Dark Corners: Dead Silence
Dark Corners is a fortnightly feature focused purely on horror. From the classics to remakes, and even the lesser known flicks, they’ll all feature. This week sees one of James Wan’s earlier films that paved the way for his success with the likes of Insidious and The Conjuring.
Dead Silence is one of those tricky horror films that clearly shows a director trying to find their style. A few years before James Wan would become a mainstream success with the likes of Insidious and The Conjuring under his belt, he came to the attention of many through his work with the Saw films. Saw had it’s own definitive style both in terms of look and tone. Though naturally, when Wan moved onto new projects, he tried to avoid using the same style and tricks in his past work. Thus his 2007 film Dead Silence came to be.
Dead Silence marked the start of James Wan’s foray into the supernatural. The plot consists of the vengeful spirit of a persecuted ventriloquist and a young man’s attempt to get to the bottom of a dark secret that has plagued his home town. Admittedly, it’s all rather generic. The plot is definitely where Dead Silence falters, because it’s nothing new or all that interesting and feels like ground that has already been covered time and time again.
What the iffy plot does do, however, is allow for some fantastic imagery to be created. Wan’s ability to create and project traditionally dark yet interesting imagery is fully on display within the opening shots. You can see his style–that he is now applauded for–in the raw stages throughout Dead Silence. A pitfall of many horror films, especially modern flicks, is their general overuse of static dull imagery that tries to be more gross than scary or creepy. Dead Silence, thankfully, keeps each shot chilling and intriguing.
There are numerous shots that work perfectly with the bleak lighting throughout the film. Scenes are often masked by darkness but only to the point where they feel relevant to the scene but not in an obvious manner. It’s a trick that Wan would further develop to the point of perfection in his later work. In total, Dead Silence is a visually interesting film throughout, especially in terms of how it uses light (as previously mentioned) and audio together to create a brooding atmosphere.
The problem with Dead Silence is mostly down to the plot and dull characters. The plot struggles to shake off a lingering feeling of being goofy and borderline Goosebumps-like. It leaves the film in this sort of grey area where the viewer doesn’t really know whether to take the film seriously or not. With that being said, however, there are some genuinely creepy moments towards the closing stages of the film, but these are often broken up by some elements of silliness that unfortunately extend to the rather comical plot twist ending.
Dead Silence isn’t a bad film by any degree, it’s simply just a shallow one. It looks fantastic and showcases James Wan’s ability at creating truly fantastic horror imagery and atmospheres. His skills save Dead Silence from falling into a sea of generic and charmless horror films that popped up after the mainstream success of Saw. Horror fans, especially those who enjoyed The Conjuring and Insidious, will find Dead Silence an enjoyable way to spend ninety minutes. Everyone else may find it a little too generic and flat to bear.