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From the Desk of the Unimonster...

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22 September, 2007

DVD Review: DEAD SILENCE

THE MOVIE

There are few things I personally, with the possible exception of clowns, find as creepy as a ventriloquist’s dummy. Perhaps that’s why they have long been staples in Horror Films, from the 1945 British anthology DEAD OF NIGHT, to Richard Attenborough’s 1978 thriller MAGIC. DEAD SILENCE, the latest effort from the creative team responsible for the hugely successful SAW franchise, does much to insure that they will continue to be objects to inspire fear for some time to come.

Starring Donnie Wahlberg, Bob Gunton, and Ryan Kwanten, and featuring long-time Broadway veteran Judith Roberts as Mary Shaw, DEAD SILENCE is a tremendously well-conceived and executed good old-fashioned ghost story, wrapped up in a fictional urban legend about the aforementioned Shaw. Shaw, an accomplished ventriloquist, was viciously murdered after she was implicated in the disappearance of a young boy who had heckled one of her performances. More than sixty years later, her ghost is still seeking vengeance, with the aid of Billy, one of her dummies, as the children of Raven’s Fair sing a warning…

“Beware the stare of Mary Shaw,
She had no children, only dolls.
And if you see her in your dreams,
Be sure you never, ever scream.”

Most of this information is conveyed to the viewer in the first fifteen minutes of the movie. The remainder of the film is spent in watching the efforts of Wahlberg, as a homicide detective named Lipton, and Kwanten, as Jamie Ashen, the man whose wife was the latest victim of the curse, and who Det. Lipton now suspects of her murder, as they slowly unravel the secrets of Mary’s death, and curse.

Directed by James Wan, who shot to prominence with 2004’s SAW, and produced by the same creative team responsible for that franchise, DEAD SILENCE is a throwback to the best Horror Films of the ‘40’s, ‘50’s and ‘60’s. It brings to mind William Castle, and is very evocative of what he might have done, had the technology existed then.

The overall effect is entertaining, a great little reminder that Horror Films don’t necessarily require barrels of fake blood and gore to be good.


THE DISC

Universal usually does a quality job on its DVD releases, and this example is no exception. Both the audio and video is superb, the disc is captioned, and it’s well-designed and packaged.



THE SPECIAL FEATURES

There’s one thing that I like about DVD’s as compared to videotapes… the special features. While I realize I might not be in the majority, I love them… bloopers and deleted scenes, interviews and commentaries, making-of featurettes and alternate versions. I just can’t get enough of them, and this release has a nice little selection for the viewer’s enjoyment.

My disc is the Unrated version, and includes both an alternate opening and alternate ending, deleted scenes, and several making-of featurettes, the most interesting of which is The Evolution of a Visual FX. This is a fascinating look at just how complex even a brief scene may be, and how much work goes into getting it just right.



IN CONCLUSION

I really enjoy being surprised by a movie that outperforms my expectations, and DEAD SILENCE did that in spades. It really comes across as a throwback to the classic Horror Films of the ‘40’s and ‘50’s, and it thoroughly entertained me. My copy came from the 4 for $20 bin at Blockbuster (something I recommend everyone check out…) but even at the list price of $12.98 it’s worth it. With October right around the corner, I can’t think of many movies better-suited to viewing with the lights turned down low on a chilly autumn evening.

1 comment:

ServoCrow said...

oooooh...This sounds GREAT! I'll have to check it out. I love the ventriloquist dummy thing too. The Twilight Zone ep with Cliff Robertson, The Alfred Hitchcock Presents with Claude Raines, and I haven't seen Magic in a long time (the book creeped me out). Oh yeah and DEVIL DOLL which was actually MSTied...I even had a two letter correspondence with Jay Johnson in the late 70's (Chuck and Bob from SOAP). Saw him again on last week's repeat of CSI's final ep last season (and it WAS creepy, he even had a shivering rhyme as well).

I'll have to slip this movie in my Netflix Queue.