Dead Silence (2007)

“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.”

Dead Silence revolves around the fictional legend of Mary Shaw; a ventriloquist who lived in the town of Ravens Fair. During the 40’s, she kidnapped and killed a young boy who ridiculed her act. When the boys’ family grew to suspect her of his disappearance they doled out some vigilante justice by murdering her and cutting out her tongue, silencing her forever. Or so they thought.

In the present day, Jamie (Ryan Kwanten) and his adoring wife, receive a large, unmarked package one night. Curiosity gets the better of them and they open the package, only to find a creepy ventriloquists dummy inside and no indication of its origin. When his wife suffers an horrific death later that evening, Jamie decides to return to his hometown of Ravens Fair to arrange her funeral and to get to the bottom of it all , hopefully discovering the connection to the doll in the process. Donnie Wahberg’s jaded cop follows hot on his heels, believing Jamie to be guilty of the murder and disregarding any of his claims of supernatural interference.

Dead Silence comes from the writer/director team that were responsible for Saw and here they prove that not only was that sleeper hit no fluke, but that they can also turn their hands to old fashioned horror, almost entirely devoid of gore, just as proficiently as they tackled the gore-filled torture porn sub-genre. It’s clear that after the unexpected success of their first movie, producers were happy to throw money at them in an effort to replicate the box office return of Saw. As such, many of the sets in Dead Silence are impressive, as well as being impressively terrifying. There is also a skilful attention to detail that evokes eerie titles from the Vincent Price era of horror.

Dolls freak me out, I’ll be honest. Ventriloquists’ dummies even more so. Despite that, there are as many memorably frightening scenes in Dead Silence that don’t include the dummies as there are scenes that do. Seeing a ghostly old hag, looking startlingly like one of her beloved dolls, glassy eyes and hinged jaw included, lurking in the corner of a dark room is an image that will stay with you.

The score that provides the audio backdrop for the movie is hugely understated and works magnificently but the really terrifying moments are the incidences of the sound filtering away, leaving nothing but silence. Rarely has the complete absence of sound left me so anxious.

Dead Silence offers little for the ardent gore-hound but what it lacks in splatter, it makes up for in atmospheric terror. It goes to show that a good modern horror movie needn’t be full of gratuitous violence and nudity to satisfy. A scary story, some unforgettable imagery and bags of tension are all you need.

Rating: ★★★★★★½☆☆☆

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