(L to R) Jamie Ashen (RYAN KWANTEN), ventriloquist dummy Billy and Detective Lipton (DONNY WAHLBERG)
Dead Silence is not only an excellent horrf film, but it’s smart as well. Read on:
Having already reshaped the horror genre with the groundbreaking torture flick Saw, director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell have set out in their first follow-up to that picture (as helmer and scripter again) to defy expectations and go in a completely different, non-Jigsaw-ish direction, if you will. The result is Dead Silence, a satisfyingly old-school ghost story cum ventriloquist’s dummy tale that purposefully avoids being what so many modern horror pictures are these days, namely dumb, derivative, and cloyingly self-aware.
Rather, Dead Silence is the opposite: It’s smart, it pays subtle tribute to the filmmakers’ inspirations without ever ripping them off, and its awareness of what it is helps to avoid pandering to the viewer to such a degree that one can’t help but wonder who the target audience of the film really is. Wan and Whannell have made a horror film for true fans of the genre, but whether or not that kind of picture can pay the bills in today’s unfortunate sequel- and remake-driven market remains to be seen.
Ryan Kwanten stars as Jamie Ashen, who together with his wife Lisa (Laura Regan) receives an unmarked package at the start of the film. With no return address or any indication of where it came from, the big box seems like a practical joke or the like at first. In it is a ventriloquist’s dummy, named “Billy,” the arrival of which reminds Lisa of an old children’s rhyme that she and Jamie used to hear when they were kids: “Beware the stare of Mary Shaw. She had no children, only dolls. And if you see her, do not scream. Or she’ll rip your tongue out at the seam.”
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