Dead Silence review by The Grim Ringler

No doubt about it, right up there with clowns come dolls as the stuff of nightmares. Maybe it’s our fear of joyful things, or just that they’re like tiny, creepy babies, or maybe it’s movies like this that just put these dolls in a bad light.

A man’s wife is brutally murdered while he is out getting take out dinner for them and not long after they’d gotten a strange package on their doorstep – a ventriloquist’s dummy. The wife thinks it’s cute and laughs at it, but the husband isn’t so amused. There’s just something familiar and scary in its gaze, and it reminds both of them of an old rhyme from their home town. The doll proves to not so cute after all when something kills the woman while her husband is away and to the man, it seems as if this doll must be connected to this murder. After being accused of being the culprit behind the murder of his wife, the man heads off for his home town in the hopes of uncovering who it was that sent the mysterious dummy and thereby who murdered his wife. What he finds though is a town hidden in the shadows of a dark past. Even years after his leaving the town still cowers at the name of Mary Shaw, a woman who had had a deep love for her family of dolls. This woman had been a performer and had a small theater where she put on performances with her dummies. But it seems Mary was not one to suffer a willful child so when a young boy disappears it is Mary that gets blamed. Not long after it is Mary that has gone missing and so the town raises a marker for her grave and then buries all of her ‘dolls’, her family, and the town then hopes that the woman and her curse can be buried. The real terror of Mary begins though after her apparent death as people in the town begin turning up dead, their tongues ripped out and the bodies positioned as if for a portrait. Now Jamie, back home and looking for a murderer begins finding clues that seem to point to the return of Mary and her curse and he must find his wife’s killer and find the answer to what really is happening in his home town.

The first thing you need to keep in mind here is that this, to me, is an utter throwback to some of the better, creepier films of the ‘80’s. This reminds me a lot of Dolls but that isn’t to say that this is a remake of that film or a rip-off. What director Wan has done is to take that sort of atmosphere and the sense of dread and to use that as his template. This is the sort of traditional horror film that many say the genre has strayed from and I think that this may have been a case where the filmmaker’s previous films (he worked on Saw) may have hurt this film’s chance at getting some people in the seats. This is not Saw with dolls. Not at all. (Though, you may see Billy, the puppet from that film somewhere in the background). This is a decently paced ghost story about the old woman in town who was a witch. That’s the story, essentially. The crappy thing here is that so much is done right that it’s a shame that the things that are done poorly really have such a negative effect on the whole.

The acting

Donnie Wahlberg and can appreciate his talent but man, they really sold him out here. His character – a caricature of the hard-nosed cop with a heart of gold – is laughable at best and the logic he uses is all too similar to cop logic from the ‘80’s. First they play him all tough as nails, then he’s downgraded to a sort of Columbo, only to become the side-kick at the end. AAARGH! I say. The rest of the cast is decent enough, though most are not given terribly good dialogue in the least. Like the first Saw though, you have some great set-ups and a fantastic premise that’s lessened by the amateurish characters that are created.

As for the horror, it’s very well done. The dolls are creepy and for the most part are not overplayed throughout the film. The town is beautiful and reminded me of one of the Phantasm ghost towns. The story is nice in that campfire tale way. The best part is the ending, which is, again all-too familiar for fans of the ‘S’ movie but it plays out pretty well here and manages to shock. Personally, I admire the film more as an idea than a reality.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the film and, for the rating I am going to give it, think it’s still worth a look and a purchase.

I just think that the concept and design is better than the reality. The set designs, the story, the dolls, the scares, the parts of the movie are great, but the characters and dialogue really let the film down in the end.

Would I recommend seeing it? Sure. It’s got a lot to offer, and fans of the Saw series can do with a refresher about what old-school horror films are like. I love that this is an old fashioned horror film. We need more films like that. I just wish this had more to offer than a simple campfire tale. It’s good as that, but it could have been much better.

6 out of 10 Jackasses
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