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Monday, 2 April 2012

Dead Silence Review

It's just a bizarre coincidence, but for some reason I've found myself watching and reviewing a horror movie on the exact same night this year as I did last. It must just be some psychological thing that whilst everyone else is spending April 1st playing jokes on each other, I'm hiding in my garage watching movies which scare the absolute shit out of me. And Dead Silence certainly succeeded in this department.

I think this movie was written as a counter-argument to those who say the Saw movies are just "torture porn", and not real horror. I've got no proof of this, but I get the feeling from watching it that the producers finally had enough of hearing people say they couldn't make a proper horror movie, and decided to show them just how good of a horror film they could make.

You know a movie's scary when you've seen the banner image for my Blog but will still rather hide behind a pillow than look at the screen...

This movie is filled with horror cliches, the sort of stereotypical things that come to your mind when you think "horror movie" - creepy dummies which appear to look at people, disembodied voices, a freaky as fuck soundtrack. Hell, they even included a clown at one point. This movie is, in essence, a walking talking horror cliche. And yet, this makes it a perfect example of what the horror genre can achieve.


The plot of the film is simple enough, our protagonist, Jamie Ashen, has his wife murdered brutally soon after a package containing a ventriloquist's dummy is delivered to their apartment, and as he returns to their home town to bury her, he starts to investigate the myth of Mary Shaw, a ghost whom the townspeople have a poem about: "Beware the stare of Mary Shaw. She had no children only dolls. And if you see her in your dreams, do not ever, ever scream.". Naturally, with the mysterious delivery of one of Shaw's dolls to his apartment right before his wife's murder, Ashen decides to investigate whether this ghost really was responsible for her killing, and also intends to unearth why.

He can also unearth why the Secretary of State is in a wheelchair whilst he's at it.

From a technical standpoint, this movie is incredible, but again from a cliched perspective. The colours are muted, or given a blue hue throughout, except for the few colours the director really wants you to pay attention to - the yellow taxi Ashen pulls up in, the red of his car, and the red motel sign shining through his window. A lot of the shock moments come from things being seen in mirrors, or in your peripheral, and the makers clearly had a lot of fun with lighting their "jump moments". The way the shots transitioned as well, moving out through someone's eye from one scene to another, or watching a map as it turned into the actual landscape and we see a car driving down the road, were great transitions, and of course, remarkably similar to the style they perfected in Saw, albeit at a much slower pace to fit the tone of the film better.

No, that's clearly "built". "tone" just implies low bodyfat.

Perhaps the most impressive technical aspect to this film has to be the use of background noise throughout the film. As we all know, Foley sounds are added to movies on top of the noise recorded by the microphones, because this is the only way to make things sound completely natural, and give a movie a realistic feel. To quote wikipedia, "Without these crucial background noises, movies feel unnaturally quiet and uncomfortable." - and this fact was clearly not overlooked by the makers of Dead Silence, who muted all foley sounds whenever a scare moment was approaching, to create a sense of unease, and make the audience dread what was coming next. Some may argue that this is just a cheap and pathetic trick, telling people when to be scared, in the same way as a sharp, stabbing, high pitched note on a jump moment would be considered to be. Though I felt that this worked perfectly in creating suspense, and would liken it more to the eerie background screeching of "The Shining" more than the "in your face" jump cues. Hell, in a sense, because it is the lack of noise which is designed to disturb, perhaps Dead Silence is more comparable to Irreversible than any classic horror film, as the soundtrack of that movie was designed to go largely unnoticed, yet was set at such a pitch and frequency so as to make people feel uncomfortable and even nauseous.

It's so hard to masturbate whislt you're throwin up as well...

So, now that I've explained where the title comes from, let's get on with discussing some of the other aspects of the film, shall we?

The acting is fairly decent throughout, for a horror movie. With an estimated budget of $20 million, this wasn't exactly a blokbuster they were making, and yet all the cast turn out decent performances, even the kids. There was not one moment in this film where I felt that someone was over/under acting, bringing me out the movie. Of course, Donnie Wahlberg's entire part was essentially over-acted, as he was the comic relief of the piece. However, he was a real treat to see on screen, and certainly made the entire film more enjoyable. This may be his worst performance as a character named Lipton, but he was still great, and the character was fantastic as well.

The make-up effects used in this film were terrifying as well, especially when combined with the shock lighting and general atmosphere. And hell, seeing a witchwoman with a dolls face is fucking terrifying no matter how you cut it!

Ok, so it doesn't even need a doll's face to be terrifying.

The music for this film is also great, with the producers getting their old friend Charles Clouser back again, although this time writing a proper score, rather than ripping off the keyboard part from a Rammstein song.

Don't act like you can't hear the similarities....

Of course, this makes the soundtrack less memorable (hell, you really remember the silence more than anything else. Hence the title, I guess), but it does make it a little more fitting, just as how the soundtrack to The Thing was very understated (and nominated for a Razzie - because what the fuck do they know about decent scores?)

All in all then, this was a fantastic horror movie, and a real frightfest - you can tell it was good because after I had watched it and was walking to my computer, my dog let out a heavy sigh and I nearly jumped out of my skin in terror. Then again, I couldn't play Manhunt with the lights out, so I'm evidently easier to scare than most. Still, it was great to see the Saw guys make a "proper" horror film, and do such a damn fine job of it. Of course [spoiler], they still kept the obligatory twist ending that they have at the end of all their films, but I was rather impressed with this one, because it was so far removed from what I was expecting, I imagine I got the same feeling watching this as the people who watched Saw before everyone started talking about it and giving away the plot must have gotten from that [/spoiler]

So, looking for another horror film for 2nd April? The Thing was certainly my top recommendation last year, and this year that recommendation goes to Dead Silence. Watch this movie.


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