Although I’m a horror enthusiast, I’m not very much into horror movies. I prefer novels or drawn art. That’s because horror movies, most of them, depend on those sudden scares that get you jumping, rather than letting your imagination take control. Some movies like Signs and The Village are more about imagination, not graphic depictions or auditory effects. However, it’s still refreshing every once in a while to watch a typical horror movie. I think the last time I watched a horror movie of this kind was way back when I watched The Grudge in the theater. It was pretty good with a nice Japanese flavor.
A couple of days ago, I watched Dead Silence. Why did I choose to watch this one? Well, the idea of dolls having a life of their own has always fascinated me. It all started many years ago when I heard about Chucky in the Child’s Play series of movies. Although I never got to watch a full film from the series in my childhood (I was so scared to complete it even among my family’s company), the picture of a hateful doll killing innocent people has forever been engraved in the walls of my mind. Later, and in a much friendlier way, dolls and toys had lives of their own in the popular movie Toy Story. I wish the release dates were the other way round, because I was really so young to witness dolls killing people with hammers. That wasn’t fair.
Dead Silence main theme is this: dolls taking revenge on people. Or would I say, their owner does? Yes, there’s a dead ventriloquist here and she’s angry, really mad. You’d expect her dolls to be loyal to her, wouldn’t you? And they are. The story is about a hateful soul of a murdered ventriloquist who wants to take revenge on all those who ‘silenced’ her. Reportedly, a young boy who’d attended her last show went missing. That boy was somewhat mean to her during the show, shouting things like “her lips are moving, the doll is not real”. Later, the boy’s family thought of Mary Shaw, the ventriloquist in question, as the only suspect, and consequently the convict. They didn’t waste time in cutting out her tongue and killing her. This would be so crazy in our time where the law is rampant (supposedly), so don’t be surprised if you knew that that happened more than a hundred years ago in rural America. Mary Shaw had 101 hand-crafted dolls which were all buried with her according to her will. In her life, she’d aspired to create the ‘perfect doll’ – as her diary says in the beginning of the film. That perfect doll was revealed to be a creation of utmost skill later on. Something that crosses the line between non-living things and human-like characteristics.
The story is set in Ravens Fair; a small, almost completely deserted town in rural America – the sort of towns that are called ghost towns. On the edge of town there is the old theater where Mary Show used to perform and live. The protagonist, a descendant of the murdering family of Ashen, journeys from the center of town to that theater on many occasions searching for clues for his wife’s murder that happened just minutes after receiving the doll Billy from an unknown sender. Oh, I’ve forgotten the cemetery. There is one too. Now you have a classic old-school horror setting. And it’s not bad; in fact, it works quite well. The music is also well done and suits the screenplay perfectly. So what do I think could be better? Well, Billy. Billy was a very interesting character and he was actually the main antagonist for almost half the movie, but in the latter half, his role diminished considerably, and his demise was pretty disappointing. I think all viewers expected more from Billy. Though the movie is not just about him, he was shown in the beginning to play a big role which got much smaller as the movie went on, and that’s the director (or the writer’s) mistake. The dialogue wasn’t the best you can hear in a horror film either, but it did the job.
The angry soul of Mary Show has been taking the lives of all descendants of the Ashen family for many years. However, a condition must be met before she can kill them; they have to scream. That’s why an old folk poem, popular in town, advises against that. The film’s title is derived from the complete silence of ambient sounds Mary Shaw creates before she attacks. She silences those who silenced her – according to her own words, simply by cutting out their tongues and adding them to her mouth. In the process, the victims’ jaws are also broken apart, creating a facial appearance similar to that of a face of a wooden doll, like Billy. It doesn’t get fairer than this, does it? But Mary Shaw was really evil in her life. Some viewers may think she deserved what happened to her in some way, for the boy she kidnapped was exploited and may had had something to do with her creation of the ‘perfect doll’. You may wonder what role her dolls have in the process of revenge. It seems that they act as ‘helpers’ or ‘mediators’ of some sort to Mary Shaw, and though they do have lives of their own (they can talk and look around), they don’t commit the act itself. For instance, Billy lured the protagonist’s wife to her death by calling for her to the bedroom where Mary Shaw did the job. On the other hand, the protagonist escaped an eminent death once, because he knew the poem and did not scream. His dilemma was doubled because he was under close surveillance from a detective for being the only suspect in his wife’s murder.
In the end, after being lured to Mary Shaw’s theater, with the help of the detective, the protagonist successfully burns all 100 dolls in the theater in addition to Billy at his father’s home, thinking he brought an end to Mary Shaw’s terror. But he was mistaken. The ‘perfect doll’ Mary Shaw wrote about in her diary was revealed, bringing the number of dolls up to 102. The protagonist also discovered a horrible secret about his unconcerned old father, that he was a victim of exploitation by that ‘perfect doll’. That was one shocking ending!
Overall, I think the film is worth watching if you’re looking for a classic-looking horror flick. It was such a refreshing experience. There is much more detail in the movie, but I didn’t want to get deeper into it in the review to not spoil everything. I’ll leave that to you!
I gave the film a 7/10 rating on IMDB.