Dead Silence **1/2
Directed by James Wan
Written by Leigh Whannell
Ryan Kwanten as Jamie Ashen
Amber Valletta as Ella Ashen
Donnie Wahlberg as Det. Jim Lipton
Michael Fairman as Henry Walker
Joan Heney as Marion Walker
Bob Gunton as Edward Ashem
Laura Regan as Lisa Ashen
Dmitry Chepovetsky as Richard Walker
Judith Roberts as Mary Shaw
90 Minutes(Rated R for horror violence and images.)
I have to criticize James Wan with one big thing before I continue. I know it seems like the "cool thing" to have the opening logos be in the "old school fashion," but in a way it is a little pretentious. David Fincher did it a few weeks ago with "Zodiac," to be fair Fincher is an actually decent film maker. In addition, that film was all about the 60's and the 70's right down to the music, and the 60's logo fit in. By using the Universal logo from the early 30's shows me that James Wan thinks that him and his films could be compared to the "creature" films that Universal is known for-ie. "Frankenstein" and "Dracula." Sadly, for him, Wan's films cannot compare to the classics of James Whales and Tod Browning no matter how much money "Saw" made.
That being said, I could also somewhat admire Wan for making an actual horror movie, or at least attempting to make one, instead of diving into the recent "torture/snuff" film popularity of the last few years. He decided that he didn't want to be a one trick pony, and not make the same movie twice in a row, and although he did make "Saw" at least that did have an actual plot twist to go along with it, and it wasn't just random acts of violence. There is an actual story here as well, including some minor scares, and a little style that could have been used a little bit more, and a little bit better. "Dead Silence" is about half a decent horror film, and certainly one that I would recommend more than "Hostel" or "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre."
"Dead Silence" begins with the typical horror film married couple-Jamie and Lisa Ashen. On this rainy night the couple decides to order Chinese food, and are surprised when the doorbell reveals a package on their doorstep. Inside the package there is a dummy that looks kind of creepy(almost in a Slappy from "Goosebumps" kind of way). Jamie goes out to pick up the food, and Lisa plays with the dummy only to be killed and then have her tongue ripped out. Jamie returns to find his wife dead and decides that he wants to find out why. He gets involved in an old local legend of Mary Shaw(Beware the stare of Mary Shaw. .. she has no children, only dolls. . .) and finds out that she created hundreds and hundreds of dolls which all drove her to insanity. And there is a reason why Jamie received the doll (this one is named Billy) and it has to do with an old ancient family curse which started when a young Ashen heckled Mary Shaw on stage, and she decided that she would get her revenge. At the same time Jamie is being hunted down by Det. Jim Lipton, who believes that he had to do with the death of his wife.
There is a certain style to "Dead Silence." To match the title, whenever something bad is about to happen all of the sound just disappears. The character doesn't hear anything even though things are still happening around him. This, of course, all leads up to massive scare. This would have been a more effective technique if Wan also cut the musical score that for some reason played behind all of these scenes. I mean, really, if you want to scare the audience with silence, than you completely make everything silent! The performances are very horror-movie esque,and Wan even got his friend Donnie Wahlberg to get involved. Wahlberg will always be in the shadow of his brother, but for a small role in a B-horror flick he was pretty decent. At least he made me laugh at one point towards the end. "Dead Silence" even tacks on a nice little twist at the end that I would have never guessed, but then he goes the "Saw" route and does that thing where he shows little clips of everything that has happened thus far with this twist revealing itself in every scene, all to the tune of some horrible music that is more annoying than catchy. The rest of the audience did clap after the credits, and I just nodded my head in slight approval. It isn't that "Dead Silence" is a bad film, but the scares are not really consistant. I was glad that the dummies weren't what killed everyone, but it was really the ghost of Mary Shaw. The posters kind of showed otherwise.
And one more thing-to horror film directors. Please don't bother showing these opening credit sequences where the audience has no idea who anybody is. With the exception of Walhberg and perhaps Amber Valetta(if you're a film nerd, or just have a big crush on her) there isn't anybody in this film that the masses would have heard of. And to sit through a three minute, irritating credit sequence where everybody is an unknown is painful, and it really did defer my attention for a while.