Dead Silence

Dead Silence

2007, R, 90 min. Directed by James Wan. Starring Ryan Kwanten, Amber Valletta, Donnie Wahlberg, Bob Gunton, Judith Roberts.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., March 23, 2007

You've got to hand it to writer/director Wan: His hypersadistic Saw films, along with those of fellow gorehound upstarts Eli Roth and Lucky McKee, are, for better or worse, revitalizing the cinematic tradition of American Grand Guignol. All three directors are such patent horror geeks that if it weren't for timeless popularity of the genre – little is ever certain outside of death, taxes, and evergreen cinematic purr of chainsaw lullabies – they'd probably be out doing something knifey to that postcoital couple down the block. But horror, unlike Lucio Fulci, lives and thrives in these tense times, and Dead Silence, while unlikely to make anybody's Top 10 list, is still a kicky exercise in spook-show atmospherics that manages to hit all the right notes while never quite coalescing into the Dario Argento-esque aria of creepiness it so clearly aspires to. Leading man Kwanten has all the onscreen charisma of a soggy cobweb, but as the willfully dopey, utterly bland husband who finds himself in possession of a murderous ventriloquist's dummy, he fits in nicely alongside Argento's vague and vacuous protagonists (think of hapless Leigh McCloskey in Inferno). Dead Silence feels like a Seventies Euro-shocker refracted through a much larger budget than Mario Bava or Paolo Cavara ever had. It also wears its antecedents on its hoary sleeve; aficionados of Italian horror will spot references to "The Drop of Water" segment of Bava's orgiastically hued Black Sabbath, and the whole of the film echoes, particularly, Argento's crimson couture and penchant for outrageous, violent set-pieces. That said, Wan is no Argento (as of yet), and Dead Silence, despite the presence of a downright nasty-looking manikin, is no Deep Red. Working from a script co-written with Saw partner Leigh Whannell, Wan does manage to infuse his film with some of the subtle unsubtleties of classic Euro-horror outings, chief among them the palpable, dreamlike sense of dislocation and the abiding severance from reality that tends to make nongenre fans wonder if someone spiked their popcorn with LSD.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More James Wan Films
Aquaman
The underwater superhero brings long-awaited color to DC's films

Matthew Monagle, Dec. 21, 2018

The Conjuring 2
Semi-retired ghost hunters make a comeback in the second installment of James Wan's spooky series

Marc Savlov, June 10, 2016

More by Marc Savlov
What If <i>Texas Chain Saw Massacre</i> Was Really About the Horrors of Modern American Society?
What If Texas Chain Saw Massacre Was Really About the Horrors of Modern American Society?
Putting the Austin-made seminal slasher back into context

March 22, 2019

The Mustang
Two wild spirits, man and horse, find peace in the microepic

March 22, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Dead Silence, James Wan, Ryan Kwanten, Amber Valletta, Donnie Wahlberg, Bob Gunton, Judith Roberts

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle