From "Dead of Night" to "Poltergeist," the use of creepy dolls makes for an easy cinematic scare. So in following up "Saw," director James Wan makes them the focus of the tense "Dead Silence."
Ryan Kwanten (all blank stares and mouth agape) believes the sudden murder " and tongue removal " of his wife has something to do with the old ventriloquist's dummy they mysteriously had just received. So he follows the trail back to his hometown in the appropriate Gothic-named Ravens Fall, and is followed by suspicious stubbly cop Donnie Wahlberg.
What our protagonist finds is an age-old curse left behind by a ventriloquist who was killed by the townspeople long ago. Today, she lets her dummies and dolls exact revenge.
It's as far removed from "Saw" as Wan could get. Gone is the Nine Inch Nails video-style trickery; in are visual references to Fifties and Sixties horror master Mario Bava. And that's what makes "Dead Silence" so welcome " an old-fashioned throwback to classic horror, offering a respite from gore-for-gore's-sake slashers that Wan ironically helped bring into vogue.
The unrated disc's "shocking" alternate opening and ending suggest Wan was wise to cut them. It works as is, best watched at night, by yourself, with the lights off.