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Dead Silence (2007)

R 93 minutes

Directed by James Wan
Written by Leigh Whannell

 · Ryan Kwanten
 · Donnie Wahlberg
 · Amber Valletta

Review by Sean Kernan

James Wan and Leigh Whannell shot to fame as the team behind the Saw movies. Wan directed and Whannell wrote the script for the original Saw and their originality and clever twists kept audiences reeling all the way to over 100 million dollars worldwide. Since then James Wan has consulted as producer on Saw 2 & 3 while Whanell wrote the screenplays and kept their vision and guidance on the films in tact.

Now, Wan and Whannell are out with their first post-Jigsaw horror film, a creepy puppet flick called Dead Silence. And thankfully, once again, Wan and Whannell have a hit another home run. Dead Silence is skin crawlingly creepy, ironic and smart with great twists and inventive gore.




There was a woman named Mary Shaw who, in 1941, in the town of Ravens Fair, was murdered. Her tongue was ripped out, an ironic means of death as Shaw was a ventriloquist. Unfortunately, for her killers, Mary Shaw did not stay dead. Year after year the people of Ravens Fair have turned up dead in a similar fashion to Mary Shaw.

Ryan Kwanten plays Jamie, a newlywed whose family was born and bred and Ravens Fair; though he himself left years ago. One night as he and his wife Lisa (Lauren Regan) are pondering take out food, a package arrives and inside is a reminder of the legend of Mary Shaw. Inside is Billy, a creepy looking ventriloquists dummy with frighteningly realistic eyes and an air of menace that is inexplicable.

When Jamie runs out to get food he returns to a true horror scene, the doll is on his bedroom floor and his wife is in bed dead, her tongue ripped out. Taken in by the cops, Jamie tells detective Jim Lipton (Donnie Wahlberg) all about the legend of Mary Shaw and why he must go to Ravens Fair to find whoever killed his wife. The detective is convinced that Jamie is the killer but without evidence all he can do is tail Jamie to Ravens Fair and hope he gives himself away.

To reveal much more about the plot of Dead Silence would be to reveal to much. The twists and turns of this plot are not quite as intricate as director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell's debut picture Saw, but as far as scares go, Dead Silence is everything you would hope for from the guys who invented Jigsaw. Creepy, gory, atmospheric, Dead Silence is an honest to goodness scary movie that you will take home with you in your nightmares.





So what makes Dead Silence more creepy and clever than the dozens of horror films that have preceded it in this decade? It comes directly from the talents of director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell. The scenarios they set in motion combine logical storytelling with strong suspense filmmaking and keep us in the audience in a constant state of alert, sitting on the edge of our seat, unable to predict what is going to happen next.

Wan and Whannell never retreat to the typical horror cliches to achieve their scares. There are no unnecessary shock cuts, no red herrings and no abuse of bombastic musical scoring to tell audiences when to be scared. Where so many modern horror films are utterly predictable, the Saw pictures, all written by Whannell with producer credits for Wan on Saw 2 and 3, and now Dead Silence avoid predictibility by employing great staging and scene setting. The audience is so busy covering their eyes in anticipation of the next scare, they simply don't have time tp predict what comes next.

Dead Silence isn't completely unpredictable, near the end; the film falls victim to Roger Ebert's legendary law of economy of characters. That law states that there are no extraneous characters and Dead Silence has one character that you have no doubt will be important later; whose plot isn't wrapped up when the rest of the movie seems to be. This oversight by Wan and Whannell is forgiven because the ending delivers big time on the fate of this extraneous character.



Dead Silence is a visceral horror experience with real scares and edge of your seat thrills. James Wan and Leigh Whannell prove once again why they are the pre-eminant artists of this genre. Combining the talents of Wes Craven and Clive Barker with a dash of Alfred Hitchcock and Rod Serling, Wan and Whannell bridge the gap between gory, blood-soaked horror and intellectual, atmospheric horror.

And, of course, they have creepy puppets. What more could you ask of a horror movie.

760 Words Published: 19 March 2007

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