Dead Silence (Unrated Widescreen Edition)What do you do when you make a horror movie so popular that it not only starts a new horror fad (psychological gore might be a good categorization), but it also spawns three sequels? After the box-office success of Saw, James Wan passed the directorial baton on to Darren Lynn Bousman for the three Saw sequels, while still maintaining a presence in the series as writer and executive producer. Now Wan has teamed up again with writer Leigh Whannell (also from Saw) for the duo’s first non-Saw film. Although more of a typical horror movie, Dead Silence isn’t that far removed from the eerie tones and frightfully gory movies that their followers have come to expect.

Following the standard plot of a horror movie, Dead Silence is based around a creepy mysterious supernatural villain who is haunting and threatening the main character of the film. About halfway in, it is unsurprisingly revealed that our lead has familial history with the killer. A history that needs to be set right before the ghost’s revenge destroys him.

The killer herself happens to be Mary Shaw, of whom much lore has been passed on over the years throughout the small town of Ravens Fair. Once an infamous ventriloquist, who lived in a gigantic theatre on a lake, she was killed in a shocking way and then buried (at her own request) with her 101 dummies. Her trademark is that she waits until you scream, and then kills you by ripping out your tongue, leaving your face a gaping terrifying mess. Now, with the arrival of an unmarked package bearing a dummy named Billy, it appears that Jamie Ashen (Ryan Kwanten) and his wife are being haunted by Mary Shaw’s ghost. When his wife is brutally murdered, Jamie is Detective Jim Lipton (Donnie Wahlberg)’s number one suspect. For an unexplained reason, Jamie feels the need to then return to his small, almost abandoned town of Ravens Fair to find some answers. In a series of schlocky meetings he finds out what he must do in order to rid himself and his town of the curse of Mary Shaw. As Jamie gets closer to the truth, Detective Lipton begins to realize that maybe there’s more to his case than he originally suspected.

What separates this film from its horror peers currently flooding the cinema, and in fact manages to make the film interesting and downright spooky is Wan’s tight, focused shots,  and unexpected methods of cutting between scenes: unfolding elaborate scenes only to have them fold in on themselves. John R. Leonetti’s cinematography uses a color palette that’s basically limited to blue, black, grey, green, and the occasional yellow and red keeps the tone of the film decidedly dark, and never lets the audience take in a reassuring breath of relaxation til the film’s final moments. What could have been a remastered Chucky tale, with 21st century visual effects and a ventriloquist dummy in place of a red-headed kid’s toy, in the hands of James Wan, turns into an enjoyable and lastingly frightening horror romp.

Billy

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