Dead Silence (Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray)

A young widower returns to his hometown to search for answers to his wife's murder, which may be linked to the ghost of a deceased ventriloquist.

March 21, 2023 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Has anyone reading this ever seen a ventriloquist dummy and not been the slightest bit weirded out? I mean, to me these things are the epitome of creepy. More on that later, though. I’m going to shift gears and turn attention to Director James Wan. Likely any movie-goer knows the name and associates it with the 2004 classic, Saw. After the critical and commercial success of that film, studios most likely threw money at the young filmmaker and what we had for his sophomore effort was, for better or worse…this. Dead Silence was the follow-up to Saw though with its dismal box office showing and overall negative reviews, plans for a sequel were scrapped. Not to worry, Wan got up and dusted himself off and managed to direct films like Insidious, The Conjuring, Malignant, Aquaman and oh yeah…even an installment in the Fast and Furious franchise (Furious 7). I think it’s safe to say that even with the misfire that this movie was, he managed to emerge unscathed.

After a crash course in ventriloquism (the dead speaking through the stomachs of the living) we meet Jamie (Ryan Kwanten) and his wife, Lisa (Laura Regan). The couple receive a mysterious package containing a ventriloquist doll. Jamie heads out to get dinner only to return to see his wife murdered, her tongue ripped out of her mouth. Determined to put the pieces of the puzzle together, he heads back to his hometown where we see the estranged relationship between he and his father (Bob Gunton) and new stepmother (Amber Valletta). It’s worth nothing that he’s also being followed by a cop (Donnie Wahlberg) who’s dead set on proving his guilt. As Jamie digs more and more into the story of Mary Shaw (Judith Roberts), the lore behind her and what the possible connection is with his wife.

Despite bad reviews and being a total box office bomb, the film isn’t a total waste of time. And with the theatrical version clocking in at a mere 89 minutes, it’s not a huge investment of it, either. It’s got some notable stars (Wahlberg would later star in Saw IV) with Kwanten (at the time) riding high with his starring role on True Blood. If you can find it within yourself to suspend your disbelief and try not to think of creepy dolls that come alive after the credits roll, then this might be for you. It does have some signature moments that fans of Wan are likely to pick up on, but in the realm of “creepy doll movies” I’ll go with Child’s Play or Annabelle. But hey, that’s just me.

Video: How’s it look?

Having never seen the film previously, I had little idea as what to expect. Granted, the movie was released in 2007, so I assumed that it’d look good, but given that this new 4K version was my initial viewing – I had my hopes set pretty high. And, for the most part, I was impressed. Given the nature and tone of the movie itself, it is a darker movie. I’m willing to bet that most of the film’s budget went into production design with the interiors of the house, the wardrobes and so forth. They look stunning. Black levels are, by and large, solid though I caught a few moments were there was a little “action” in the backgrounds. Detail is spot on spectacular, which is either really good or really bad if you’re looking into the dead eyes of a ventriloquist dummy. On the whole, the film does have a more satisfying look than its Blu-ray counterpart (also included) and viewers should be pleased.

Audio: How’s it sound?

The DTS HD Master Audio mix has a few moments, though those of us familiar with Wan’s body of work know that he’s not one who relies on sound as a crutch. Vocals are pure and crisp, surrounds are used sparingly but rather effectively giving the front stage plenty of room to “do its thing.” This isn’t one that will test the limits of your system, to be sure. But that’s not to say it sounds bad, not by any means. I feel the aural atmosphere this movie provided was just about right considering the genre, so it was engaging but not distracting. Again, no complaints here.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Disc One (4K) 

  • Theatrical Cut

Disc Two (Blu-ray)

  • Masters of Puppets – This new interview with director James Wan is exclusive to this disc. Wan recounts this film, early in his career, as explains some of the motivations for making it, etc.
  • Dead Assignment – Fellow cohort and friend (and writer) Leigh Whannell essentially gives us the same interview as he tells us of the story and working with Wan.
  • No Children, Only Dolls – Tim Selberg, the ventriloquist dummy creator on the film, give us his .02 on the film and the “art of ventriloquism.”
  • Alternate Opening – Essentially that, just a different-but-not-so-different opening to the film.
  • Alternate Ending – Same as above, only the ending.
  • Deleted Scenes – Five minutes’ worth, but none really add anything to the final cut (and with them in one long clip, it’s hard to tell what was really going on).
  • The Making of Dead Silence – The obligatory “Making of…” featurette that runs just over 10 minutes giving us insight into all aspects of the movie.
  • Mary Shaw’s Secrets – Some of the cast and crew wax philosophical about the overarching plot.
  • Evolution of a Visual Effect – Again, pretty much that. A scene in varying stages of the visual effects process.
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Unrated Cut – The Blu-ray has both the theatrical and unrated cuts of the film (the 4K only contains the theatrical cut).

The Bottom Line

Dead Silence likely has a cult following. It wasn’t that highly-rated or critically-acclaimed, but Wan managed to bounce back and produce some of the better works in the next several years. I don’t know if I’ll sit down and watch this again anytime soon, but for fans we’ve got a new 4K image, new features (in addition to those that were included on the older Universal disc) and both versions of the movie all in one nice set.

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