The classic Universal logo -- the one with the aeroplane circumnavigating the globe -- opens the studio's newest horror film, Dead Silence. It's a clever way to tell the audience "Look, you're not about to get your typical quick-cut hack & slash fest here. Despite the fact that Dead Silence is the second feature film from the man who directed Saw, we think you should try and settle into an 'old-school chiller' vibe with this one." And it's true: For much of Dead Silence's brief but deliberately-paced running time, the flick feels a lot like something that would have hit the screens back in 1952. (Or maybe whittled down into an episode of The Twlight Zone.) Whether or not the younger Saw maniacs will actually appreciate this diversion from formula remains to be seen, but as a guy who's just young enough to dig Saw, but certainly old enough to remember my black and white "creature double feature" TV marathons, I found just enough to enjoy in this one.
Ryan Kwanten plays Jamie Ashen, a young husband who loses his wife during a fairly chilling prologue. Basically, a creepy old ventriloquist's dummy is left on the Ashens' doorstep, Jamie heads out to get some Chinese food, and returns to find his pretty young wife ... in a really unpleasant state. This tragic event, combined with some insensitive accusations from police detective Lipton (Donnie Wahlberg), inspires poor Jamie to hit the road and revisit his withered old hometown of Raven's Fair. It's there he comes across his estranged old dad (Bob Gunton), a hot new stepmother (Amber Valletta), a terrified mortician (Michael Fairman) and his strangely off-kilter wife (Joan Heney).