Watching some scenes in James Wan’s Dead Silence, I felt like a tarantula was crawling down the front of my trousers. Like some hairy palmed hooker with sharp nails, waves of cold shivers contorted my body in my chair until I could finally shake the imaginary spider off until the next time. Dead Silence showcases director Wan’s and writer Leigh Whannell’s fondness for dastardly dolls and pernicious puppets. Did these dudes grow up watching Wayland and Madame on Hollywood Squares, realizing that Madame was the mouthpiece of Satan?
I did. Coca Cola and crucifixes were my friends in front of the television.
Dead Silence is a nice throwback to an old Twilight Zone or Outer Limits episode that gave many a child sleepless nights as they stare at their toys in the dark closet. Did that toy monkey just move on its own? Are the rock-em sock-em robots throwing down on orders from the boogeyman ? Pray mommy and daddy don’t mind you crawling in bed with them. You’re pushing thirteen, kid. Hopefully, daddy had too many beers and doesn’t want to get close to mommy. Mommy’s kind of frightening with that white cream on her sagging face and rollers in her hair that make her look like something from Buck Rogers. You can’t blame the old man for dulling the pain with a few Schlitz.
Dead Silence is easy like Sunday morning at the funeral parlor. It’s straight forward, nothing too fancy and professionally done. Everything you want in a good wake. Make sure you embalm the dead bastard, dust off the coffin and get his sobbing relatives out of there quick. If they’re Irish make sure they take the keg and whiskey flasks with them.
The movie opens with Jamie Ashen(Ryan Kwanten) and his wife Lisa(Laura Regan) enjoying the fact that their sink is leaking and the rain is coming down outside like the IRS on Wesley Snipes. Young love, I guess. They receive a mysterious package. They open it up to find it is a creepy ventriloquist’s dummy. With its menacing wooden jowls, slicked back hair and little boy tuxedo, you would think the young couple would take it to the apartment building’s incinerator and torch it until it was nothing but white ash and a bow tie.
Jamie goes out to pick up Chinese Food and leaves the wife alone with the dummy, Billy. It doesn’t end well for Lisa and when Jamie comes home to find his young wife with her tongue ripped out he is obviously upset. She was quite hot, after all. I am not saying a hot wife is worth more than a frumpy one—yeah, I am. Let’s be real. Dour feminists can hate until their Birkenstocks burst into flames, but they don’t usually get offed in horror movies. It’s the hot ones that are the victims.
Jamie comes under the suspicion of wise-cracking cop cliche’, Detective Lipton(Marky Mark’s Brother). With his awful fashion sense(really with that tan trenchcoat, Inspector Clouseau?), rumpled face, stubble that needs constant buzzing from an electric razor he carries next to his gun, Donnie Wahlberg gets to have a blast while the rest of the cast has to act like they believe some sinister supernatural shit is going down.
Jamie goes home to bury his wife in their hometown of Raven’s Fair. He stops by his sprawling childhood estate–which rivals Bruce Wayne’s in cold drafts and dungeon decor– to see his hated and very sick father, played by Bob Gunton who play’s vile characters as well as anyone else. Seriously, people probably spit in this poor man’s food at restaurants. Proves he is a great actor.
He knocks on the door and is greeted by his wicked stepmother. She is gnarled like a twisted old tree and we can see her fingernail fungus as she picks at her loose brown teeth. The only thing receding faster than her hairline is her black gums.
Actually, she is smoking hot and the same age as Jamie. She is the stepmother and probably wicked to any children that don’t want to split daddy’s inheritance with some bimbo that steps in at the eleventh hour, jerks father’s wrinkled pole a few times until he strokes out on the marble floor. She is played nicely by the gorgeous Amber Valletta. It is little more than an extended cameo, but she has such nice bone structure that someone should have given her some kind of award for the role.
Best “Special Sock” Female in a Horror Movie About Dolls 2007.
Like a straight razor slicing through a fleshy cheek, Wan and Whannell keep things moving briskly. The plot revolves around the curse from a nefarious old witch of a woman, Mary Shaw, who cast a dark spell on the town of Raven’s Fair upon her death. This is standard horror fare, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be effective in the right hands. These two know how to make a horror movie. So far in their careers, however, one could accuse them of dipping into the same bag of tricks one too many times. It would be nice to see them pilot some new vessels of horror through the dark oceans.
The production design in Dead Silence is top notch. The town of Raven’s Fair, with it’s desolate streets that have only blowing leaves as pedestrians, is well realized. Seedy motel rooms with red neon light shining through the window, giving it the appearance that it is submerged in hell is a nice touch. The Guignol Theatre–where Mary Shaw performed her ventriloquist act before spellbound crowds in the 1940’s– is perfectly portrayed. We see it in all its opulence in a flashback, and also as crumbling ruins in the film’s present day.
Dead Silence has a nice twist at the end. Don’t ask yourself if it is believable–you’re watching a movie about killer dolls and cursed towns, for Pete’s sake!! The movie should have the audience vested enough so that you will get a nice chuckle and an “oh shit” when it is revealed. If you saw it coming, then you should be writing screenplays.
I don’t want to imagine being stuck on the tarmac for 89 minutes with some ventriloquist dummy. I don’t want to be around those creepy things for 89 seconds. However, I would gladly sit down and watch Dead Silence again. I hope to have Amber Valletta and her lovely bone structure feeding me soup.
My “special sock” is never far off.