Archive for Donnie Wahlberg

Dead Silence (2007)

Posted in Horror with tags , , , , , , , on September 23, 2014 by The Confused Critic

(**1/2 out of ****)

Dead Silence

Synopsis: After his wife is viciously murdered on the same night that an off-putting dummy is mysteriously delivered to his apartment, Jamie Ashen (Ryan Kwanten) returns to his home town, Ravens Fair, to investigate an urban legend connected to the presence of the aforementioned dolls that may be relevant to his loss. Hot on his tail is Lipton (Donnie “Don” Wahlberg), an ever-shaving detective who has no time for childish tales about the legend of Mary Shaw and her dolls and, instead, holds Jamie as the prime suspect in his own wife’s demise despite his 100% verifiable alibi that no one ever mentions. Upon his homecoming, Jamie is subjected to hauntings, a reunion with his abusive father, and the ramblings of a decidedly senile senior couple. All the while, no one questions why people remain living in a town known for its exorbitant murder rate and lack of commercial opportunities.

Review: James Wan and Leigh Whannell struck it big in 2004 with the surprise low-budget hit Saw. Dead Silence, their sophomore effort, eschews most of the gritty psychological thriller conventions and violence for a more fantastical and supernatural tale. The plot is wrapped around an inventive urban legend that is presented in a John Carpenter ala The Fog meets Mario Bava manner. The film succeeds in generating a spooky, tense atmosphere and slowly revealing it plot intricacies piece by piece. Without over-relying on CGI, the filmmakers manage to create some terrifying villains that are sure to haunt the viewer’s dreams at the end of the movie.

Sadly, this film is a beautifully crafted dummy without a master ventriloquist calling the shots. Outside of Judith Roberts’ turn as Mary Shaw, none of the actors rise above mediocrity. The limited talent is further hindered by a script that forces characters to pursue unwise, unrealistic paths in order to progress the plot-line. Obviously, it is important to suspend a certain level of disbelief when you are watching a movie about haunted dummies, but it is hard to relate to a protagonist who thoughtlessly walks into danger at every turn without the slightest indication of fear.

What we are left with is a movie that mostly fails to tap any of the potential that its premise promises. Although a handful of haunted/killer/evil doll/puppet/dummy movies have been churned out over the years, none of them, save the original Child’s Play, ever managed to quite top the eeriness of the “Living Doll” episode of the Twilight Zone. In short, Dead Silence should have been a lot scarier than it was. The dummies are freaky, the setting is ominous, and the menace of the lead villain is palpable, yet, outside of a few jump scares, the terror never quite peaks. Though competently made and far from unwatchable, you still feel the movie was a bit of a missed opportunity.

Confused Take: It has been roughly six years since I first saw Dead Silence for the first time, and the film failed to validate the frightening memories I had stored in my head all of these years. While the movie certainly had a few legitimate moments of creepiness and terror, I could not help but feel as if the intriguing premise was wasted on such a routine plot execution. A foreboding atmosphere, clever urban legend, and arsenal of disturbing dolls/dummies are all sadly overshadowed by hacky dialogue and pedestrian acting. Thankfully, Wan and Whannell have since cemented themselves as major forces in the modern horror genre and tend to have more hits than missteps. Despite my seemingly harsh sentiments, Dead Silence is not a total disappointment, but it will not hold up on repeat viewers or next to the filmmakers’ other work.