After receiving a creepy doll, as well as the extremely violent and unusual death of his wife, Jamie travels to his hometown to search for answers, putting him front and centre in a mystery that has haunted the town for decades.
The tl;dr Review:
Just going to go ahead and say that the visuals are the strong suit of Dead Silence. While blue tint can be occasionally too aggressive, there was effort made here to keep the warm colours the same as they would be minus the tint, which often makes the reds more noticeable, making some scenes just a bit creepier than they were.
The writing is on the underwhelming side. For the sake of having something to write in the full review, I’ll just say that the mystery is too easily deduced and some of the character logic is odd, to say the least.
But it’s still a solid horror flick through and through, and the creative use of the Billy doll makes Dead Silence a very entertaining experience. It’s not my favourite James Wan film
The Full Review:
I figured since Leigh Whannell’s Invisible Man is releasing this Friday (though this Dead Silence review will probably be posted on Saturday), I’d review Dead Silence (Whannell and Wan co-wrote this).
Speaking of writing, that was actually the most underwhelming part of this. I often like things that Wan and Whannell are creatively involved in, but this was not well written. For starters, the mystery is very easily solved, and I predicted the main twist partway through. Maybe that’s just because I watch way too many horror films, but it never really felt like there was any difficulty in figuring out what had happened. The dialogue was also lacking in how most dialogue felt like it was ripped right out of some TV dramas and hastily combined together. Also, the way the detective character acted was baffling enough that it broke my suspension of disbelief several times. I get it, it’s a horror film, sometimes characters have to do things that are a bit out of line, but it just made things really weird. There had to be a better way to keep the detective in the story without going to such bafflingly nonsensical lengths. Speaking of the characters, a mix of them are dynamic and some aren’t quite so dynamic, with some being cliches without character arcs, and others having pretty good character arcs that make them more noteworthy. That all said, the overall story was still good enough to be entertaining, so maybe I’m just being a bit too analytical. The writing is still somewhat poor in comparison to other Wan/Whannell Films.
But the visuals are another thing entirely. In applying blue tint but keeping warmer colours relatively free of tinting, it makes the more violent and creepy scenes stand out more, especially when things take a more violent turn. There are also some little techniques (fast-forwarding, etc) that are used in other Wan and/or Whannell films, so seeing them here adds a lot of nostalgia. Leonetti’s cinematography is good here (better than Leonetti’s directing). I always thought it was odd that Leonetti’s prior experience with horror didn’t make him a better director down the road.
I’ve always preferred Donnie Wahlberg to his more successful brother, Mark, mostly because Donnie always gives 100% in every performance, and his role as Detective Lipton is very much 100%. Though I do think it’s necessary to point out how similar Lipton is to Matthews (the detective in Saw II, III, and IV). Out of all of the performances here, Judith Roberts (Mary Shaw) Michael Fairman (Henry Walker), and Donnie Wahlberg stand out the most. Everyone else is okay, though none of their performances make them stand out that much.
As far as whether Dead Silence is scary or not, well, it’s definitely creepy. There are scenes that had the potential to be scary, and they never really achieve that, not even with the great soundtrack that helps carry the building momentum during the more intense scenes. Some of this is just from personal preference though, as I’ve never really thought of puppets as scary (at most, they’re kind of creepy).
The weak writing aside, Dead Silence is still an entertaining horror flick. It’s not one of the best Wan films, but it’s still good enough to watch as a time killer. Only reason I watched it was because it was recently added to Netflix Canada’s catalogue.