of the very thing that took Lisa and is now coming after him: the ghost of Mary Shaw.
With a title like "Dead Silence", one automatically thinks of some 1980's thriller starring either Chuck Norris or Steven Seagal - about some vigilante ex-cop who is seeking revenge for the death of his partner. The villain would be played by either Rutger Hauer or Ricardo Mantalban. The tag-line would be something like - "Silence is golden...dead golden." However, this is not the case with this film. "Dead Silence", circa 2007, was written by Leigh Wannell and directed by James Wan, the writer/director team behind "Saw", one of the most popular horror franchises in cinematic history, with three in the can and a fourth hitting in October. What they did was write a script based on 100 other scripts, film it on a shoestring budget and still somehow manage to coax Cary Elwes and Danny Glover into signing on, then trying desperately to keep from paying them all of the money that they were rightfully owed from the unexpected success of the film. So, this is their first motion picture with a budget, and one would think - better known actors? Wrong. The closest thing we get to a 'known' actor is Bob Gunton, the warden from "The Shawshank Redemption" and he is hardly a household name. Everyone else comes by way of C-list or the WB.
Man (Ryan Kwanten) and woman are married. Man and woman receive creepy ventriloquist dummy. The dummy kills the woman and the man goes looking for answers. His journey takes him to his old hometown, Raven's Fair, where he reconnects with the legend of Mary Shaw, a former ventriloquist who was murdered after she was blamed for the death of a local child. She was buried with all 101 of her dummies. All the while, the man is being pursued by a relentless cop with a bad attitude (Donnie Wahlberg), who seems oddly similar to Mark Wahlberg's character from "The Departed". "Dead Silence" works like "Darkness Falls" meets "Dollman Vs. Demonic Toys". By the end of the film, the mystery is somewhat solved, not that we didn't know how it was going to end all along. People are dead, dolls are burned, and the town of Raven's Fair is still as creepy and as abandoned as it was before. In a town like Raven's Fair, all the roads have tumbleweeds, all the businesses have 'out of business' signs, and all of the cars can only function whilst driving through rolling fog or mist. And don't get me started on how this guy grew up in this town and never just happened to stumble upon the cemetery, the old theatre, or anything related to Mary Shaw.
Some films don't make much sense and you just let it slide because the film was so damned entertaining. Films like "Dead Silence" don't make much sense because they were poorly written and horribly edited. I didn't like "Saw" and I don't like "Dead Silence". This film should prove, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that neither Leigh Wannell nor James Wan deserve to be making mainstream motion picture, let alone mainstream horror films. This was just pitiful. One of the most laughably bad scenes comes towards the end when Ryan Kwanten and Donnie Wahlberg are upstairs in the theatre and come face-to-face with the clown doll. Out of all the vocal talent that exists in the world today; out of all the filters and effects you can add to a voice; out of all the ways to distort and re-arrange those sounds - what made these morons think the voice they chose was the appropriate voice? It sounded like Scooby-Doo was delivering the lines. In fact, a lot of "Dead Silence" felt like a Scooby-Doo mystery, except Scoob & The Gang would have solved this one by capturing Mary Shaw in a barrel and revealing her to really be...Marion Walker, the wife of the guy who runs the funeral home, who pets her stuffed raven and looks like Imogene Coca.
As for the performances - at least no one manages to match the wretchedness of Cary Elwes' performance in "Saw". Lead actor Ryan Kwanten comes to us from a career in modeling and a role on the short-lived WB show, "Summerland". He is one of the most attractive men on the planet and I would watch him in anything, preferably shirtless. However, he is hardly the actor that needs to be carrying a film like this. Donnie Wahlberg, who has showed promise in other films, is confined to terrible dialogue and even worse stereotypes as the detective who 'just won't give up'. Character actor Bob Gunton is wasted in a wheelchair for the entirety of the film, and we have yet to see him re-capture anything close to the level of intensity he brought to "The Shawshank Redemption". As for the chicks, Amber Valletta and Laura Regan are there...they're just there. Can't really think of anyone else to mention. The dolls are characters, but they look pretty similar to every other dummy I have ever seen. A better movie on this topic would be "Magic", which starred Anthony Hopkins and was directed by Sir Richard Attenborough. Now, that is one hell of a creepy film.
So, basically, I have nothing but 'silence' for "Dead Silence". It was bad. Really bad. There were a couple of pretty cool shots and the opening sequence was nice, with the simple piano score, but as soon as the techno loops hit, it all went downhill. This film looked like it was sloshed through the post-production process with the intent of getting it out to theatres as soon as possible. I wish this film had starred Chuck Norris and been about vigilante justice - then I would have got a lot more bang for my buck. The closest thing I get to a bang here is Ryan Kwanten lying in bed, not even shirtless - for close to ten bucks a ticket, I expect to see him half-naked. "Dead Silence" is like every other lame horror film that comes out in theatres, except it has an abnormally hot lead actor and some pedigree behind its writer and director, though not for long.
- added 03/20/2007, 06:15 PM
I caught a little cameo of the Saw doll when they
went to that castle or whatever. Anyways, this
movie fucking blows.
- added 07/07/2007, 05:04 AM
Let's see here...
And don't get me
started on how this guy grew up in this town and
never just happened to stumble upon the cemetery,
the old theatre, or anything related to Mary
He didn't grow up there; his dad sent
him away from the town as a child (hence the
resentment towards him).
"Dead Silence" don't make much sense because they
were poorly written and horribly edited.
What didn't make sense to you besides the above?
I thought the script was pretty damned tight.
I didn't totally disagree with your
review (else, I'd have written a rebuttal) - yes,
the acting was horrible and yes, the editing was
bad in spots. In fact, save for the above points
and the attraction to Ryan Kwanten, I pretty much
agree with everything you said. However, I did
enjoy the movie as a whole just a little more than
you did. Movie of the year candidate? Nah. Best
of March '07? Not quite. Worth the rental fee?
- added 08/23/2007, 03:26 AM
Yeah, this movie isnt anything amazing but I will
say that the makeup job on Mary Shaw was pretty
freakin awsome. And some of the other closeups
were equally as creepy (hello marrionette mummy
boy!). So I REALLY enjoyed this movie based on
visuals alone. The acting was total crap and they
characters are always doing stupid crap that makes
you want to yell at them thru the screen. Still
tho, fully worth the price of the rental.
But I will say that I had the whole "twist
ending" thing called by the end of the first scene
(you know the one Im talking about)....and I was
drunk off my ass on Jello shots at the time......
- added 09/27/2007, 09:51 PM
I's say this movie is worth a rental, maybe even a
purchase if the price is right. I know I will
eventually buy it. I found that this movie had
it's moments, it wasn't trash, but not great. I
really enjoyed the ending as well. I give it 6/10