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Dead Silence - An Awful Entry Into The History Of Killer Doll Movies.

I initially found Dead Silence to be a potentially exciting prospect - YAY! A killer doll movie!

At the same time, on the other end of the spectrum, I'm a jaded old lady who know's enough to predict it would be another terrible, modern, jump-scare filled little horror flick designed to fill some seats BUT not challenge anyone. In finally watching the movie, I found it to be as uninspired as I imagined it to be.

For no reason other then poor writing, the plot is tissue paper thin. Who can fuck up killer dolls? Killers dolls are every child's nightmare.

Every normal kid, I guess.
I loved the idea that my dolls may be alive and may have personalities. I loved the idea that they could be harnessed as minions to do one's bidding. Who would ever suspect or believe that dolls killed someone?

As a kid, I watched about a billion hours of The Twilight Zone. One of my favorites was always "The Living Doll" where a mean step-father is menaced and murdered by his step-daughter's toy. Whenever I find myself in the midst of an interaction with someone I dislike, I think of Talky Tina telling Erich that she doesn't think she likes him very much. While the story is merely "creepy" on the surface, Serling's closing monologue drives home the point that this tale is really a metaphorical commentary on domestic abuse: 
Of course, we all know dolls can't really talk, and they certainly can't commit murder. But to a child caught in the middle of turmoil and conflict, a doll can become many things: friend, defender, guardian. Especially a doll like Talky Tina, who did talk and did commit murder - in the misty region of the Twilight Zone.
My second favorite instance of a killer doll comes in the form of a movie. I've always loved Magic (capital "M" here for the movie, not the opposite of science.) If you haven't seen it, it's a late 70's horror flick starring Anthony Hopkins as an unskilled magician who takes up ventriloquism with a deranged dummy who begins killing folks. Both Hopkins (and the dummy) are creepy as all hell. This movie is one of the most direct inspirations for Dead Silence.

Enter the 80's, which gave us BOTH Child's Play (by far the most famous killer doll) and Puppet Master (probably the most "cult-y" or underground of the killer doll movies). Dead Silence owes a bit to these movies as well. Unlike Talky Tina (who we're led to question if she is actually "alive" or is just a cover for a fed-up, abused family) and Fats from Magic (who we're led to question if he's "alive" or just a cover for Corky's mental breakdown,) the dolls of Child's Play and Puppet Master are actually possessed by malicious spirits.

The killer dolls of Dead Silence are all ventriloquist dummies who are "made from" or "possessed by" the spirits of the people a ventriloquist's evil spirt murdered. And why did she murder all these generations of people? Because they cut out her tongue. And why did they do that? Because she kidnapped one of their children, murdered him, and turned him into a marionette.

So, let me get this straight: a bitchy old lady got her panties in a bunch when a 10 year old boy called her names, so she murdered him in a horrific way, and after the town's people sought retribution she cursed them all?... Who am I supposed to feel bad for? Am I supposed to care about anyone in this movie?

Unlike the earlier entries on this list, Dead Silence holds no greater or deeper meaning. This movie was obviously rushed into production (with some famous names attached) to make a couple of dollars. A plan that failed, by the way, because this movie is terrible.

Everything was inconsistent; running from strangely campy (think Repo! The Genetic Opera) to attempts at serious horror (the scene where Mary Shaw is embalmed is a great effort).

The dialog is incredibly stupid: "In the town that I'm from, a ventriloquist's dummy is a bad omen." Really? What medieval town would that be? And who says that? To a cop?! It's unbelievably idiotic.

The acting is on par with your average soap opera - not surprising as the leading actor Ryan Kwanten was on a soap opera for years. His atrocious acting isn't the only reason I can't take him seriously, he was so perfectly cast as Jason Stackhouse on True Blood, I can't think of him as anyone else.

The whole movie is peppered with random, sort of famous people. As a movie nerd, I love that Judith Roberts is in this one. (You may recognize her from Eraserhead).

The set design and effects were also fairly bad. A lot of the CGI looked like they dreamed it up for 3-D. Was this movie meant to be 3-D? To give some credit, conceptually some of the imagery was interesting , like a room full of dummies. But then - in the middle of this modernized Victorian looking place with all these retro-esque dolls - why is there an 80's looking clown? Oh wait. Because Saw - that's why.

And by that I mean, Dead Silence was written and directed by the team who brought us Saw. Dead Silence was supposed to leverage the popularity of Saw to make insane amounts of money. As I said before - they failed so miserably at this that the movie's theatre run was cut short and plans to create a sequel? Completely forgotten. I think this is my favorite review I read:
"Plodding and bereft of suspense, "Dead Silence" is an irredeemable jumble of cliché genre fragments."
Thanks, Cole Smithey for that gem.

But I also love these:
"It's awful. It eats your soul, it's so awful."
"For the love of Chucky, avoid this insipid attempt at reviving the killer doll horror."
You can read some more bashing on Rotten Tomatoes. and you can watch the trailer here:


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