Dead Silence
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Dead Silence

Although most agree that there is a biological advantage to fear even a cursory look at the myriad of phobias revealed you that might seem to have any evolutionary advantage. Most can understand being afraid of potentially dangerous things such as things spiders with the same benefits cannot be imagined for fear of clowns. One will be that would seem to be somewhere between the two extremes is Automatonophobia, fear of anything that resembles a sentient being. One of the most common manifestations of this phobia is manifested with ventriloquist dummies. I can rationalize why some people might have a psychological version to such things as there is a degree of creepiness to his lifeless eyes enjoyed moving in a voice emanating from it. If film that is considered one of the most effective ways to incite such a fear is a 1978 horror classic, ‘Magic’, starring Sir Anthony Hopkins and directed by Sir Richard Attenborough. This theme has also been used by such well-respected formats as ‘The Twilight Zone’ and ‘the Outer Limits’ As Well as many other representations of the theme. The latest to make its way to the Cineplex and on to a DVD/Blu-ray release is ‘Dead Silence’. Rather than engaging the services of men so talented in acting and directing that they have their own knighthood by the British monarchy, this film has been a different type of notoriety behind the camera. This movie was directed by James Wan and written by Leigh Whannell, the creators of ‘Saw’. Although 1978 film is considered a masterpiece of psychological horror a variation on the theme constructed by two filmmakers who helped usher in the dubious genre known as ‘torture porn’, you might be prone to expect the resulting movie the more heavily rely upon glory special-effects been infusing the story with the masterful crafting, perspective warping terror that originates in the mind. As a recovering the greater detail later on such expectations are certain to be challenged.

For the young married couple, Jamie Ashen (Ryan Kwanten) and his wife Lisa (Laura Regan) evening had started off in a normal fashion as they get ready to have dinner. Just as a near finishing the preparations a mysterious package is left at the door. Neatly wrapped a nondescript brown paper in unmarked as to its sender the open it revealing a ventriloquist dummy. There’s a car that identifies the dummy’s name as Billy along with a home about a woman named Mary Shaw. Jamie is dismissive about the package and contents in and leaves to go pick up the meals. While he is gone Lisa begins playing with the dummy when suddenly the apartment becomes preternaturally quiet as Billy becomes alive viciously attacking Lisa. When Jamie returns he has Lisa calling to him from the bedroom. Entering the bedroom he notices the floor is covered with blood and as he looks to the bed he finds Lisa dead, her jaw savagely broken open and her tongue ripped out. Police Detective Jim Lipton (Donnie Wahlberg) is in charge of the case and immediately suspects Jamie as the killer but is forced to release them for lack of evidence. Driven to get to the bottom of the mystery Jamie begins to investigate on his own. He discovers that Billy had once been owned by Mary Shaw the subject of the poem which seems to be eerily to the details of the murder: "Beware the stare of Mary Shaw. She had no children, only dolls. If you see her in your dreams, be sure you never, ever scream or she'll rip your tongue out at the seam." This sets up an intriguing conundrum for a horror movie. The must not attack until incited to by your screams. This places the designated victim in the untenable position of having to fight back at natural reaction that is hardwired into our most primitive areas of the brain. It turns out that Mary Shaw was a ventriloquist who lived in Jamie’s hometown of Ravens Fair. Jamie returns there up ostensibly to make funeral arrangements for his wife but he also realizes that he has to confront his very wealthy and estranged father, Edward (Bob Gunton). His father knew about the poem and the real Mary Shaw prompting Jamie’s interest in speaking to him after such a long time apart. When he gets to his father’s mansion he finds him wheelchair-bound with a new, much younger wife, Ella (Amber Valletta). Edward dismisses the palm and the woman is mere superstition advising his son to give no credence to the matter. When Jamie and Ella move away from Edward, Jamie tries to warn her that his father is a monster, but the new bride assures the once estranged son that he has changed drastically since they were married.

Lisa’s body is delivered to the mortician, Henry Walker (Michael Fairman), is shocked as he notices the macabre state of her body and realized he is has seen this before. When Jamie brings Billy to Henry the next morning, the mortician finally agrees to tell Jamie the true story of Mary Shaw. This brings the audience to the requisite moment revealing The Villain’s back story. Mary Shaw had been a famous ventriloquist who commonly played in front of theaters. She had one ambition in life and that was to create the perfect puppet, a pursuit that became an all-consuming obsession. She had sketchbooks and notes detailing the minutest requirements for its construction. During one performance Shaw is heckled by a young boy who declares look quite loudly he could see her lips move. Mary becomes quite upset that the boy which is painfully obvious to the others in attendance. Later that night the boy goes missing with Mary Shaw the primary suspect. The boy’s father kills her and her body is brought to Henry’s father, also mortician. Mary had wanted to be buried with the 101 puppets she had created. Henry was a curious young boy snuck down to his father’s work room where Mary’s body reanimated started towards him. He only survived by covering his mouth stifling his scream.

This leads us to or the most common themes in horror; the protagonist hunting the monster while the authorities are chasing after him. As Jamie is digging into the life of Mary Shaw uncovering details of the perverse direction her press for the perfect puppet took her. What follows is a mélange of a serial killer, corpse mutilation and family dysfunction taken to the most extreme level. As the premise Billy, the sinister puppet is certain to creep out all but the most jaded people in the audience. For the most part the script by Leigh Whannell based on a story from James Wan’s is well constructed demonstrating that they are quite capable in crafting a story dependent upon psychological manipulation instead of the grossly visceral effects so blatantly used in ‘Saw’. This is reinforced by even a cursory look at their list of credits. Both also involved in two of the better psychologically group and follow films of late, ‘The Conjuring’ and ‘Insidious: Chapter 2’. There are certain advantages to having the creator of the story also take on the responsibilities of director. Typically this translates to the directorial style taking form as the story is being crafted. I admitted he did expect considerably more gore than plot but found myself pleasantly surprised at the nuanced overtones woven into the story. This is also the type of film you will find your experience significantly benefited by delving into the extra material. Included are both an alternate opening and ending for the movie. Frequently this indicates a uncertainty and betray the movie was intended to unfold. In this instance I believe the filmmakers are sharing with their viewers a bit of the thought process they counted all the siding on the edit for the final cut.

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Alternate Opening

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Alternate Ending

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Deleted Scenes

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The Making of Dead Silence

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Mary Shaw's Secrets

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Evolution of a Visual FX

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Aiden's "We Sleep Forever" Music Video

Posted 08/03/2015

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