I want to say right off the top that ventriloquist dummies have always scared the hell out of me.
Not the Achmed the Dead Terrorist kind. Who doesn’t love Achmed?
I’m talking about the creepy old-school Charlie McCarthy kind with the suit and the bow tie that is made to look like a real person.
The other night, I watched the movie Dead Silence. It has a ventriloquist dummy in it. It scared the hell out of me.
James Wan and Leigh Whannell, the pair who brought you Saw, get together once again for this chilling tale.
OK, here’s the deal… a newly wed couple receive a ventriloquist’s dummy, Billy, at their apartment door. The wife is reminded of a childhood scary poem about a woman, Mary Shaw, who had lots of dolls. While her husband, Jamie (True Blood‘s Ryan Kwanten), goes out for Chinese take out, the wife is brutally murdered and her tongue ripped out. Husband Jamie returns to find her dead body with the ventriloquist dummy lying near her. A Detective (Donnie Walberg) suspects Jamie but can’t prove anything. Jamie discovers the dummy belonged to Mary Shaw (from the poem), a once-famous ventriloquist from Ravens Fair, the couple’s home town. Jamie returns to Raven’s Fair for the funeral and to dig up clues as to the reason for his wife’s death.
Mayhem ensues… well… pretty much right off the bat, really! Seven minutes into the movie and already I was freaking out. As the plot unravels, the husband tries to piece together the story of Mary Shaw, a popular entertainer who was accused of murdering a young boy. Angry townsfolk hunted and captured Mary, cutting out her tongue and killing her before burying her with her handmade collection of dolls. The town is then haunted by the ghoulish puppets, their appearance foreshadowing the death of those who saw them. Entire families were found slaughtered, their tongues cut out just like Mary Shaw. Jason eventually learns the shocking truth behind the curse that has plagued Ravens Fair for as long as he can remember.
My two cents… Given my mild case of autonomatonophobia, it wasn’t hard for this movie to get a huge rise out of me. And like so many other movies that appeal to me, I do not think Dead Silence deserves all the bad press heaped upon it. It has some genuine nail-biting scene and several honest to goodness scary moments. The sets are wonderful, especially the ruins of the old theatre where Mary Shaw performed. Ryan Kwanten is always fun to watch and not only because he is just so cute (which of course never hurts, regardless of sex).
Bottom line… even if you have a fear of ventriloquist dummies… ESPECIALLY if you have a fear of ventriloquist dummies… this movie is definitely worth a look. It pushes all the right buttons, for sure.
True to form, a movie that gets an approval rating in the 20s and 30s on RottenTomatoes.com (Dead Silence got 20%) is sure to be a movie that I really like! Don’t get me wrong. This is by no means a fabulous movie. While it reminded me of Richard Attenborough’s 1978 film, Magic,  it is by no means in the same league.
Still it was, for me, lots of fun. And I did like it.
One solid wooden dummy thumb way up!
 And also the Cliff Robertson episode “The Dummy” from The Twilight Zone television series!