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Movie Review: Dead Silence

Dead Silence
Directed by James Wan
Written by Leigh Whannell based on a story by Whannell and Wan

Hey, who doesn’t get creeped out by ventriloquist dummies?  A subgenre of horror film all its own, the killer “dummy” or “doll” will always be up there with the psycho killers, the supernatural, and clowns as a way to elicit scares.

From director James Wan and his writing partner Leigh Whannell, the team that brought us Saw, Dead Silence is ridiculously bad.  The movie has a great twist ending, the Wan/Whannell specialty, but even this great ending is spoiled by the fact that nothing really revolves around or depends upon it.

The story: James Ashen (generic Ryan Kwanten), after receiving a gift of a ventriloquist dummy and stepping out for food, comes home to see his wife Lisa (Laura Regan) dead, with her tongue ripped out and her facial expression that of a horrified doll.  After the funeral, Ashen looks for answers, knowing that back in his hometown there was a legend about a woman named Mary Shaw (Judith Roberts), and how she did this sort of thing, ripping tongues out and the like.  Hard-nosed detective Jim Lipton (the slumming Donnie Wahlberg) thinks James is the killer, of course.

James goes to his crippled father Edward (Bob Gunton), who has recently married trophy wife Ella (Amber Valletta).  He is a little close-mouthed about Shaw, so he visits Henry Walker (Michael Fairman), whose wife Marion (Joan Heney) spoke crazily about the legend at the funeral.  Henry says the Ashen family is cursed because of some dealings with Shaw in the past, and Shaw is looking for revenge.  The “investigation” takes James to Shaw’s old house and the theatre at which she did sold out ventriloquist shows.

The movie is a series of long, going-nowhere scenes of “suspense.”  Had there been more Ashens, with this apparently being a vendetta against their family, and an army of dummies as the movie basically promises, this would have been a hell of a lot better.  It also would have made the ending more satisfying.  As is, it’s a total mess.  It’s almost impossible to describe the goings-on in this movie coherently because everything is so poorly laid out.  Even a genre like horror, based mostly on the supernatural, should have a good plot construction.

Not only is this disappointing from people I feel are decent filmmakers, this is just completely awful to boot.


Comment from Sam Loomis
Time: October 21, 2007, 1:00 am

This was one of those films that while I agree it wasn’t very good overall, I really appreciated Wan’s attempt to go back to an older style of horror story. I wish the film had done better at the box office, so studios would take note and some more of these types of horror films would have come out that were hopefully better. I think anyone who was dissapointed with this, but wants some good ole “Dummy” scares should check out Anthony Hopkins in “Magic,” the King of all killer dummy films.

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