Folks...it's a dark, dark day here at Final Girl Headquarters. I've learned a cold, hard life lesson today, and I'm afraid it's maybe...just maybe...turned my glittery pink heart of childlike innocence into a dull, coal-black heart of coal. In a span of just 90-odd minutes, I'm tellin' you...I went from Iris to Easy Iris like nobody's business.
Don't cry for me, dear reader- cry for all of us. Cry for all of us, because the lesson I learned affects us all, no matter our station in life. Cry for all of us, because nothing will ever be the same. Cry for all of us, because everything we've ever known is slipping away into a vortex of confusion, mystery, and glitter. Clutch someone you love close to your side before you read my next few statements, for surely it will hit you almost as hard as it hit me:
Just because a movie features a dummy or a doll, it doesn't mean the movie will be good.
Just because a movie features a dummy or a doll, it doesn't mean the movie will be scary.
That hurt. That really, really hurt me. It's like a slap in the face from an ice-cold glove of ice-covered iron, isn't it? Somehow, typing it makes it...I don't know, it makes it real. It's like finding out all at once that there's no Santa Claus, no Easter Bunny, and no Mrs Butterworth. Not to be melodramatic or anything, but what is there left to live for?
Beware the stare of Mary Shaw-So goes the "eerie" rhyme that the parents of Raven's Fair use to keep their children in line. Now, I'm all about scary poems used to terrify children into good behavior- but I think the citizens of Raven's Fair could have done a bit better- what's up with trying to pass off "Shaw" and "dolls" as words that rhyme?
she had no children, only dolls.
If you see her in your dreams,
be sure you never, ever scream.
Anyway, Mary Shaw was some old ventriloquist broad who fell victim to some Freddy Krueger-style justice many moons ago. When she's accused to kidnapping and possibly killing a young boy, the good citizens of Raven's Fair take justice into their own hands and kill Mary Shaw- they kill her dead! For some reason, though, the good citizens of Raven's Fair decide to carry out Mary's absurd, elaborate, and no doubt pricy burial requests anyway: she wants each of her 100 dolls to be buried individually in little coffins, and she wants...to be made to look like a doll herself.
Jamie Ashen (Ryan Kwanten) and his wife Lisa are perplexed when one of Mary's dummies, Billy, mysteriously shows up on their doorstep. Before the night is through, Lisa is dead and Jamie heads back to his childhood home in Raven's Fair to solve the mystery. The mystery gets more and more ridiculous and less and less scary until it finally explodes in a fiery clusterfuck of CGI-laden bullshit riddled with plot holes like so much CGI-rendered swiss cheese.
Honestly, I'm hard pressed to think of anything that Saw creators James Wan and Leigh Whannell get right in Dead Silence, because they get so fucking much wrong it's depressing.
- The 'mystery' of the dummies simply isn't mysterious, and it doesn't open up through stuff like...oh, clues and discoveries, but rather through people telling one another very explicitly what's going on. When it comes to a horror movie centered around a mystery, one of the finest examples I can think of from recent years is The Ring. The story of the sinister videotape unfolded throughout the entire film, right up until the last few moments. As Rachel (Naomi Watts) pieced the puzzle together, the audience did as well- there were red herrings, misdirections...and nothing was spelled out or dumbed down. Imagine what a different film it would have been if, in the first fifteen minutes, Rachel had inquired about the tape only to be answered with "Oh yeah, the tape. You've never heard the story of the tape? Let me tell you! See, there was this girl, right? And she totally...blah blah blah that's the whole story! Someone else will tell you all about it again in half an hour!" That "different film" is Dead Silence.
- The "dummies are creepy" angle works when the dummies actually DO something, like move or talk or whatever. In a movie such as this, the effectiveness of seeing a doll just plain sitting there, immobile, wears off after maybe two shots. Yeah, Billy's eyes move every once in a while- but that's it. The dolls don't kill in Dead Silence...a CGIed Mary Shaw kills. Way to squander the opportunity to exploit (most) people's inherent fear of dolls.
- Whatever happened to shots that last longer than 4 seconds? A ghostly figure floating down a hallway could be scary- if we saw it for longer than a second at a time. Jump cuts and the such are so overused in this movie, even in scenes where two people are simply talking. Jump cuts are a tool that should be used to strengthen a sequence- not a filmmaking style to be used for 90 minutes. It sucks all the tension out of a scene and leaves the viewer confused, pulling him or her out of the action.
- If only a little bit of attention had been given to the characters in the film- even a teeny-weeny little bit! I know he wasn't given much to work with, but Ryan Kwanten made for one of the dullest, most dreadful leading men I've seen since...well, ever. He had less personality than Billy did, even when Mary Shaw's hand wasn't shoved up his butt. Billy's butt, that is.
Dead Silence reminded me of another 'childhood terror/legend' stinker: Darkness Falls. In other words, it's a laughable mess of wasted opportunities- simply put, a huge fucking disappointment.
You know what, though? I'm not gonna let this suckfest ruin my hopes for the next dummy movie that comes down the pipe. It'll be scary, I just know it will! It has to be!