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Movie Review

Dead Silence a.k.a. Shhhh; Silence; Speaking In Tongues

MPAA Rating: R for horror violence and images

Reviewed by: Chris Sosa

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens, Young adults
Horror, Thriller
1 hr. 30 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
March 16, 2007 (wide)
Copyright, Universal Pictures
Copyright, Universal Pictures
Copyright, Universal Pictures
Copyright, Universal Pictures
Copyright, Universal Pictures
Copyright, Universal Pictures
Copyright, Universal Pictures
Copyright, Universal Pictures
Copyright, Universal Pictures
Copyright, Universal Pictures
Relevant Issues
Featuring: Leigh Whannell, Amber Valletta, Ryan Kwanten, Donnie Wahlberg, Christina Cox
Director: James Wan
Producer: Oren Koules, Gregg Hoffman, Mark Burg
Distributor: Universal Pictures

“You scream. You die.”

“Dead Silence” tells the tale of Jamie Ashen, a young man on a search for answers following the gruesome death of his wife. In one of the film’s opening scenes, Jamie’s wife Lisa is brutally murdered, found with her mouth in a screaming position, and all signs point toward Jamie as the killer. On a quest to prove his innocence, Jamie leaves town to visit the home of his father, with only a mysterious doll and an old poem as clues to his wife’s demise. Jamie’s quest points him toward the legend of Mary Shaw, a famed ventriloquist who has long since passed.

What follows is a fairly average ghost story, and a boring one at that. Anyone who has seen “Darkness Falls,” “The Others,” “The Ring,” or any of the other hosts of Asian-inspired horror films knows exactly what to expect. Only this film is not nearly as entertaining or intriguing as any of the afore-mentioned films. “Dead Silence” feels almost like an episode of “Supernatural” that just doesn’t want to end. And when it finally does, the audience is left wandering why they wasted the last hour-and-a-half of their lives on this bore of a film.

Regarding the films content, this film is surprisingly clean. From a Christian perspective, the most troubling element will be its violent content, which is incredibly tame by horror movie standards. As for sexual content, this film is spotless. Language is also very tame, milder than what one would hear even in a typical public setting. Substance abuse is, also, not an issue in this film.

For those concerned with the film’s violence, it is nowhere near the level of exploitation of other horror films such as the recent remake of “The Hills Have Eyes.” “Dead Silence” prefers the approach of movies such as “The Ring” and “Dark Water,” relying more on jump-scenes and quick-flashes than actual gruesome acts. The only notable exceptions to this are one of the opening scenes in which the wife is spewing blood from her mouth and one later scene of horror movie gore which will be left unsaid, so as to not reveal the final plot twist.

For Christians concerned about spiritual content in “Dead Silence,” this film is really nothing more than a surface-level ghost story. Unlike a movie such as “The Others,” “Dead Silence” takes no swipes at Christianity, and really doesn’t dwell on any true aspects of the occult. The “spiritual” content in this movie is generally somewhat laughable, and would most likely not be a problem for anyone considering viewing a horror movie in the first place. Occult-related aspects are quite minimal for a ghost story, avoiding the more voodoo-oriented material of movies such as “Child’s Play,” or more notably “The Skeleton Key.”

Overall, “Dead Silence” is a mediocre take on a worn-out subject. While this film is much less troubling than most other horror movies in terms of content, one may have a difficult time staying awake through this plodding mess. I certainly did.

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: None

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—…“Dead Silence” is a masterpiece! The score is perfect—it sets the perfect, chilling mood. I can’t wait to download it and drive around with this bad boy! The story is engaging. Yes, in many ways, its plot is akin to that of the ongoing TV series “Supernatural.” This is a show I absolutely love, so there are no complaints here. But unlike its TV counterpart, “Dead Silence” has a final twist, one you’ll never guess—more brilliant filmmaking from the innovators of “Saw,” Leigh Whannell and James Wan. Not to mention, “Dead Silence” is under 90 minutes in length; I can’t fathom how the main reviewer had a hard time staying awake, especially with Donnie Wahlberg’s character—what a trip!
My Ratings: Average / 5
—Jacob Keenum, age 21
Negative—This film was silly. The R-rating, I guess, was because of the visuals they gave when all of a sudden the people’s tongues were yanked out, but you never actually saw that happening—they would just all of the sudden have a bloody dark hole where there mouth was. The ventriloquist puppet dolls were quite boring. Their eyes moved and their heads would turn, and they were ugly, but really it was quite a boring, silly movie. I would not recommend it to anyone. It truly was a waste of money.
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 2½
—Donna M, age 51
Negative—Wow. This is one of those movies that was pretty much ruined by the ending. And that’s especially sad for this movie, because there was VERY little language and no sexual content. Even the violence wasn’t too bad until the disgusting ending. The unnecessary gruesomeness at the end, in my opinion, is enough to make this movie offensive. But in addition to that, evil wins at the end.

For the moviemaking quality, however, I give James Wan a nod. I found the quality much better than most reviews said. The storyline was kind of dumb (no pun intended), but the atmosphere and visuals were top-notch. It’s hard to believe this movie, as well as “Insidious” and “The Conjuring,” were made by the same director who made “Saw.” I’ve never seen “Saw,” but haven’t we all heard how awful it is? Well, I have to say I’m impressed at James Wan’s ability to go from that to this with just one movie. James Wan is a genius. And he’s made some movies that are fine for Christians.

Overall, this one may be acceptable to aspiring horror creators, since the scenes of extreme gore are few and brief. But since evil wins at the end, it’s not worthwhile even to mature general viewers.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
Gabriel Mohler, age 26 (USA)
Comments from young people
Negative—It was really dumb. But I don’t want any dolls after that movie.
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 2½
—Valarie, age 14
Movie Critics
…a ridiculous would-be shocker… idiotic …‘surprise’ ending…
— Chris Hewitt, St. Paul Pioneer Press
…a surprisingly old-fashioned ghost story… boasts nothing new under the sun, but it does provide a few decent scares…
—Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter
…a gothic chiller in which morbid atmospherics and simmering suspense build to an ingenious third-act climax…
—Colin Covert, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune
…leaden pacing, three too many final twists and various behavioral idiocies…
—Matt Zoller Seitz, The New York Times