The movies of James Wan, part II – Dead Silence (2007)

*Skip the premise if you read my previous post*

Regarded by many as the best horror director working today, James Wan (27 February 1977) went on also screenwriting and producing many of his movie as well as various flicks connected to his works, such as the Saw and Insidious sequels.

Being able to revitalise several horror clichés, such as tiresome jump-scares and redundant possession-driven plots, Mr. Wan is surrounded by a claque of die-hard fans.

Independently from the single person’s opinion, throughout the last 15 years or so James Wan has had a strong impact of both the independent horror market and the public discussions on the genre. Because of his impact, I decided to analyse and review his movie from the perspective of a neutral horror-lover and passionate moviegoer. I hope you will enjoy this new series.

 

Dead Silence (2007) is probably the least known film among those directed by James Wan, who worked on it alongside Leigh Whannell, who wrote the script.

The ‘golden duo’ came back together three years after the gigantic success of Saw, this time to tell the story of a possessed puppet that, after being sent to a young couple recently married, killed the wife throwing the suspicion of Detective Jim Lipton (Donnie Wahlberg) on her husband Jamie Ashen (Ryan Kwanten).

Obviously, Jamie has to prove his innocence to the police and figure out what murdered his wife and why said tragedy happened. To make the things more complicated, the main character has to go back to his home town, where his father lives and the legend of Mary Shaw – the creepy puppets’ master who mysteriously died years ago, cursing the entire community and causing an endless strip of unsolved murdered – still freaks out everybody

s-3832b2115282f75349166c00ec1dd9109edd4ce1Although quite convoluted and filled with not always compelling sub-plots, Dead Silence looks like the umpteenth attempt to tell the trite story of a possessed doll that brutally kills people. Nothing new under the sun, you would say. According to the critics and the viewers, indeed, this movie is not worth more than a miser 28% on RottenTomatoes and it grossed ‘only’ 22 million dollars on a budget of almost 20 million.

378415Nevertheless, I was quite pleasantly surprised by Dead Silence. Despite not being a flawless movie, I see in it some seeds of Insidious and even The Conjuring, the latest and most successful Wan’s films.

Let’s dive right into the qualities of this movie. First of all, the colours’ tonalities are spot on, establishing a sumber, dark and depressing atmosphere which last for the entire runtime (89 minutes).

Moreover, despite the big budget on Wan’s disposal, there is barely any CGI. On the contrary, everything is realised skilfully through practical effects, which look very convincing.

960Yet, this movie is quite scary, although I admit that part of my reaction to the scares is due to my childish fear of puppets (don’t judge me know…). However, the old-fashioned vibe established in Dead Silence raises the shivers to a higher level than your average horror flick.

Ultimately, the jump-scares are not fake. The audience is startled and legitimately scared because loud noises and creepy scenes come on screen on the appropriate moment. As we will come to see in the latest movies of Mr. Wan, that of ‘real’ – and well-crafted – jump-scares is the signature of his direction.

Nevertheless, as I mentioned above, this film has flaws. The main issue is probably the acting – which is bland and unsatisfying – and the consequent dumb choices made by the characters. Ryan Kwanten in the main role is just miscast and nearly impossible to rely on.

The soundtrack is generic and very formulaic, although I appreciate the idea of the sounds disappearing completely right before Mary Shaw and her dolls spring into action.

Again, the ending is quite silly and, in retrospect, the movie makes little sense after the plot twist is eventually revealed.

To sum up, Dead Silence can be viewed as a draft to the Insidious movies (the makeup of Mary Shaw will be recurrent in the next Wan’s films) with some seeds of goodness in it and some other juvenile mistakes and lacks due to the director’s inexperience. Still worth checking out, it’s way better than more famous flicks such as Annabelle and some of the Chucky’s sequels. Cheers!

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