Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Critically, when ‘Dead Silence’ was released to theaters it was panned pretty badly.  I remember seeing the trailer and though I’m really not a big horror movie dude, this one interested me.  Then the films distributor, Universal Pictures, chose to not to allow any critical screenings of this movie which automatically leads one to believe that it’s an absolute disaster, but Universal claimed it was to ‘preserve the twist’.  Generally speaking, film critics aren’t the ones standing up and yelling that ‘Bruce Willis is Dead Too!’ or that ‘Verbal Kint is Kaiser Sose!’ in their film reviews, which also led one to believe that this movie was destined to be crap.  Well I’m afraid I must vehemently disagree with the movie reviewing public and the movie watching public who avoided this movie in droves and say that ‘Dead Silence’ was one of the creepiest movies I’ve seen in quite some time. 

Between ventriloquist dummies and clowns, I don’t which one is more demonic.  Jamie (Ryan Kawnten) and Lisa (Laura Regan) are a young happy couple just enjoying a night in together when someone drops off a package at the door then scurries away.  Yo, if I don’t see the UPS dude, then the package is going straight in the garbage.  Anyway, they open it up and it’s a demonic ass looking ventriloquist dummy.  This makes Lisa recall the poem they used to say when they were kids, something about beware Mary Shaw and don’t scream or something.  Anyway Jamie runs out to pick up some grub leaving the wife alone with the doll.  When Jamie comes home there’s blood everywhere, his wife is calling him, and when he pulls back the sheet that his wife is under, girlfriend is some kind of disfigured dead.  How his mutilated was wife, missing her tongue, was calling his name... well that there is a mystery now isn’t it.

The police led by Detective Jim Lipton (Donnie Wahlberg) are pretty convinced that Jamie killed his wife, but Jamie knows the doll has something to do with it, so he heads back to home to Wierdtown USA where this doll originated.    Back at Wierdtown Jamie confronts his estranged father (Bob Gunton), who has remarried the pretty Ella (Amber Valletta), some forty years his junior.  Jamie wants to know all there is to know about this Mary Shaw person but folks try to tell him that he should be careful looking for answers because he might not like what he finds.  Ain’t that the truth.  Well Jamie finds out the truth, but guess what?  He Can’t Handle the Truth! Which sets us up for our big twist at the end.

Though I thought that ‘Dead Silence’ was an incredibly effective horror film, don’t think that it wasn’t saddled with some  incredible stupidity that only existed because it had too to keep the story moving.  For instance, if you’re convinced that an evil demonic doll has just murdered your wife, would you let it ride shotgun with you on a road trip and let it sleep with you in your motel room?  I wouldn’t.  So you get intel that the doll used to be buried in the cemetery, and get the bright idea to rebury that sucker.  Personally I’d wait until daytime to do that when the fog machine isn’t working so well, but after I do bury the damn doll, get into my car and that doll appears in drivers side window staring at me, I’m not getting out of my car and looking under it wondering where the hell the damn doll I just buried in the graveyard two minutes ago is bopping around to.  And then there was the twist.

What does work in ‘Dead Silence’ is the intensely creepy atmosphere created by director James Wan.  I admire the fact that ‘Dead Silence’ attempts to actually scare you as opposed to simply disgust you, which is what horror has descended to as of late.  The dolls were creepy as hell, and Mary Shaw (Judith Roberts) with damn tongue was just flat unsettling.  This is a situation where script stupidity, and there was plenty of it, is trumped by director skill and atmosphere. 

SPOILER:  Now to the twist.  I read a review of this film where the reviewer claimed the twist was broadcast and he caught it within the first fifteen minutes.  In that case he started watching the movie backwards then.  Not that the twist was so clever, but it came completely out of left field.  There are twists in films that flow from the narrative and make total sense and there’s the rabbit out of the hat twist which is what this one is.  The hot step mom is Mary now?  Then who was the woman with the disconnected mouth and super long tongue?  And who is the step mom and where the hell did she come from?  I guess she’s a doll too, but she certainly wasn’t made of wood or anything.  And since she’s propping up the dad using him as a doll, there couldn’t be anyone propping her up.  I’m guessing Mary just keeps popping into one doll after another.  I suppose that makes sense.  And why does Jamie scream at the end when there was way more stuff to scream about before that?  END SPOILER.

Despite the obvious narrative flaws of ‘Dead Silence’ it’s first and foremost task is to be creepy and scary and that it is.  No, a lot of it doesn’t make sense but as a horror film it is one of the most effective one’s I have seen in quite some time.

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