Dead Silence (2007) – By Duane L. Martin

 Mainstream Hollywood releases of horror films tend to have a pretty bad track record, especially as of late.  In this world of watered down PG-13 crap films, horror and action films are the two genres of film that tend to suffer the most.  Sure these films are usually released in unrated versions when they hit DVD, but by then it’s too late.  The damage has been done, and usually there’s not enough difference between the PG-13 version and the unrated version to even matter.  The films that are rated R when they hit the theaters are usually gore-fests simply put together to see how much blood and mindless torture and killing they can cram into ninety minutes.  They’re not scary, they’re not interesting…they’re just pointless.

Dead Silence is a bit strange in that it seems to fall into the PG-13 category, but somehow it was rated R at the theaters.  To be honest, this movie is not only not all that scary, but it doesn’t show enough for long enough to really have warranted anything more than a PG-13.  Most of the gore and "scary stuff" was only shown for quick moments in flashes, which irritated me because it was hard to get a good look at what obviously was some cool make-up work.

The story itself is pretty cliche.  An old woman who was a ventriloquist and dummy designer killed a boy after he mocked her at one of her shows.  The people in town had no proof, but they assumed it was her and killed her.  She swore revenge on all those who had killed her, and has now returned from the grave to get that revenge.  But how does she get it?  Well, apparently she can only kill you if you open your mouth to scream, at which time she rips your tongue out, leaves you horribly disfigured and ultimately dead.

The ventriloquist lady in question here is named Mary Shaw.  She’s a local legend in the small town, and no one will say her name aloud.  There are few left who were around during the incident, but the local mortician and his wife who obviously suffers from dementia recognize what’s happening immediately.  See, Jamie, a local boy who moved out of town, received a ventriloquist doll the same night his wife, who coincidentally was recently pregnant with his child, was killed horrifically.  The police didn’t have enough evidence to hold him, so he returned home and had her body shipped to the local mortuary.  That’s when the whole cycle of trying to find out what happened to his wife began.

A cop, suspicious of Jamie and convinced he killed his own wife, followed him to his old hometown and began investigating, and eventually helping Jamie in his effort to put an end to the terror of Mary Shaw.  The plot’s a little more involved than that, but I don’t want to spend the next hour writing it all.  I think you get the idea.

The look of this film is really nice.  It has kind of a cool bluish and gray tinge throughout much of it, and the camera work is really nice.  Unfortunately, everything else about this film is very cliche, and pretty typical of what’s passing for horror nowadays.

The problem with this film is that it just wasn’t original.  I mean, the animated ventriloquist dummy thing has been used in the Twilight Zone, the movie Devil Doll, and I’m sure many others.  The whole ghost revenge thing can be seen in movies like The Frighteners, Nightmare on Elm Street, Tormented and many many others.

The music in this film was awesome.  It was also awesome the first time I heard music exactly like it in the Phantasm series.  I even checked the box to see who did the music for this film, assuming it was the same guy who did the music for the Phantasm movies.  It wasn’t.

While the film looks nice and is generally well acted, it has some problems with the story, especially with regards to how the cop handles not only his case, but his evidence.  It’s also nothing more than rehashed plot elements from a variety of older and better films and almost completely lacking in any real scariness.  There are a few tense moments that actually work here and there, but the film never rises above "just ok".

According to IMDB, this film cost approximately 20 million dollars to make, and yet grossed only about 15.4 million in its theater run.  I can’t say I’m surprised, as the viewing public has generally wised up to the fact that most of the horror coming out of the Hollywood machine just isn’t all that scary or entertaining anymore.  Now they’re going to have to try to make up that loss in DVD sales, which I’m sure they will eventually.

The DVD has a lot of nice features, including an alternate opening and ending, deleted scenes, a making of documentary, a bit on Mary Shaw’s secrets, a thing on the evolution of visual effects and more.  It’s a nice DVD release for an otherwise average film.

The DVD is now available at all the usual places.  If you’d like to find out more about the movie, you can check out the film’s website at http://www.deadsilencemovie.net or the film’s MySpace page at http://www.myspace.com/deadsilencemovie.