Dead Silence

Dead Silence

Film review by: Witney Seibold


            It’s kind of sad when the best actor in your film is ex-New Kid Donnie Wahlberg. Donnie has the same naturalist, hard-edge acting style of his brother Mark, and applies it with aplomb to his hard-boiled detective in “Dead Silence.” Also turning in a good (albeit brief) performance is reliable character actor Bob Gunton (you would recognize him on sight). Otherwse, the cast sort of ambles shiftlessly through the shadows of this perfunctory and oblong fright film.

            Jamie Ashen (Ryan Kwanten) is proud to have escaped his childhood hometown, and moved into a cityline apartment with his fiancée (Laura Regan). Shortly after receiving a creepy-looking ventriloquist dummy in the mail (a dummy that is obviously trying to carry the same creep factor as dummies from old episodes of “The Twilight Zone” or perhaps “Magic,” and not quite succeeding), his fiancée is murdered and her tongue is pulled out. Clues provided by the investigating officer (Wahlberg) lead him back to his hometown where he reunites with his dad (Gunton) and his new, much-younger wife (Amber Valletta). The murders, Jamie soon discovers, may be connected to a series of child disappearances years ago, allegedly perpetrated by a Mary Shaw (Judith Roberts), a woman who once held the entire county enthralled by her ventriloquism skills. Oh, and periodically during his investigation, Jamie and others experience an eerie quieting of all ambient noise. Is the ghost of the old lady taking possession of her doll collection to get ghostly revenge? Can I say possibly?


            There’s a lot of wind blowing through creepy old graveyards, a lot of scary dolls, a lot of dusty attic rooms and abandoned buildings. There’s a wise old pathologist and his brain-damaged wife who spews forth eerie prophecies… There’s even a climax involving a supernatural brawl in a burning building. Most of the elements of haunting stories are here. Problem is, none of this is very scary or very fun. It’s all drab and joyless filmmaking that doesn’t seem to have known at the outset where it wants to go. When we get to the final stinger at the end of the film, it’s not just pointless, but ridiculous.


            “Dead Silence” was directed by James Wan (“Saw” and “Saw III”) and written by Wan and Leigh Whannell (Al three “Saw”s). Their “Saw” movies are an interesting, if not slightly overrated, series of torture porn films with just enough “Twilight Zone” mixed in to make them interesting. “Dead Silence” is their attempt to do something a bit more complicated with a larger mythology. A note for all aspiring horror filmmakers: horror does not need to be BIG to work well. In fact, most of the time, horror works best with single people and their own personal anxieties. Watch the wonderful “Magic” again, and start there.

             A neat bit of trivia: the doll from “Saw” does make a cameo in “Dead Silence.”

Published in: on June 5, 2007 at 8:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

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