Is that puppet giving me the finger?
Pediophobia is the fear of dolls. It's a fairly common phobia that can range from small porcelain dolls to electronic baby dolls. Thankfully, I don't suffer from that phobia. Sure, certain dolls can be creepy looking, but I don't fall into a heap of crying flesh whenever I see a Cabbage Patch kid. The “evil doll” subgenre of horror is nothing new. I've even reviewed a few like Demonic Toys and Dolls. They were most famously portrayed by Talking Tina in The Twilight Zone's “Living Doll” and Chucky from Child's Play. Since then, there hasn't been a new doll-based movie to really break out into the mainstream. Maybe it's time for a doll resurgence in horror.
Dead Silence is a 2007 horror movie starring Ryan Kwanten (True Blood, Summerland) as Jamie Ashen. A package containing a creepy-looking ventriloquist dummy named Billy is anonymously dropped off at Jamie's apartment. He briefly leaves and when he returns, he finds his wife Lisa brutally murdered with her tongue ripped out with Billy lying near her. Jamie is questioned by Det. Jim Lipton (Donnie Wahlberg, Dream Catcher, Saw II), but is not arrested. Jamie goes back to his old hometown of Ravens Fair to bury Lisa. He visits his estranged father (Bob Gunton, The Shawshank Redemption, Demolition Man), who has just suffered a stroke) and his new wife, Ella. Jamie confronts his father about ventriloquist Mary Shaw, a local legend who cut out her victim's tongues. Following Lisa's funeral, Jamie comes across Mary Shaw's grave along with the graves of all her dolls. He reburies Billy, but Billy turns up in his motel room, along with Det. Lipton who is still pursuing Jamie. The next morning, Jamie steals Billy and meets with Henry the mortician who tells Jamie about Mary Shaw's history. During a show, Mary was heckled by a young boy named Michael Ashen. Michael disappeared soon after. Mary was killed by his family and townspeople and her tongue was cut out. Mary has now come back, killing the Ashen family and the town of Ravens Fair by ripping out their tongues when they scream. Jamie goes to the old theater where Mary Shaw lived, joined by Det. Lipton. They find the body of Michael Ashen along with 100 of Mary's dolls. Mary is there as well, looking to finish off Jamie. Will he be able to stop her?
And will she use sunscreen?
For being a doll-based movie, there really isn't much action involving the dolls. Sure, they're around, turning their heads and moving their eyes, but that's really it. I expected a doll to chase after people with a butcher knife or trip someone down the stairs. Instead, we really get a ghost revenge story. Why bother have a shitload of dolls if you're not going to have fun with them? It doesn't have to be over-the-top like Demonic Toys or Puppet Master, but you might as well use them if you have them. Dead Silence reminded me a lot of Darkness Falls; the local legend, a nursery rhyme, an adult coming back to the town he left, an old lady seeking revenge from beyond the grave. Even the both town's names are hilariously ominous. The story is pretty uninspired and not particularly original. They try to go for a spooky atmosphere, but every scene has a bland grey wash to it that makes everything look dull and boring.
The movie was touted as being from the creators of Saw. I enjoyed the first Saw movie, but not enough to care about the creators. The doll from the Saw franchise is show in the foreground in one scene, which was a nice touch. The movie doesn't have violence anywhere near the levels of Saw. There is some action, but it's not particularly excited. The dialogue is weak and the characters are boring. The acting is fine, but not enough to carry the movie. There's a few decent effects and the makeup used to show Mary Shaw's victims actually looks pretty scary. The movie goes for a twist ending that falls flat and is completely unnecessary. A movie like this didn't need a twist ending and it really reflects poorly on the rest of the film. Note to filmmakers: If it doesn't need a twist, don't do it. Don't be M. Night Shyamalan.
Dead Silence leads you to believe that you are going to be watching a movie with killer dolls and instead gives us a typical and uninspired ghost story. I thought I was getting "Dolls" and ended up with "Darkness Falls". Why bother having all those dolls if you're not really going to use them? The acting is passable, but the dialogue and story just don't work. The movie is brought down especially hard by an unnecessary twist ending. There's a few startling moments and an overall creepiness with the dolls, but it's not particularly scary. If you suffer from pediophobia, you might be terrified, but if not, you'll just shrug your shoulders. What should have been a crazy, violent romp was just a worn-out, tired revenge story with a ghost. We've seen it all before, so there's no need to bother with Dead Silence.