** (out of 5)
March 16, 2007
Ryan Kwanten as JAMIE ASHEN
Amber Valletta as ELLA ASHEN
Donnie Wahlberg as DET. JIM LIPTON
Michael Fairman as HENRY WALKER
Joan Heney as MARION WALKER
Bob Gunton as EDWARD ASHEN
Laura Regan as LISA ASHEN
Directed by: James Wan
BY KEVIN CARR
It’s never a good omen when a film is not screened for critics. Sadly, it’s become a practice more and more common at the studios. And when it comes to horror films, they are notorious for sending the movies out there blind.
Sometimes a non-screened horror film can be decent, considering most critics dislike them no matter what. I tend to like horror movies. However, I do have discerning tastes even in this genre.
“Dead Silence” is the latest horror film to hit theaters without hearing the opinion of the critics. It’s been billed with the tag line “From the producers, writers and director of ‘Saw.’” Of course, this doesn’t really mean it will be good. Considering they’re on their third installment of “Saw” and James Wan hasn’t really spearheaded anything else.
After plopping my money down at the box office and watching the movie on opening day, I can say I fully understand why the studio wouldn’t let the critics see this. It’s not entirely original, and where it is original, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
The story is about a man named Jamie Ashen (Ryan Kwanten) who receives a mysterious package one evening. He and his wife open it to discover it contains a rather creepy ventriloquist doll. Not all too concerned with where it came from, Jamie leaves to get Chinese food and his wife is mutilated and murdered by the doll (as if we didn’t see this coming).
Later, when Jamie returns to his home town to bury his wife, we learn that there is a local ghost tale of a murderous ventriloquist named Mary Show who rips out your tongue. Of course, I never quite understood why Jamie and his wife didn’t freak out after receiving the doll, considering how much the town freaks out about it. Still, Jamie manages to hold onto the doll, even going as far to keep it in his motel room while in town.
Jamie starts to uncover the mystery of Mary Shaw, which he should have known since we assume that he grew up in the town because that’s where he and his wife are from. The doll continues to haunt him, as does Donnie Wahlberg as a retread of his Detective Matthews character from “Saw II.”
“Dead Silence” reminds me of the dreadful remake of “Black Christmas” that came out during the holidays last year. It has a decent premise. After all, who isn’t at least slightly creeped out by ventriloquist dummies? I’ve been bugged by these little demons ever since I saw that eerie “Twilight Zone” episode where the dummy comes to life and takes over its ventriloquist’s body.
However, even with a decent premise, this movie is a miss. It misses on the suspense, of which there is little. It misses on the plot, suffering from holes and leaps in logic. It misses on the characters, with the victims acting like dummies themselves.
Too many questions were left unanswered, even for a horror movie. Why didn’t they get rid of the doll in the first scene? Why didn’t Jamie burn the doll after it killed his wife? Why does no one but the crotchety old undertaker realize there’s a problem when they hear the story? Why does the Donnie Wahlberg detective not have to cooperate with local law enforcement? And why do the trailers keep insisting that “Shaw” rhymes with “dolls,” and that tongues have seams?
It’s a sad state of affairs when you’re more interested in the horror movie trailers that play before the feature film. All I really learned at this showing was that I really wanted to see William Friedkin’s new film, “Bug.”