Dead Silence

Rating 2¾

Directed by James Wan

Written by Leigh Whannell from a story by James Wan and Leigh Whannell

Starring Ryan Kwanten, Amber Valletta, Donnie Wahlberg, Joan Heney, Bob Gunton, Laura Regan and Judith Roberts

When Jamie Ashten (Ryan Kwanten) and his wife Lisa (Laura Regan) receive a mysterious box containing a Ventriloquist’s dummy it sucks Jamie into a living hell that takes him back to Ravens Fair, the small town where he grew up, and an encounter with his estranged father Edward Ashen (Bob Gunton). All the while, he is pursued by Detective Jim Lipton (Donnie Wahlberg), who is convinced he committed a terrible crime, despite his protests of innocence.

James Wan directed the first ‘Saw’ film and was one of the producers of all four films in the series to date. Leigh Whannell wrote the second and third films in the franchise. Although ‘Dead Silence’ contains passing references to ‘Saw’, it is not really similar to those films, having more in common with the likes of ‘Darkness Falls’ and ‘The Grudge’ than it does with the so-called “torture porn” genre (which, in truth, the ‘Saw’ franchise is not really a part of, anyway).

The film is visually very much in the style of horror films of the period – it was released into cinemas in America in March 2007. It doesn’t offer anything new or unusual, but all in all it is agreeable rubbish and enjoyable to watch. This is despite a distinctly off-kilter performance by Donnie Wahlberg, who plays a variation of his character from the second ‘Saw’ film. There is some fun to be had from the presence of Ryan Kwanten in the lead role, at least for those of us familiar with the Australian soap opera ‘Home And Away’ and the character Vinnie.

It is difficult to go too far wrong with a horror story about an evil Ventriloquist’s dummy, even if in the end the film resembles an extended episode of the television show ‘Supernatural’.

‘Dead Silence’ received the kind of reviews predictable for this type of film, with an 18% rotten rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Nigel Floyd, writing in Time Out, was probably closest to the mark when he observed that the film was “affectionately done.” It did not perform particularly well at the box office, grossing $21 million worldwide against a production budget rumoured to have been in the region of $20 million. Plans for a sequel were abandoned.

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