Sunday, 16 September 2012

Dead Silence (DVD Review)

Despite its deeply unsettling properties, few horror films have dared to venture into the difficult reanimation of ventriloquist dummies on screen. Until James Wan the director of the increasingly depressing 'saw' films took it upon himself to create such that. Starring a string of relatively unknown actors, from Ryan Kwanten to Donnie Wahlberg, Dead silence stylises itself within an ancient myth surrounding the murder of a persistent ventriloquist.

  The dead-pan faces, the piercing eyes, the dislocated jaw, dummies are certainly a horrific piece of 'entertainment' which are all too easy to insert into a horror film. The trick is to be subtle. Which this film seems incapable of doing. Following our less than enthusiastic protagonist as he retraces the origins of the dummy, we are immediately introduced to this films sadistic, wooden anti-hero 'billy'. Attempting to spark fear in the hearts of the audience, the dummy soon starts to possess 'terrifying' human qualities, like the turning or his eyes, the turning of his eyes and.... the turning of his eyes. Knowing that they were limited to how realistic a dummy can be, they have ultimately restricted themselves to simple, tame eye and head movements, which soon become laughable as piercing violins accompany the action every time he appears. This continues for the majority of the film as Wan concocts a new method in scaring the audience. Soon the ghost of the bewitched ventriloquist appears, adding another horror element to the films slowly building horror dictionary, a step in the right direction as this debilitated ghost truly supplies some unsettling scenes of personal intimidation. Perhaps the only real, legitimate scare within this film, with the others lacking behind being mostly cheap and formulaic. Following the poignant fright dispenser of the dummy is a hugely embarrassing plot point used to convey their 'terrifying' myth. Whenever the demented dummy is near, the characters surroundings fills with 'dead silence' (hence the fitting title) a pathetic attempt to provide an excuse for their repetitive use of the constantly effective jump-scare. As the increasingly ridiculous plot procrastinates forwards, and half-heartedly throws expanding plot points in the air, a large sense of imminent disappointment could be conjured, and much to my expectation such disappointment was delivered in the less than satisfactory climax.

 Diagnosed with a short-term case of severe memory loss, the previous hour and a half of pointless story telling goes to waste, as the film produces a whole new plot point during the climactic 5 minutes, then curls it back to link in with a boring unexplored aspect of the previous hour. The 'twist' itself was surprisingly clever, despite its exceptional predictability, even if it made no coherent sense which proved to be a familiar theme throughout the film. With all these plot points bound together on a flimsy stick, it was almost inevitable that the stick would snap and the film would fall to pieces leaving untied plot points for your frustrated mind to decipher. Contrived occurrences go unexplained and forgotten plot points are left to rot, as this film trundles on, ecstatic at its partially effective chilling narrative, oblivious to the mess it leaves behind.

 Focussing too much on the deprived horror techniques, the basic screenplay and character development has been totally neglected. Producing an array of insignificant characters destined for the death reel, that contribute nothing to the developing plot, adding only embarrassing comedy value.  These useless and obviously stereotypical characters aren’t helped by the lackadaisical actors that voices embody them. Our seemingly schizophrenic protagonist nonsensically frequently switches between terrified widower, heroic action man and professional detective, providing for a truly unrealistic performance. Played by the depressingly terrible Ryan Kwanten, this performance was the bane of the film dragging each scene down to an unbearable pace, treating the scenes of horror as scenes of comedy; however this performance is by no means the worst. Following him on his journey (for no reason whatsoever) is the amateurish policeman Donnie Wahlberg, the man incapable of making an arrest despite his regular ‘run-ins’ with his suspect.  At no point was any connection felt with the characters, learning to loath them rather than love them, hoping they would meet their impending doom, just so no more worthless script work could drain out their mouths.

 From the oddly creative yet undeniably revolting mind of ‘saw’ comes an awful depiction of one of the most universally unattractive forms of entertainment.  What should’ve been deeply unsettling became predictably boring. Horror elements recycled characters as deep as the ‘shallow end’, and actors worthy of the prestigious ‘razzie’. A missed opportunity on what could’ve been gold.

20%- Should come with a free pillow.

Calum Russell

No comments:

Post a Comment