Horror films are hard to market, mostly due to the fact that distributors don’t want to give too much of the story away. Trailers being the predominant source of showing what a movie contains can be misleading if the film isn’t very strong to begin with. When people say “the best parts were in the trailer” it can mostly be that it has given too much of the film away. Other times the trailer can say a movie is one thing, but have the actual film go in a completely different direction. With the latest horror film “Dead Silence,” it is marketed as a horror film but ends up trying to be a psychological drama/horror film with no set goals in mind.
“Dead Silence” follows young newlyweds Jamie (Ryan Kwanten) and Lisa (Laura Regan). When Lisa is horribly murdered Jamie is the number one suspect. He ends up fleeing to his former hometown of Ravens Fair, the typical ghost town with a sordid history. The horror aspect comes from the local legend of Mary Shaw, a spinster ventriloquist accused and murdered for the disappearance of a young boy. In uncovering all this backstory Jamie reunites with his estranged father and new stepmother played by Amber Valletta. When the detective assigned to Jamie’s case (Donnie Wahlberg) arrives in Ravens Fair, Jamie and the cop must join forces to uncover the truth behind the mystery of not only his wife’s murder, but the true understanding of why Mary Shaw is after them.
Directed by James Wan of “Saw” fame, you would assume this film would be equal to that original idea. While “Dead Silence” ends up failing overall, there are some redeeming qualities that make it tolerable. Wan is a master of capturing that dark and somber setting, which is reflected in this with having the whole film have very muted colors and a lot of gray tones. In showing Mary Shaw’s life, the setting of that story with its old-timey feel is captured perfectly. While the film does drag towards the middle it is wrapped up fairly quickly, you don’t tend to look at your watch while you’re watching it. A word to the wise, if you’re afraid of dolls, dummies, or clowns then you might want to avoid “Dead Silence.” While the film isn’t necessarily scary, old dolls of this nature tend to creep people out.
Where “Dead Silence” fails the most is in its marketing. The first trailer for this film was incredibly tense, quick paced, and seemed to have a definite horror going for it. What it ends up being is a dull psychological thriller/drama with a plot that never ties together. At the end, you never really understand what the point of the film was. Characters have purposes that are never explained, the main point of having Mary Shaw “rip your tongue out at the seam” is very much glossed over. It tries very hard to be a revenge drama in the vein of “Darkness Falls” but never hits the nail right on the head.
The cast of mostly unknowns and C-list actors tries to give their best to the weak material. Donnie Wahlberg (yes, brother to Oscar nominee Mark) tries to be the comic relief of the film, eliciting a couple chuckles here and there but nothing hilarious. Other than that the actors tend to fall flat, except for the funeral director’s wife who was quirky in a funny way. Newcomer Ryan Kwanten fails overall, with virtually no range in his performance, very much a one note actor. Former model Amber Valletta really has no purpose being in this movie, and surprisingly being in another film this weekend “Premonition.” Her character Ella is never explained and is virtually useless.
What could have been a very interesting premise, with a director known for coming up with unique ideas, is a very dull movie. “Dead Silence” ends up becoming your typical horror/revenge film that has a useless story. Look for a better film somewhere else.