Director: James Wan
Starring: Ryan Kwanten, Amber Valletta, Donnie Wahlberg, Michael Fairman, Joan Heney
You scream. You die.
Jamie and Lisa Ashen receives a mysterious package containing a creepy ventriloquist doll named “Billy”. Later that night, while Jamie is out to get dinner for the loving couple, Lisa plays around with the doll. When Jamie comes home he finds her dead, with her tongue ripped out and the doll lying next to her tormented body.
Detective Jim Lipton is handling the case and he is sure that Jamie is responsible for Lisa’s death. Jamie however is sure that the blame is to be put on a local legend about a ventriloquist named Mary Shaw back in his hometown, even though Mary Shaw died a long time ago…
Dead Silence was the follow up movie to Saw by the filmmaking duo James Wan and Leigh Whannell. It was a high budget horror film with a production budget around 20 million dollars. It was also, as usual, a film that saw problems with studio interference and would ultimately suffer from it and barely made back its budget during its initial theatrical run.
Dead Silence starts out great, with a creepy introduction scene that are very well crafted by James Wan. Dolls are always creepy and with Wan’s great sense of visuals, he is able to do much more with the poor material than what should be possible. Some of the scares are actually very close to what he would do again in Insidious and there is also a great Mario Bava reference to be spotted in it aswell (think about the third segment of Black Sabbath and you’ll easily notice it… if not, see Black Sabbath. Now).
The potential he showed with this film made me follow his future career and nothing made me more happy than to see that he would live up to the hype and get the chances to deliver fantastic horror films such as the Insidious films and The Conjuring, making him the biggest current horror director in Hollywood.
The biggest problem with Dead Silence is the poor script. Whannell has later said that the studio interference did ruin it and that would of course not be very surprising since horror filmmakers aren’t exactly treated with that much respect from the big studios. Of course, since these were the guys behind Saw, everyone expected them to deliver a plot twist in the end here as well. And it has that, but it does work and doesn’t feel forced.
The acting is not very convincing. Ryan Kwantan is alright in the leading role as Jamie, although I do wish that they had done more work on the character to make him connect more with the viewer. I didn’t find any need for Donnie Wahlberg’s character, Detective Lipton, as the character didn’t add anything to the film and Wahlberg himself is not exactly a great actor and fun to watch. Basically they could have done much more when it comes to the characters.
Dead Silence is mostly interesting today to see how James Wan would progress from the Saw films and eventually end up becoming the current #1 horror director in the world. Although this is a flawed film, its highlights are excellent and for some it might even be a scary and moody experience. If you have nothing else to watch or just want to see how Wan became who he is, then give it a chance.