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Movie Review: Dead Silence

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By Sean Clark

It seems like forever since the first Saw film took the world by storm, and as the third installment in the series gets ready to hit theaters, we're still waiting around to see director James Wan’s sophomore effort, Dead Silence (formerly titled Silence).

Here's the premise: Jamie Ashen (Ryan Kwanten) is spending a quiet evening in his apartment with his wife when there is a knock at the door. He opens the door to find a large package left at his doorstep. There's no return address, just his name written on the outside. He tears it open to find an old case. Inside this case is a ventriloquist's dummy… and nothing else.

They don’t know what to make of it and, after some discussion, continue to go about their business. Jamie leaves to go pick up dinner and returns to find his wife murdered and himself the main suspect.

Dead Silence (click for larger image)Determined to find out the connection between the mysterious doll and his wife’s death, his search brings him back to his hometown of Raven’s Fair, where he uncovers the story of the late ventriloquist Mary Shaw and why he has ended up with one of her 101 dolls. The ghost of Mary Shaw supposedly haunts the almost vacant town, and as the legend tells, she will take the tongue of any victim she hears scream.

Dead Silence starts off strong and quick, but then the pace slows, a device that is necessary to tell a good ghost story, and that's exactly what Dead Silence is at the heart: a good old-fashioned ghost story. I am happy to see that James Wan and writing partner Leigh Whannell decided to do something different, and while that may turn some Saw fans off, that's why we have Saw II & III, right?

Wan’s directing style has only improved, and this time around he had a budget to really show off his abilities. This film looks very different from Saw; gone is the Fincher style of lighting a la Seven, replaced with a more Gothic tone this time around, which gives it a much grander feel. Visually it's kind of a throwback to the old Hammer horror films but with a modern-day edge.

Dead Silence (click for larger image)One of the things I was most impressed with was the sound design. Wan’s use of sound is crucial to this particular story; whenever the ghost makes an appearance, all natural sound seems to slow to a complete halt, and the subsequent silence is creepy as hell!

If I have any complaints, they stem from some of the performances. Ryan Kwanten is decent but doesn’t really set the world on fire. I didn’t find myself caring much about his character and was more interested in the story surrounding him. Michael Fairman, who plays Henry, the town’s mortician, was a bit over-the-top in his performance and not very believable. However, ex-New Kid Donnie (Saw II) Wahlberg was quite good as the cocky wise-cracking detective watching Jamie’s every move. The stand-out is Judith Roberts as Mary Shaw, who gives a chilling performance that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

If you go in expecting the kind of blood loss featured in the Saw films, you may be disappointed, though I can happily say there is some gore and there are some very badass effects and make-up designs in Dead Silence. More importantly what the film delivers is scares. The Saw films shock more than they scare, but with this film Wan proves his ability to terrify an audience as well.

Dead Silence (click for larger image)I was glad to see that Wan and Whannell went on a different path and created something that may show Saw's influences but isn’t following the current horror trends that, let’s face it, they helped start. The only thing I found out of place was the ending. They end the film with a twist that, while clever, is completely unnecessary. I don't want to give too much away, but I can say this: Dead Silence ends nearly the same way Saw does, down to using the same music during the big twist (which I'm guessing is only temporary since I saw a rough cut).

Overall I left the film very happy with what I had just seen and actually looking forward to seeing it again. Dead Silence will be in theaters on March 16. For more information, visit the film's official website.

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  • http://thefilmfiend.blogspot.com T. Rigney

    Dread Central on Blogcritics? Nifty!

    Great review, and welcome to the site.

  • http://oakhaus.blogspot.com Bill Sherman

    I thought the acting was one of the big weak spots in the original Saw, too, so it looks as if Wan hasn’t fully worked out that aspect of his moviemaking yet. Still, this sounds more enjoyable than the increasingly unnecessary Sawquels . . .

  • Iloz Zoc

    I’m happy to see more supernatural horror coming out this year. I’ll take those scares over gushing blood anytime. If you can combine the two, even better. I smell another franchise.

  • http://www.bbspot.com/News/2007/03/review-dead-silence.html?from=rss Yea…

    I am going to take that guys word for the move, seriously, the movies concept is a bit weak, O NO, WATCH OUT FOR THE DUMMIES!

    I’m sure it’s going to be noting like other somewhat good movies, such as chuckle.

    I’m “lucky” enough to have to watch this instead of 300 in the Imax…

  • richard

    Very creepy and a good scare for the money.To many movies are just dumb and not to many can put the chill in the bones but this one does it all and thank god for it ten out of ten….good job…richard

  • jimmy

    it fucking sux

  • jimmy

    blows real bad, worst movie i have seen, hoping for the scare never got any it is about fucking dummies= gay

  • http://www.myspace.com/ripabelwewillalwaysloveu tyler

    pretty gay

  • Christopher Virus

    I havn’t see the film yet but even if everyone on here can give such great reviews as “Gay” and “Sucks.” I’m just glab to see a film in theaters that doesn’t have to do with 8 Abercrombi and Fitch models being hacked up by some lame ass psycho..But hey what do I know, I like The Toxic Avenger movies.

  • Chris

    This was a good movie. Story telling at it’s best. The lead actor was a little bit on the dorky side, but the supporting cast was good. The graphics, and sound effects kept me on the edge of my seat. It had alot suspense, and some comic moments. The ending had a nice twist, but left something to be desired. 8 outta 10 is my score for this movie.

  • jimbo

    Who would have guessed the killer was a cross dresser who loves dolls. unreal!!

  • Sarah

    Does anyone know the name and who does it…of the song…thats playin after the girl dies in the beging And Jamie walks in and it’s Blarin on the radio?? Thanks :)

  • sarah c.

    dude i love this movie
    i thought it was so funny
    having a lil doll come at you

  • Pallavi

    appalling movie. Horrible but doesn’t stick very much on mind…pallavi

  • Tammyr

    What year and kind of car is Jamie driving in the movie? I thought it was the best thing about the whole show :D