Dead Silence (R)

Horror 90 March 16th, 2007
By Jim Ridley
Terror takes a drink of water and talks simultaneously as the makers of Saw bring you the ultimate in ventriloquist horror! Actually, what they've very nearly brought is a retarded classic to rival that previous Donnie Wahlberg ass-terpiece Dreamcatcher -- a shocker so silly, it practically fogs the theater with beer-burp fumes. Director James Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell announce they're kickin' it old-school right from the James Whale-era Universal logo: The movie is a throwback to old-dark-house chillers with the merest splash of gore, as a grieving widower (Ryan Kwanten) traces his wife's grisly demise back to his hometown, which consists of a spooky mansion, empty streets, an eerie motel, a funeral home -- and oh yeah, that creepy old theater once run by the evil ventriloquist with the 101 lifelike dummies. Dolls are innately unnerving, but the movie's semi-menacing Charlie McCarthys never live up to their potential; the same is true of the filmmakers' two clever William Castle-style gimmicks -- a visual scheme leached of its color except lurid reds, and a soundtrack that mutes the ambient noise whenever mayhem lurks. As creaky nonsense goes, though, this is chock-full of corny goodness down to its hilarious sense-shredding "twist," which the movie reveals like a magician proudly unveiling a dead rabbit.
James Wan Ryan Kwanten, Amber Valletta, Donnie Wahlberg, Michael Fairman, Joan Heney, Bob Gunton, Laura Regan, Dmitry Chepovetsky, Judith Roberts, Keir Gilchrist James Wan, Leigh Whannell Oren Koules, Gregg Hoffman, Mark Burg Universal Pictures