Friday, September 19, 2014

Dead Silence (2007)

Man, if I keep on reviewing these James Wan movies, people are going to start thinking I have some vendetta against James Wan!

...what? I have no clever retort to that. It was just an observation.

Director: The Great Visionary James Wan
Starring: Wooden caricatures of human beings, and also puppets

So...Dead Silence. This piece of shit was one of the first in a long painful line of supernatural ghost-vengeance-small town-nice-house-porn flicks that have been coming out like the Octo-Mom’s kids ever since.

A quick glance at the Wikipedia page reveals, for one, that this movie’s script was heavily doctored after its initial draft by SAW writer Leigh Whannel, who wasn’t happy about it at all. Which is understandable given the quality of this movie, but baffling when you find out Whannel also wrote Insidious: Chapter 2 just last year - didn’t learn THAT much, huh? And two, one of the working titles was apparently “Sshhh…”. That...doesn’t even need a comment.

In the opening credits, we see how puppets are really made: in the dark with seizure-inducing flashing lights so you can’t see what you’re doing, with dark ominous music playing, because that puts you in a mood to make toys for children, doesn’t it?

Puppets are dark, scary monsters made in hellish domains by tortured souls. Rent one for your seven year old's birthday party today. Boy, Jim Henson studios got dark in its later years.

Once upon a time there was a boring couple who were unrealistically attractive. The guy, Jamie, loved fixing sinks and the girl flirts by saying that him dialing for take-out for dinner is attractive to her. Lovely! I almost, kinda, sorta believed that you had once been in a room a long time ago with two people in a relationship.

"The smell of hands working under a sink gets me hot! Dialing a phone to order bad Chinese food gets me even hotter!" ... "Hey, is this realistic dialogue yet? No? Well, fuck it; I don't like putting effort into things."

But that doesn’t last long, as apparently Jamie gets a puppet in the mail. I’d say how weird that is, but I’m following the characters’ lead. Because they don’t find it weird at all. They don’t even ask any questions!

"Where did that puppet come from?"
"Who cares? Let's play with it!"

I guess mysterious packages in the middle of the night are just normal for them.

We then see what a catch Lisa is as she talks to the dummy while she’s alone with it and sets it up to “scare” Jamie when he gets back. Seeing as that isn’t something any functioning human being in the history of the world would do, the doll rightfully kills her:

Jamie returns home and finds this, in a suitably obnoxiously edited flash cut with a loud sound behind it, because nothing can be scary without that. I mean, thank fuck they put in that loud sound and the flashy lights and what not; I never would have known to be scared here otherwise.

Then he gets arrested and questioned by the worst cop in the world, who suspects him of killing Lisa even though he didn’t do it and there was that tiny matter of a DOLL being delivered to him right before the murder happened! But the cop doesn’t care about that. He doesn’t consider it. What he DOES care about is interrogating a guy just for the sake of hearing his own stupid voice. Because that’s...really all you’re getting with this, you fucking idiot. I’ll sum up the conversation:

“Did you kill your wife?”

“No, but there was this weird puppet dropped off in front of my door like an hour before---”

“That had NOTHING to do with it! DID YOU KILL YOUR WIFE?”

“But I saw a guy with a bloody knife leaving the scene when I got back to the house!”

“Trivia at best! DID YOU KILL YOUR WIFE? I know ya did! Admit it, you guilty bastard!”

“But I get phone calls every night from the murderer and he taunts me that he'll never be caught because the police won't do their jobs right!”

“Oh pshaw, you killed her; just admit it!”


Then we see the height of good policework - after you question your “suspect” for no reason very harshly, just let him leave town and take the fucking dummy with him. Oh yeah. Why does he take that dummy? Your guess is as good as mine. I guess he just wanted to remind himself of Angel Season 5 while on the road.

He goes to the town we see in all of these movies: the sorta small town with a Victorian mansion in the middle of it, and also with a population of only attractive, slender white people. The houses we see are always squeaky clean with nothing out of place and look like millionaires reside there. Because nothing says horror you can relate to like it’s happening to you, like a bunch of rich GQ cover models living in mansions even The Big Lebowski would call extravagant.

If a black person appeared in any James Wan movie, the whole universe would probably implode.

We get some very bland attempts at drama when Jamie interacts with his father, who apparently he didn’t used to get along with but now the father has changed and wants to reconcile I guess - whoop-de-doo, do you want a fucking medal? Also apparently the father has had multiple ex-wives and celebrates that fact by painting them out of portraits when they die, or some shit like that.

All of this is really just window dressing to the main point that this movie has no fucking idea what it’s doing. Who cares about any of this drama? How does it make us relate to the characters or story any more? That’s really the crux of horror, you know - relating to the characters so we’re scared with them when they get in danger. This movie, like so many before and after it, just wanted an excuse to show pretty looking mansions and attractive people.

There’s no spontaneity to any of this, no mess in the houses, no flaws in the characters’ appearances, speech or personalities - these things, while small, would have made the film a tad bit better, as at least THEN we could have gotten the sense we were watching real people, and maybe then we could have at least been a little more invested in this shitty story. As is, it’s more like watching a bunch of dolls playing in a dollhouse.

So Jamie leaves and goes to some motel where I really am just hoping Norman Bates will pop out and stab him to death. But that doesn’t happen. Instead we get another appearance by Detective Gumshoe McCrimeSolver, who has a brilliant solution - focus in on the dummy NOW. Yeah, before it just seemed like a silly idea, but NOW it’s genius! Detective work is fun when you can just make things up as you go with no logic or reason!

We also get the true height of detective skills when we see Gumshoe here talk to Jamie with the dummy just to be super funny and shit:

"For my next trick, I'll make the rest of this movie seem tolerable by comparison when I come on screen."

What the shit is this, the stand-up comedy hour with the detective? Get the fuck out. We really paid tax dollars for this? Is this really the best the police force could do? Well, I suppose it isn’t actually - it’s just that they probably put all their competent guys on cases more important than the fucking dummy murder case. That makes more sense.

After that we get an exposition scene where Jamie runs into the town crazy lady, and of course her husband is kind enough to sit Jamie down and tell him everything going on in a neat and orderly fashion, because the movie had no idea how to get all of this vital fuckin’ information out to us otherwise…

"Now, let's talk about something so boring the audience will fall asleeeeeepppppppp

So get this - apparently a long time ago, Cruelle DeVille’s even creepier and meaner cousin went on stage all the time in this town and did puppet shows. It apparently was fine and dandy until some snot-nosed kid made fun of her because her lips were moving.

It's like a Disney game; return 101 puppets to Cruelle DeVille's less successful cousin.

Then she killed him and the town pulled a Freddy Krueger and killed her in retaliation. Apparently her will involved them turning her into a puppet after she died, which I’m sure was a bucketload of fun for the embalmers and the morticians:

So do wood carvers in this world ask for their body to be turned into a wood statue after they die? At what point do these after-death wishes become too ridiculous?

And so now she’s a vengeful ghost haunting the town for no reason. Or maybe there is one. But I’ll be fucked if I’m going to listen to the bland writing that makes this thing up. Apparently she also had a bunch of dolls that she made that got buried because, I guess, the town thought they were haunted or something. Whatever.

The movie after this...really doesn’t have any structure to it, and it just meanders around like a drunk at Oktoberfest. There’s way, way too much exposition, with a whole other part where we get lots of backstory about the town and why Jamie specifically is being targeted - I dunno; forgive me for being vague, but do you really even care? It took me Herculean strength to type even this little paragraph - c’mon, I’m trying to make these reviews more exciting, and this movie is NOT helping.

I’m just amazed at the great use our taxpayers’ money is going to with this cop - he spends time digging up ALL THE PUPPET GRAVES to prove the point that, I dunno, something is going on I guess. Are you shitting me? Digging up little puppet graves is official police procedure now? 

"Phew, I didn't prove anything by doing this, but I sure did get a good workout!"

Eventually they make their ways to the set of Lord of the Rings for the final battle:

There, the ghost speaks through a puppet and says the reason Lisa died in the beginning was because she was pregnant. You know, the twist from Se7en doesn’t work when it’s a dumb looking clown puppet saying it.

Then we see the true way to kill ghosts - blow the fuck out of them with a rifle. Genius!

Call of Duty: Retarded Edition

The detective guy finally dies, which I think almost redeems the movie altogether - almost.

Then Jamie goes back home and has a flash-cut revelation when he realizes his father wasn’t his father at all, but instead a puppet the whole time, and his father’s new wife was actually the ghost in disguise!

This is why we can't have nice things.

This whole movie was just awful. Wan’s cliches are already in full force here like a back-full of angry warts. The characters are non-entities, the setting is boring, there are no effective scares and the story is mostly just really, really boring exposition. All in all, shit movie, shit director, nothing good about it and if you’re outdone in quality by an R.L. Stine book, you need to quit making movies.

Oh you bet I went there. At least the Stine books were awesome for twelve year olds. James Wan movies aren't awesome to anyone.

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