I frequently complain that modern horror films have forgotten what real scares are supposed to be about. (See my Halloween review). I am a big fan of being genuinely frightened or at least surprised by a horror film, rather than just grossed out. Whether people like to admit it or not, the first Saw film was not an all-out torture porn. It was primarily a mystery with an original plot and an amazing twist ending. Dead Silence is by no means original nor is the ending as good as Saw's, but it's mystery was good enough to keep me on the edge of my seat. It was also able to take old cliches such as billowing curtains and "the town where businesses are all closed and the people are all pale and hide in the their homes" and make them poignant again. Its special effects were second rate, keeping the film feeling like a small budget horror flick. It never became too extravagant and never did it glorify blood and gore. With a decently small body count, blood and gore take a back seat to suspense and mystery in Dead Silence. Not to give the film too much credit, Dead Silence is after all a mediocre attempt at terrifying film making. The whole idea that right before a victim is claimed, the surrounding noise ceases is a little ridiculous, considering in the film the only thing that would happen was you would hear the background music stop. But the characters in the movie wouldn't hear that, so the title of the movie wouldn't make sense to them. The only thing that makes this film better than a Hostel, Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the recent ones), or The Hills Have Eyes is the idea that it doesn't splatter blood on the camera at every turn. Unlike the makers of those films, James Wan actually tried to make Dead Silence a suspenseful film rather than a bloodbath. For that, I give him credit.
The idea for Dead Silence came from the minds of James Wan and Leigh Whannel who, like I've mentioned, brought us Saw. You can see in the writing of this duo that they really know how to scare people. They bring their own individuality to what they write, trying to outdo themselves with every page. They will not bring about an award nominations with their stories, but in a world of awful horror films the fact that they provide a slight sense of originality makes them elite. Wan's directorial style is also a plus in all of his films. Much like his past work, Wan delivers a genuine nail biter of a film because of his wonderful ability to pace. He doesn't allow films to go limp for very long, a characteristic I wish every filmmaker had. Dead Silence is not his best work, but is an above average film.
One thing that I wish could have been better in Dead Silence was its cast. Australian actor Ryan Kwanten, who can now be seen sporting a terrible southern accent in HBO's god awful series True Blood, plays the haunted lead character Jamie Ashen. In one's quest for truth in the mystery that surrounds their wife's murder, one would probably convey a plethora of emotions. But not Kwanten. He feels that in this situation, the most reasonable response is to look as calm and unenthused as possible. In a B-grade horror film you don't expect a terrific lead performance, but you at least hope for something. At times Kwanten does a decent job of capturing the moment, but more often than not he is a dud as the lead actor. The rest of the film is also littered with melodramatic performances from the supporting cast. Michael Fairman as the funeral home owner was a total bust. His "scared" face was just hilarious, and I basically laughed at everything he said. The one bright spot in the cast was new kid on the block Donnie Walhberg. As the skeptical Detective Lipton, Walhberg provided necessary comic relief to Dead Silence. He is not their for big laughs, but his cynical disposition makes the air lighter in the film, allowing the viewer to have a good time watching it.
The golden age of horror has been passed for a long time and I have learned to accept this. Never again will there be films like The Shining, Psycho, or the original Halloween. I must admit that it is not the absolute fault of filmmakers, because when you think about it, what hasn't been done yet? Then I also think that it is their job to think of new ideas, and I stop feeling sorry for them. The reason I am a fan of James Wan and Leigh Whannel is because they are innovators in their field. Although I am not particularly happy about this, they did pave the way for a lot of modern horror films with the success of their Saw franchise. They showed it was possible to make good and original horror films that were a hit at the box office. Granted, spawning 4 sequels isn't original, but if it hadn't been for those sequels, Saw could've been considered an innovative film. It is also a problem that although they showed you can still make good and original horror films, nobody else has been able to replicate that idea. So whether you love or hate the Saw franchise, you must give credit where credit is due. With the creation of Dead Silence, Wan and Whannel once again prove they are a horror duo for the ages. My Rating (6.5/10)