James Wan rocketed onto the horror scene with the genre invigorating "Saw" that gave indie horror a chance again, but its his follow up horror flick "Dead Silence" that might really show just how talented he is as a director. Although this dark and modern ghost film might have its flaws that tend to hurt it (mostly in its script and plot), "Dead Silence" is an atmospheric ride that really uses Wan's talents to full extent and creates a genuinely creepy film that rises above most of its peers.
Jamie (Kwanten, you know he's popular now as Jason Stackhouse on "True Blood") has some series family issues to take care of. When a ventriloquist dummy is mysteriously delivered to his house, he finds himself one less wife, a whole lot of cops thinking he killed her, and a clue that leads him back to his home town to confront his father. What he learns is that a childhood poem about Mary Shaw and her dolls is perhaps now a curse on his family. With the help of a cop trying to bust him (Wahlberg of the Donnie type), they go to uncover a town secret and curse that just might leave them...speechless.
Where "Saw" was a purely modern horror treat, "Dead Silence" takes that modernity and dashes it with some old school spice. That spice being some seriously thick and dread filled atmosphere. Although the script doesn't have a whole lot to praise for being unique or spectacular, it tends to fall into some odd plot holes occasionally as it goes about telling a mysterious story about a ghost cursed family/town and a group of possessed dolls (if only I had a buck for every movie with one of those two plot points), there is redemption. This script seems pretty basic and is the most flawed part about "Dead Silence". Characters aren't as fleshed out as one would have hoped but it does build a solid mystery to base itself on and it works there.
The truth of the matter with "Dead Silence" is that despite its shaky script and basic acting, the directing makes up for the rest. Wan's visual talent makes this a riveting watch from minute one. It's as if he wanted every scene in this film to be a memorable one with his excellent use of lighting and angles to create depth where these was none in its foundation. A simple scene as Jamie crossing the river in a boat goes from being just a travel shot to one that only cakes on the atmosphere and style with very little visible effort. It's this care to detail that makes this film so damn creepy and scary. Wan makes this one work.
If there was ever a reason to call James Wan one of the modern greats in the horror genre look no further than "Dead Silence". It has a mediocre script at best, but its style and execution on screen is something to be admired because it carries the whole film. If this film doesn't get your skin to crawl at least once then you're not watching it close enough. Definitely one of the best modern ghost horror films out there. Purely through atmosphere.
BONUS PRAISE: I do have to admit that one other aspect of the film that makes it rock so hard is its score. One of the creepiest modern scores I've heard in a long time.
Written By Matt Reifschneider