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So far, James Wan & Leigh Whannell’s INSIDIOUS has
pulled in close to $27 million domestically, and after the movie’s $13 million
opening weekend, it held strong during this past weekend at the box office,
earning another $9 million and coming in at number five. That’s already better
than Wan & Whannell’s previous collaboration, DEAD SILENCE, a film that
suffered from studio interference and a troubled production. While DEAD SILENCE
was much maligned during its initial release, the film does have its fans. Here’s
Chris Haberman’s review of that 2007 picture.
Ventriloquists and their dummies usually only frighten two
types of people: those who believe that the art can evoke dangerous variations
of schizophrenia within the artist, and those who worry about inanimate yet
lifelike objects supernaturally coming to dangerous life to harm the living.
But what of those who lie awake in bed at night, fretting over the notion that
somewhere, the vengeful ghost of a humiliated ventriloquist may be sending out
her haunted dummies to help her rip out the tongues of those who once dwelled
in her hometown? Those are the poor souls who will rent or purchase DEAD
SILENCE in the hopes of finally confronting their lifelong obsession once and
for all, in order to lead a fruitful and normal life in which the only real
fears permeating their dreams are those of illness and financial instability.
What an oddly soothing disappointment it will be when they realize their worst
nightmare ain’t all that scary, after all.
Written and directed by SAW’s Leigh Whannell and James Wan
respectively, DEAD SILENCE has many hallmarks of the first in that trilogy. The
music is serious, hip and big, thanks to the return of composer Charlie
Clouser. The visuals are highly stylized, this time offering cold blues and
blood reds instead of SAW’s nauseous greens and infectious rust. A multilayered
story is also in place, which eventually climaxes with a sharp cut to black for
the end credits, immediately after a neck-breaking series of flashbacks which
help us cope with a devastating final-reel plot twist. Yet in spite of the
familiarities of the young duo who brought the original and reckless SAW to
lucrative life, DEAD SILENCE damnably evidences the big-studio influence that
Whannell himself admitted to feeling clutching his shoulder while writing the
So who is to blame for the film’s failure to become a
potential staple of Halloween-season viewing? Whannell and Wan have repeatedly
confessed that they wanted to recreate the nostalgic chills of Hammer films,
and DEAD SILENCE’s inclusion of dusty lanterns, crazy cobwebs, rolling fog and
desecrated buildings certainly proves that they did their aesthetic homework.
But who caused the main character to be such a dullard? Was it a conscious
decision by Whannell, or was there a mandate by some Universal honcho insisting
that Jamie (Ryan Kwanten), the film’s hero, be so numb as to:
1.) Not weep more than a single tear after discovering the
brutalized corpse of his adoring wife
2.) Not shriek a combatant remark at the wiseass cop who
insists that he was responsible for his wife’s murder
3.) Not allow his eyes to open wide enough to see the whites
of them, no matter what kind of natural or supernatural insanity is taking
place before him?
If the protagonist of a scary movie ain’t scared, neither
are we. Someone forgot to put that in the creative brief here. As far as the
DVD goes, someone also forgot to include an audio commentary—by far this disc’s
On the upside, viewers are treated to a gorgeous widescreen
transfer and sparkling 5.1 soundtrack. To make up for the missing talk track,
there is a silly alternate opening that feels too rushed, an alternate ending
that could’ve really been a ka-pow! moment if it weren’t so perplexing, three
justifiably deleted scenes, a music video from rock band Aiden and a few
“The Making of DEAD SILENCE” is only 15 minutes or so, but
it’s enough to upset anyone who feels the movie could’ve packed a harder punch.
The set seems to buzz with creative integrity and energy, as everybody on board
gushes about their ambitions to make a great-looking, old-fashioned ghost
story. It’s almost romantic to see the crew’s encouragement and support of Wan,
whose enthusiasm for making films shines through so much that your fist might
curl up again thinking about that missing commentary.
“The Secrets of Mary Shaw” offers a brief look at actress
Judith Roberts’ makeup process and approach to her character. More set design
tricks are revealed, providing more proof positive that everyone involved was
having a good time taking their work seriously. “The Evolution of a Visual FX” may have a grammatically incorrect title, but it is sorta fun in a ’90s kinda
way to see a CGI scene go from the rough stages on a computer to the finished
product seen on screen.
This last feature actually haunted me a bit (no pun
intended). Clouser’s music for the film’s opening credits accompanies our CGI
journey, and I had to hit the Rewind button several times to hear one
fantastically eerie moment. The piece moves from a “Tubular Bells” kind of
twinkle into a sickening decline of strings, and it’s enough to raise hairs on
all sorts of body parts—until action-flick percussion jumps in to spice things
up. It was then that I realized what bummed me out the most about the flick in
general: Big FX and energetic scores can really do a number on a film that’s
envisioned, promoted and anticipated to be quiet, creepy and personal.
DVD/ Blu-ray Reviews
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