Thanks to the advent of “The Twilight Zone,” R.L. Stine’s “Goosebumps,” and many other horrific entities, ventriloquist dummies have managed to become a pretty valid specter of fright all of my life. And thankfully, here comes James Wan to further perpetuate the fear of the ventriloquism in all its delights. “Dead Silence” is a film that wasn’t really an easy sell from the first minute. Surely, it starts off eerily enough, but it doesn’t really pick up until the second half. But what it accomplishes are genuine plot twists that only the boys from “Saw” can truly utilize, and man, are there ever plot twists abound, including one that’s a bit over the top, but truly creepy.
“Dead Silence” is less a film about a killer puppet, and more a film about the madness behind the puppet. Was Mary Shaw really undead, or were her puppets keeping her alive? Whanell and crew never really make it clear to us, but they do create a truly creepy horror character that works mainly because she’s so utterly horrifying to look at. “Dead Silence” has a genuine novelty to it, and one that works to compliment the puppets that play as constant plot devices. Wan’s direction is just great as he has a blast using darkness as a truly interesting characteristic for the film, all the while using swooping camera angles and good old fashioned creepy settings to build the suspense all the while attempting to build a story. He flexes his directing muscles for sure, and provides us with a welcome break from all the meaningless splatter crowding shelves in video stores at the moment. “Dead Silence” definitely has a gruesome aspect to it, but it’s also genuinely creepy, and the puppets will linger on in your mind for a long while.
Wan’s direction is just crisp and harrowing, while building what I can assume is the start of a franchise. Regardless, this first film is a very good horror entry that relies on tension and edge to win us over, and it worked for me on many levels. An older figure who has really a bit of a tragic past who is really into children. So the parents of the children decide to make them suffer for their cruel misdeeds, and this figure comes back in the demonic form taking shape of our fears and… dare I say it, dreams. No, this isn’t “Nightmare on Elm Street,” but the “Saw” boys really would like you to believe it. But no, this isn’t “Nightmare on Elm Street,” it’s much more of a rehash of “Darkness Falls,” which in and of itself was a rehash of the aforementioned title. And it’s sad when a film rips off such a poor horror flick, but damn it, “Dead Silence” has all the telltale signs of a rehash.
And that’s one of its primary downfalls, that “Dead Silence” rehashes not the best, but the worst of a film that’s rehashed the best. Confusion rings. “Dead Silence” cribs shamelessly from the former sources, even including a demonic entity that can only truly kill you once you scream, and “Dead Silence” really doesn’t make with the scary until the second half. And that’s the film’s biggest downfall. Aside from having a bland leading character, and an obnoxious antagonist (really, what was Donnie Wahlberg’s purpose in this affair?), the film never truly has a clear narrative in mind until the second half where it all comes crashing down. I won’t say this was a complete win for the boys from “Saw.” The film most definitely has plenty of inherent flaws, but in spite of it all, it’s also a very creepy little ditty that works once it rears up to the second half.