James Wan’s Dead Silence

Ventriloquist dummies are creepy no matter what and immediately give horror material an extra boost, however in the case of James Wan’s Dead Silence it’s the ventriloquist herself that ends up being more terrifying, a ghostly presence called Mary Shaw who was once a woman that was barren and instead of having real kids, just made freaky dolls. She’s got a nasty vendetta against the townsfolk of Raven’s Fair, Ontario, relating to an incident from the collective past that has her return time and time again with her dolls to haunt them. Ryan Qwanten is a bit of a soup cracker as the lead, a thirty-something who once escaped the town and is called back by the mysterious forces at Shaw’s command, while the acting slack is picked up by other reliable faces including Bob Gunton, Amber Valletta and Donnie Wahlberg as one sarcastic detective who has no time for this hocus-pocus horseshit until it comes looking for him. Silver screen star Judith Roberts is incredibly effective as Shaw herself, a physically imposing, spectral presence and one hell of a resourceful, spiteful and dangerous otherworldly antagonist. There’s a few scenes where she stalks her prey that verge on that special nirvana of horror territory that actually has your hair standing on end and has you checking the closets later that night. The film is somewhat advertised as an evil doll flick and really that’s just the overall premise, most of the time it’s Shaw herself doing the hauntings, scares and killings and damn does she ever do a great job. Wan directs with sweeping, gothic stylish flair and has a sense of scope and spatial dynamics, Charlie Clouser composes a thunderingly melodic haunted house symphony of a score and the atmosphere hanging over this thing permeates everything. Also, I don’t think any film has ever had the balls to try and pull of a twist ending this… unflinchingly audacious and knowingly hilarious. It’s a bold, bold move but it somehow just works and adds to the charm, eliciting the prestigious slow clap reaction from me. Great film.

-Nate Hill


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