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Universal Studios Home Video presents
Dead Silence (Unrated) (2006)

"Who's the dummy now?"
- Ella Ashen (Amber Valletta)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga   
Published: September 06, 2007

Stars: Ryan Kwanten, Amber Valletta
Other Stars: Donnie Wahlberg, Bob Gunton, Laura Regan
Director: James Wan

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (horror violence and images)
Run Time: 01h:31m:26s
Release Date: June 26, 2007
UPC: 025192884924
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A B+AB+ B-

DVD Review

I suppose there is still at least somewhat of a loyal following for the "killer puppet" movie. There are those who have worn out their copies of the Puppet Master films and have grown weary of Anthony Hopkins' Magic dummy. Still, these fans, like so many others who gravitate to their favorite niche are always clamoring for more. They will definitely get their fix with Universal's release of recent theatrical release Dead Silence, which makes a very quick turnaround to DVD.

We open with Lisa (Laura Regan) and her husband, Jamie Ashen (Ryan Kwanten) enjoying a night filled with romance and Chinese take-out. Their fun is interrupted by a knock at the door, where a mysterious coffin-like box awaits. Inside is a beautifully crafted ventriloquist's dummy that seems harmless enough until Jamie returns from the food run to find Lisa carved up to look like a puppet. After dealing with Detective Jim Lipton (Donnie Wahlberg), who suspects him of the murder, Jamie heads to his hometown of Raven's Fair. Once there, he learns of the legend of Mary Shaw, a ventriloquist who was killed, buried with her "children," and just might be back from the dead to avenge those that have wronged her.

With a great, atmospheric look, and high production values, this is a rare treat among the throngs of predictable, boring horror movies we see far too much of. The overall chilling mood renders nearly all of the film's shortcomings obsolete. With every dark, spooky setting, and wonderful use of dynamic audio tricks such as instantly disappearing ambient sound, we forget about the wooden performances and shallow plot that surround them. Some of the acting is difficult to ignore, though, with Donnie Wahlberg playing yet another clichéd, genre movie detective, a role that he's quickly being typecast in. Kwanten dominates the screen time, but his line delivery is mostly wooden, despite some flashes of potential greatness. The best performance actually comes from Laura Regan, who is playing a variation on Adrienne King's short-lived (literally) character in Friday the 13th Part 2.

It's too bad the twist ending can be seen coming a mile away, but the final shot is creepy enough to make this forgivable. You can pretty much bank on such a shocker in any and all of these non-creature-centric creep fests, but it's truly rewarding when they get it right. The cheese ball Mary Shaw concept is a tough sell, but director Wan avoids the many potential pitfalls associated with such a character. If Mary was given a high-pitched, squealy voice, or morphed into something other than a tall, old woman, so much of what works would be compromised. It's amazing what a little attention to detail can do.

The thrills here are rather straightforward, but surprisingly effective, with chills running down my spine anytime they showed a "human dummy." This is some spectacular effects work, in a rare case of a decent budget being used for old-school makeup and blood effects instead of being wasted on generic CGI footage. While these aspects can't quite elevate the weak script, they go a long way into making what I thought would be a complete waste of time into a truly pleasant, and, dare I say, scary surprise, the likes of which we don't get enough of from big studio horror films these days.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.40:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The film is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen, and this transfer does a wonderful job capturing the director's dark, dreary, horrific vision. Blacks are a huge part of the overall look, and those here are appropriately deep and rich. The rest of the colors are vivid, with realistic flesh tones that blend in nicely with the abundantly sharp, detailed images. There's very little, if any, grain, while dirt, and other flaws are nonexistent.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The audio is Dolby Digital 5.1, and the overall mix is pleasing, but not overly dynamic. The surrounds are very active, with nice directional effects adding a nice, spooky nuance to the more intense scenes. Tight, aggressive bass also perks things up, while consistently crisp, clear dialogue is also a constant.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Hot Fuzz, Eureka: The Complete First Season, Breach
3 Deleted Scenes
1 Alternate Endings
3 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Keep Case
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Alternate Opening
Extras Review: A decent extras collection begins with a few Universal trailers before the menus even appear. Then, we get a one-and-a-half minute "Alternate Opening," which allows us to hear the ghost story of Mary Shaw for the first time. There's also an "Alternate Ending" running almost four minutes that's a bit more detailed, as far as the big twist goes, but we're left feeling that the original denouement suited the film just fine.

Three deleted scenes totaling just under four minutes are next, followed by The Making of Dead Silence. This 12-minute documentary is heavy on interview footage with director James Wan, who compares this to his other films, namely Saw. Mary Shaw's Secrets is a six-minute-plus featurette that focuses on the ghost story that is central to the movie, while Evolution of a Visual FX runs for four minutes, and shows us a sequence chronicling how a VFX progressed from previs to dailies to the final version used in the film.

Finishing things up is a music video for the song "We Sleep Forever" by Aiden.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

I expected the worst from the latest multiplex hogging Hollywood horror movie, but director James Wan's Dead Silence is a scary delight. Universal brings it quickly to home video on this "Unrated" DVD that adds a minute to the gory proceedings. This solid disc also features excellent audio and video, along with some interesting extras.


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