Story: After the sudden death of his wife, Jamie heads back home to Raven’s Fair to track down the origin of a package he received containing Billy, a ventriloquist dummy originally belonging to the legendary Mary Shaw. Jamie soon realizes that between his estranged relationship with his father, a nosy detective on his trail and the spooked locals, there may be more to Mary Shaw’s tale then anyone is willing to admit to.

The Film Itself: Having been a huge fan of what the creative team consisting of James Wan and Leigh Whannell were able to accomplish with the modestly budgeted first SAW movie, I was curious as hell as to how they planned to follow it up! Quite frankly, I’m glad they opted to craft a film that focused more on mood and style rather then do another SAW-type movie. DEAD SILENCE is an old-school, spooky ghost story, in the vein of the old Hammer movies, but mixed with the eerie vibe of an old black and white Universal monster picture. Tons of fog and all. Wan and Whannell are able to create an interesting and scary backstory here, the legend of Mary Shaw. Ryan Kwanten plays lead Jamie with equal parts sympathy and attitude, but it’s Donnie Wahlberg’s Detective Jim Lipton that stands out. (Can anyone believe this guy used to be in New Kids On The Block?! Seriously!) The stars of the whole show however are of course actress Judith Roberts (a theater trained actress) as Mary Shaw and Billy, her ventriloquist doll. (He’s one of a 100 creepy dolls in Mary Shaw’s collection. Look for Billy, the puppet from SAW who makes an appearance amongst the bunch!) This might be slower paced then what audiences are used to these days with horror, but I MISS that about movies. Look – you’ve got a hundred dummies, a scary-as-shit old lady that at points looks like a dummy and Donnie Wahlberg. That all adds up to a good fright film in my humble opinion.

Special Features: The DVD features both an alternate beginning and ending. While I liked both, I’m quite satisfied with the impressive ending used in the released version of the film. (Although, I have to admit, I really dig the alternate opening, which features a voice over retelling the legend of Mary Shaw.) Also included on the disc are a series of very short deleted scenes, a brief making-of feature and an evolution of a visual FX featurette, which shows us step by step how one of the movie’s elaborate sets was built using digital technology. (It’s CGI work that I actually approve of.) No commentary track though. Judging from the crappy art on the back cover (along with the very vague synopsis on the back of the box), I get the impression Universal put in minimum effort into this DVD, which deserves a hell of a lot better treatment. –Robg.

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