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  Publicity Stills of "Dead Silence"
(Courtesy from UIP)

Genre: Horror/Thriller
Director: James Wan
Cast: Ryan Kwanten, Amber Valletta, Donnie Wahlberg, Bob Gunton
RunTime: 1 hr 30 mins
Released By: UIP
Rating: PG (Some disturbing scenes)
Official Website: www.deadsilencemovie.net
Trailer: www.apple.com/trailers/universal/deadsilence

Opening Day: 23 August 2007


Newlyweds Jamie (Kwanten) and Lisa Ashen have established a new life for themselves far from their hometown of Ravens Fair--a sleepy, near-forgotten blip on the map haunted by late-night whispers and ghost stories from generations past. But when his wife is gruesomely murdered, Jamie reluctantly returns to Ravens Fair for the funeral, intent on unraveling the mystery surrounding her death.

Once back under his family's roof, reunited with his ill father (Gunton) and his father's new young bride (Valletta), Jamie begins to explore the creepy town and encounters the legend of Mary Shaw, a famous murdered ventriloquist whose presence still casts a pall over Ravens Fair. Himself the lead suspect in his wife's murder, Jamie is forced to dig deep into the town's bloody past for answers, where he soon uncovers the truth behind the curse that ended Lisa's life...and threatens to take his as well

Movie Review:

“Dead Silence” intends to invoke the credibility and gravity of urban legends – replete with ritual murders, a cursed town, sinister nursery rhymes and an oath of vengeance. Writer-director James Wan and co-writer Leigh Whannell conspire together in their first post “Saw” franchise vehicle that trades in their signature shock attempts for an old-fashioned spook-fest. What they did with their lucrative trilogy was probably the sort of ideal that every up and coming screenwriting team in Hollywood aspire to, but its ostentatious music-video presentation resembled someone shouting "I WENT TO FILM SCHOOL!!" in your ear for more than an hour. And Wan’s relatively low-key attempt in “Dead Silence” does not do much to quiet that particular reaction.

For the lack of anything else, the film tends to look gorgeous at intervals. Unfortunately, the grandiose visuals only serve to bring attention to the lacklustre script and the promise that the film possibly had at one time. Wan’s reputation as a stylistic hack remains, but at least he works to his strengths, unfortunately leaving room for weaknesses to fester. Most pointedly, the dreadful performances by bland unknown, Ryan Kwanten as Jamie Ashen, a wrongly accused widower and the best argument against cronyism, Donnie Wahlberg as Detective Lipton, the dour cop on Jamie’s trail.

For a marketing campaign that visualises marionettes and ventriloquist dummies as its primary menace, obviously recalling the early terror of “Child’s Play” for many, this film apparently discovers the limitations of the inherent creepiness of the lifeless eyes of a doll following you around the room. “Dead Silence” ditches it early on for CGI substitutes of wraiths and crimson spatters.

The film’s focus remains fuzzy once its promising first act draws to a close. Obviously intended as a throwback to an Old Hollywood style mystery that values suspense over gore (a stretch I know, considering its source) and its ashen-faced lead is unfairly called to shoulder the film’s descent into the ghost town haunted by Mary Shaw, the vengeful witch that corporealises moments after Wan fades down the sound effects. The fine line between an eerie atmosphere and a gaudy pseudo-slasher is easily breached once we realise its eventual modus operandi, when the old broad starts picking off the townsfolk one at a time.

Movie Rating:

(Jarring disconnect between mood and direction leads to another dud in the genre)

Review by Justin Deimen

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