June 20, 2008

Dead Silence (2007)

Clowns and puppets are two things that seem to creep the fuck out of a good many people. Personally I love clowns, but puppets, well there is something not quite right about the evil little bastards if you ask me? Don't get me wrong, I'm not likely to have an episode if confronted by one, I just think there is something inherently wrong with them.

So, with that in mind, I was actually quite looking forward to watching Dead Silence. Here was a chance for a movie to elicit a few chills down the old spine; something that is all too lacking in movies these days. The fact that is was written and directed by Leigh Whannel and James Wan, the creative force behind Saw, only heightened my expectations. After the success of that movie, and its subsequent sequels, it would have been quite easy for them to make another visceral and altogether more brutal movie than the movie they did make. More power to them though, as Dead Silence, despite a few shortcomings, turned out to be a fairly well crafted movie that relies more on the scares than the blood and guts.

James Ashen and his wife are having a pleasant enough evening at home when he receives an unexpected package. There is no return address, just his name on it, so of course he opens it. Inside is a puppet, which wasn't really unexpected to tell the truth. Anyhoo, James pops out to pick up Chinese for dinner not realizing that this is to be the last time he will see his wife alive.
Of course, despite his grief, James is the number one suspect in his wife's murder, something that isn't likely to change when he tells the police that he heard his wife calling him when he returned to the apartment. Best thing to do is blame the puppet, which goes down even worse with the police!

Despite being the only real suspect the police let him go giving him the chance to further investigate the murder; an investigation that leads him back to his home town of Ravens Fair and the legend of Mary Shaw.

Mary Shaw, although once a renowned ventriloquist, has now become the thing of nightmares and urban legend. Being killed by the townsfolk many years ago did not stop her from coming back to have her revenge.

On the surface the story here is a little unbelievable, in fact if you really think about it, it's just plain daft. However, it is put together in such a way that you can't help get drawn into it. I'll even excuse the fact that the police allowed James back to his apartment, even though items that could be classed as evidence were still there.

What really sold this movie to me was the inventive camerawork, the sense of dread throughout the story and the wonderful score by Charlie Clouser, which only added to the film's ambience. At times the film felt almost dreamlike; from the eerie ghost town of Ravens Fair, the use of fog and the muted color of the visuals. This is a movie that relies more on chills than on graphic scenes of butchery. In fact it is a relatively bloodless affair aside from the odd death scene, of which there aren't that many really.

Technical aspects aside, the movie also wouldn't have worked for me had there not been a decent cast to back it all up. Good thing that the majority of the cast here were spot on. Donnie Wahlberg was excellent in combining some quirky humor into his role as the detective investigating the murder. Apart from Wahlberg the rest of the characters, including Mary Shaw herself, the local Funeral Home director and his wife, James' father and stepmother were all impressive. In fact the only weak point to me was James himself, he just seemed a little bland, but that could have been down to the eccentricities of his fellow cast-members.

After not being quite sure what to expect from Dead Silence I found myself thoroughly enjoying it. It was creepy, atmospheric and, if you excuse a couple of plot-holes, one of the more enjoyable big budget horror releases I have seen. It was definitely a pleasant change of pace from some of the more violent movies that have been so prevalent recently.