Director: James Wan
Cast: Ryan Kwanten, Donnie Wahlberg, Amber Valletta, Bob Gunton, Michael Fairman, Joan Heney
Creepy poster, don't you think? Personally I prefer the one I saw at the cinema today, the one featuring the ghost ventriloquist Mary Shaw in the same pose you see this dummy in. However I couldn't find it online, so this one will have to do.
Oh yeah, I got a review to write. So here we go. Dead Silence is the latest horror flick from Malaysian born director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell, the duo who brought us the excellent Saw. This time they shift from serial killers to ghosts and possessed dummies. Dead Silence begins with newlyweds Jamie and Lisa Ashen receiving a mysterious ventriloquist dummy one day. Later Jamie comes home after running an errand to find Lisa dead and her tongue missing.
The investigating officer, Detective Lipton thinks Jamie is the prime suspect, since he is the last one to see her alive. This of course doesn't help Jamie in getting to the bottom of things, so he starts his own sleuthing, and discovers that the dummy (which he suspects is related to Lisa's murder) came from his hometown of Ravens Fair. So he takes the dummy back there to see his estranged father to get some answers. Once in the mostly abandoned town, he learns from the town undertaker, Henry Walker, about the legend of Mary Shaw. Mary was a ventriloquist back in the day, who had been accused of murdering a boy who mocked her show. The townsfolk had her killed and cut out her tongue, then buried her with her dolls. After that, Ravens Fair was struck by misfortune, as Mary's killers were found dead in gruesome fashion, one by one.
So what does this have to do with Lisa's death? That's what Jamie intends to find out, as he searches the town for clues, with Detective Lipton staying close by to keep an eye on him.
As far as horror flicks go, this one isn't bad. The gore factor is rather high, though. I would say that it depended more on gore than real scares to frighten the audience, but it does work. James Wan uses every trick in the book, from creaking floorboards and doors to moving shadows and mirror images, and even cheap shocks. He even uses a retro type presentation throughout the movie, which is a nice touch. The soundtrack is also well chosen to suit the film, and the gloomy look is also fitting. All nice indeed to strengthen the scare factor of the film, but it fails on where it matters most.
Kwanten, who plays Jamie, is probably one of the most wooden actors I've seen on celluloid. He's one of those one expression type actors, which isn't enough to play a character grieving over his wife's death and seeking answers. I wonder if Wan had given this role to Whannell as he did in Saw, could it have been better? Wahlberg does slightly better as the detective, but his character isn't well written enough. He gets the best lines, but Wahlberg is probably smarter than the character he's playing.
What I do like about Dead Silence is the use of dummies to scare the audience. I don't think any of us would look at dummies and think they're not the least bit scary after seeing this film. The large eyes of the main dummy Billy is kinda creepy eh? And of course, as in Saw, there is a twist at the end. Personally I thought it was far-fetched, some of you may think of it as too silly. But it might just work for you if you can suspend your disbelief long enough.
It's not as good as Saw, but it is scary when it needs to be. Just don't expect too much from it. (3.5/5)