‘Dead Silence’ Should Stay Quiet [4K Review]

There was only one time I felt true horror while watching Dead Silence (2007) and I am positive it is not something the filmmakers intended. The opening of the film sees a ventriloquist dummy delivered to a couple and the wife plays around with it after her husband leaves their apartment. Expectedly, she gets killed. Then the husband comes home and finds his dead wife, and later he is interrogated by the police. During all of this, I kept thinking he was in no way responding to the death of his wife like a human. No real emotion. No pain. Just… flat. Then he goes back to his apartment to do some investigating and I thought this was the moment when he would be the doll’s second victim… and when that didn’t happen a wave of fear washed over me as I realized this guy is the lead.

Dead Silence plays out in fairly typical Big Studio Horror fashion. Plenty of jump scares and misdirection; loud noises. Story-wise this is pretty rote, too. A woman obsessed with dolls, Mary Shaw (Judith Roberts), is killed after a child she humiliated during one of her ventriloquist shows goes missing. Years later, Mary Shaw is still hunting down the descendants of the family that killed her. Jamie (Ryan Kwanten), the lead, is from the town of Raven’s Fair where all of this took place. After his wife’s death, he goes back home to investigate the origins of Mary Shaw (who even has her own creepy children’s nursery rhyme) and learn more about her hundreds of dolls, all of which were buried with her.

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Kwanten is a charisma vacuum and his performance does nothing to elevate the trite material. We’ve seen this kind of movie a hundred times or more. The only saving grace comes during the very end when a clever twist is revealed, but by that point, there was no saving the story for me. Not helping matters is Donnie Wahlberg, who sucks out any remaining charisma in the room with his bizarre take on the hoary conventional cop who doesn’t believe in the supernatural and just wants to catch his perp. Yawn.

One more thing I wasn’t sold on is the look of Billy, the main puppet, because it looks almost exactly like Slappy from Goosebumps (both the book and the film, although I know the film came out many years after this). Considering Mary Shaw has over a hundred dolls you’d think the filmmakers could have chosen a design that isn’t so conventional. There are also several moments when the doll does something it clearly should not be able to do and often the reaction by Kwanten is… nothing. The first time that thing turned its head toward me or was seen running around outside my car I’d grab a rock and smash it to splinters.   

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I do love the look of the film, though. John R. Leonetti’s cinematography is evocative and moody, presenting stark lighting choices and using smoke & fog to create an atmosphere that is quintessential horror. Raven’s Fair is a decrepit town, full of woods and decaying infrastructure and home to a cemetery that could have come from a 1950s Universal horror movie. I also want to give plenty of credit to Judith Roberts’s performance as Mary Shaw. Roberts has a regal quality, and she’s a total silver fox, allowing for a jarring juxtaposition between her charms as a stage performer versus the doll-like spectral monster she becomes after her death.

Scream Factory upgrades Universal’s old Blu-ray with a new 4K master of the film, which is an upscale from the 2K digital intermediate. The HDR presentation is available with Dolby Vision and HDR10. I can’t imagine the 2.40:1 2160p picture is a significant improvement over the Blu-ray but the clear benefits of this 4K image are greater black level density and minor refinements in key areas like color saturation and fine detail. Much of the feature takes place in darkness and this disc has no problem keeping the image bathed in shadow while also allowing foreground elements to remain crisp and in focus.

Audio is available in English DTS-HD MA 2.0 or 5.1 surround sound. Sound effects dance around the room during some of the creepier scenes. Charlie Clouser’s score is subtly spooky until it’s time for mayhem and then it amps up everything to the hilt. Dialogue is clear and balanced. Subtitles are available in English SDH.

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There are no extras on the 4K disc, which annoyingly includes only the theatrical cut of the film.

On the remastered Blu-ray disc, you can find both the theatrical cut and unrated version. Why the slightly longer, gorier cut wasn’t made available on 4K is unclear but this has been a pattern with Scream Factory 4K releases and, frankly, it doesn’t inspire me to upgrade titles when alternate cuts are superior (looking at you, Army of Darkness and Nightbreed, among others).

“Master of Puppets – An Interview with director James Wan” (HD, 15:45) is a new interview conducted for this release. Wan hits on all the expected topics.

“Dead Assignment – An Interview with writer Leigh Whannell” (HD, 12:26) is also new to this edition.

“No Children, Only Dolls – An Interview with ventriloquist dummy creator Tim Selberg” (HD, 12:15) talks about the various puppets seen throughout the film.

Bonus features returning from the Universal Blu-ray include an alternate opening, alternate ending, deleted scenes, The Making of Dead Silence, Mary Shaw’s Secrets, Evolution of a Visual FX, and the film’s theatrical trailer.  

Special Features:


  • Optional English subtitles for the main feature


  • NEW Masters of Puppets – an interview with director James Wan
  • NEW Dead Assignment – an interview with writer Leigh Whannell
  • NEW No Children, Only Dolls – an interview with ventriloquist dummy creator Tim Selberg
  • Unrated Cut of the Film
  • Alternate Opening
  • Alternate Ending
  • Deleted Scenes
  • The Making of Dead Silence featurette
  • Mary Shaw’s Secrets featurette
  • Evolution of a Visual Effect featurette
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Optional English subtitles for the main feature
  • Dead Silence
  • Special Features


Although this film didn’t do much for me I must admit Scream Factory’s 4K release provides top notch a/v quality and a few new features to complement the legacy bonus material. I just wish the unrated cut had also been in 4K.

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