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Dead Silence (2007)
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Revenge Of The Snerds"
1 stars

“Dead Silence” is not the first horror enterprise to attempt to scare audiences with the concept of a malevolent ventriloquist’s dummy–the concept has been exploited in the past on the big screen in such films as “The Great Gabbo,” “Dead of Night,” “The Devil Doll” and “Magic” (which had a television commercial that, thanks to the miracle of DVD, still creeps me out to this day) and on the little screen on shows such as “Buffy The Vampire Slayer,” “The Simpsons” and “The Twilight Zone.” However, it is by far the dumbest such variation on the theme that I can recall and that only begins to scratch the surface of the film’s sheer cruddiness. In fact, even though we are currently in an especially fallow period, quality-wise, for the horror genre in general, there is a very good chance that this entry just might be the worst of the bunch–80 minutes of paralyzing boredom topped off by a twist ending so utterly inane that it may well inspire riots among anyone who makes it to that point without either dozing off or fleeing the theater for greener multiplex pastures, such as “Wild Hogs” or the theater that has been closed for repairs.

The film opens as cute married couple Jamie (Ryan Kwanten) and Lisa (Laura Regan) are interrupted from their routine of acting like a cute married couple by a knock on their apartment door. When they open up, all they find is a crate containing a creepy-looking ventriloquist’s dummy that Lisa inexplicably finds charming. Having had a mysterious package dropped off at his apartment at an odd hour by an unknown individual, Jamie immediately decides that this is the perfect moment to run out and get some Chinese food. Naturally, the moment that he departs, the lightning begins to flash, the power goes out and Lisa is killed by an unseen force that rips out her tongue. When the cop in charge of the case (Donnie Wahlberg) assumes that Jamie was guilty and doesn’t want to hear anything about a mysterious dummy, Jamie decides to investigate things himself and, with dummy in tow, returns to his now-dilapidated hometown of Raven’s Nest, a place that has had its own share of ventriloquism-based tragedy in the past, according to his estranged father (Bob Gunton) and his hottie stepmom (Amber Valetta).

Decades ago, the town was the home to a ventriloquist named Mary Shaw (Judith Roberts), a performer who was evidently so popular that she was able to build a vast theater (called The Guignol, no less) in the middle of nowhere. Alas, her act was heckled one day by a little boy (and you can’t really blame him because the act isn’t that great) and a few weeks later, he went missing and it was assumed that Mary whacked him in response to the bad review. In revenge, a bunch of townspeople formed a mob and killed her by slicing out her tongue. Having taken the law into their own hands by slaughtering her, they then inexplicably chose to follow the instructions of her will explicitly by having the local mortician turn her corpse into a dummy and burying her 101 dolls along with her. Ever since then, those that wronged Mary have met violent tongue-ripping deaths and the town essentially died out in the way that most ventriloquism-based economies often do. It would appear that Mary’s spirit has somehow inhabited the dolls, which have all been dug up, and it is up to Jamie to discover why they have come back and where he fits into all of this before he gets the full Mortimer Snerd as well.

“Dead Silence” was written by Leigh Whannell and directed by James Wan, whose previous collaboration was the highly influential horror hit “Saw.” That film was by no means a classic but it at least displayed a sort of fiendish ingenuity as well as a genuine sense of filmmaking style. In the case of “Dead Silence,” the only ingenuity they had must have been spent on convincing Universal to fork over the money to produce and distribute a tale that would have been rejected from that “Freddy’s Nightmares” show for being too trite and stupid. The screenplay is little more than a crazy-quilt of ideas borrowed wholesale from other sources (beyond the obvious doll-based horrors, huge chunks of “Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Silent Hill” and “Saw” have been thrown in as well, to name just a few) that nevertheless fails to disguise the fact that there is maybe 15 minutes of plot in the whole film. The few-and-far-between terror sequences are bereft of suspense, ingenuity or even creative gore–a typical Wayland Flowers & Madame routine is likely to inspire more genuine chills than anything seen here. And if you think that a film with a premise as risible as this might at least have a certain sense of humor about itself, you would be mistaken–every single fog-shrouded scene plods along at an agonizingly slow place without a single moment of levity outside of the inexplicable decision to have Wahlberg’s character carry an electric razor in nearly every scene.

Then there is that twist ending that I alluded to earlier. If you believe nothing else that I have ever written, believe me when I say that in the entire history of inane twist endings, this one may well be the most idiotic ever foisted on a paying audience. Take the worst twist ending that you have ever seen in a film (the finale of “The Village,” for example) and tack on the old “It’s Only A Dream” schtick for good measure. As horrible as that sounds, such an idea doesn’t even begin to approximate the sheer stupidity of the climax that Wan and Whannell have offered up here. It is an ending so awful that there is a small and dark part deep inside of me that almost wants to suggest that you check it out just so that you spend the rest of your moviegoing days knowing full well that you will never see a finale as bad as the one seen here.

Look, I didn’t go into “Dead Silence” expecting a lasting masterpiece of the cinema but I also wasn’t expecting a film so bad that it winds up making “Premonition” the better film co-starring Amber Valetta to be released this weekend. Too ludicrous to work as an exercise in horror, too draggy to work as camp and so badly staged and executed that it makes the works of Uwe Boll seem competent by comparison, “Dead Silence” is such a complete disaster that even those hardy souls who enjoy sitting through crappy fright films are likely to walk away from it filled with anger and resentment at the shabby bill of goods they have been sold. Throughout the film, we are constantly being warned not to scream, lest the spirit of Mary Shaw swoop in to rip out our tongues as part of her revenge. Trust me, that is not a problem that anyone watching “Dead Silence” is likely to encounter, though you might be in trouble if she decided to include yawning as well.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15566&reviewer=389
originally posted: 03/16/07 22:26:47
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User Comments

10/30/16 morris campbell neat little horror flick its not gory its creepy 4 stars
1/24/10 Chad Dillon Cooper Nifty little horror film. Don't be a dummy, see this. 3 stars
8/24/09 matt underrated, actually quite terrifying 4 stars
10/13/08 TreeTiger If you enjoy a good scare - this one does the trick... 4 stars
10/01/08 Shaun Wallner Scary Story!! 3 stars
11/08/07 suck balls the name says it all 1 stars
10/29/07 hank3395 loved the suspense and the thrills and chills 5 stars
10/28/07 Mike R. i'm a huge movie fan if you like saw and other horror/thrillers you'll love dead silence 5 stars
10/24/07 art never saw it sorry folk's 1 stars
8/02/07 drew peters it attacks most peoples fears, dummys and clowns very good movie 5 stars
7/17/07 Total Crap There's lots of hints at upcoming scares, but THEY NEVER HAPPEN! It Sucked! 1 stars
6/30/07 action movie fan tons of atmosphere but story wasn,t compeeling enough-had potential though 3 stars
6/15/07 William Goss An almost-there throwback thriller with some effort and atmosphere, but no real scares. 3 stars
5/01/07 One who reserves single-star rating for the groosly offensive. Nothing offensive, just often lame and flawed by plot holes. 2 stars
4/14/07 littlemisswallflower Best review ever. I agree completley 1 stars
4/11/07 the wizz Just kinda like a lame, dark drama. I kept waiting for action but didn't get it. 1 stars
4/01/07 Mr X Who's the dummy? Anyone who watches this. 1 stars
3/23/07 Dr. Emmerman This movie is worthless piece of CRAP, I was the dummy for plunking down $9 to see this. 1 stars
3/20/07 SoStraightItHurts Wow... it's like Saw with Dolls. 1 stars
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  16-Mar-2007 (R)
  DVD: 26-Jun-2007

  06-Jul-2007 (15)
  DVD: 29-Oct-2007

  03-Oct-2007 (M)
  DVD: 03-Oct-2007

[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  James Wan

Written by
  Leigh Whannell
  James Wan

  Ryan Kwanten
  Amber Valletta
  Donnie Wahlberg
  Bob Gunton

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