“Beware the stare of Mary Shaw. She had no children, only dolls. If you see her in your dreams, make sure you never ever scream, or she’ll cut your tongue out at the seam”
Cast/Crew: Before Annabelle, there was Billy! Surprised this slipped my radar for so long. Brought to you by the creators of SAW – if you didn’t know it was done by James Wan & Leigh Whannell beforehand, you’d definitely see their hallmarks in the film, via the aesthetics and editing. Donnie Wahlberg (SAW 3/4) plays the cynical, suspicious cop, Detective Lipton.
Plot: A couple receive a creepy ventriloquist doll named Billy. When the husband (the protagonist, Jamie) returns home, he finds his wife dead with her tongue ripped out, Billy lying near her. He quests to find out who is responsible.
• There’s trademark SAW tropes, such as the “darkness, flash of light, movement!” scare sequence much like great scene with the photographer in his apartment in Saw 1, and the ‘SAW revelation montage’ with SAW-like music at the end. Also, SAW has a freaky doll. I won’t spoil it but Wan & Whannell seem to have recycled a main character from here in Insidious.
• The film also greatly reminds me of The Ring, from the plot progression, the disfigured bodies, to the shots used.
• I never really notice such blatant formula but this film was knocking me over the head with it: Man receives doll, loved one killed, slowly uncover horrible story, makes things right, things go wrong, finale.
• To it’s credit, Dead Silence employs different types of scares (not just startling shock horror).
• The antagonist here is the ghost of a ventriloquist. The idea of turning people into marionettes/puppets is pretty creepy and they go the whole way with it, lending to some cool moments.
• The writing is generally fine, apart from a few clunkers (eg “Now who’s the dummy?!”)
• There’s an alternate ending which involves a macabre family portrait, and Jamie’s corpse is tucked into bed while repeating the Mary Shaw rhyme. It’s feels a bit hokey (it’s unfinished – missing some sound/fx) but I think it’s better than the actual ending.
Overall: Swing and a miss. I enjoyed Wan’s other efforts but this is their weakest film. It’s a contrived haunted doll film, made by the SAW guys, sans gore – it’s exactly what you’d expect. Because of the first 3 reasons I mentioned, it’s a pretty unremarkable film. But hey, if possessed dolls are your bag baby, go for it!