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Dead Silence (2006)

Universal

Cast: Ryan Kwanten, Amber Valetta, Donnie Wahlberg.

Rating: Unrated

Run time: 91 mins.

Genre: Horror

Verdict: Beautiful (see rating system)

OK, I can see that watching this in the theatre with a group of friends might be kinda fun. We could all laugh (somewhat nervously) through the scary bits and joke about how hokey it all is.

But put me alone late at night when everyone else has gone to bed and it's quite a different matter.

In short, I was jerked around on a short leash - kudos to director James Wan (Saw) for scaring me good and proper. And yeah, I had to turn it off...

Dead Silence follows in a long line of movies that have used ventriloquists' dummies to scare audiences (Dead of Night and Magic come to mind). Ryan Kwanten plays Jamie, who receives a gift-wrapped dummy at the city apartment he shares with wife Lisa (Laura Regan). He has no idea who sent it, but when he pops out to get takeaway food, Lisa comes to a horrible - and I mean horrible - end.

A skeptical detective (Donnie Wahlberg) doesn't buy Jamie's story and tells him he's the No.1 suspect. However, he doesn't arrest him straight away but follows him back to the creepy town of Ravens Fair, where Jamie and Lisa grew up.

Jamie figures out the local legend of Mary Shaw - a ventriloquist murdered long ago - has something to do with his getting the dummy, and Lisa's death. Reputedly, anyone who screams at the sight of Mary Shaw's spectre will have their tongue ripped out.

What follows is a classic succession of "don't go in there" moments as the ghastly story of Mary Shaw unfolds. Creaking doors, shadowy rooms, a spooky cemetery and the ruins of an old theatre on a lake form the backdrop to the story. There's also the creepiest collection of dummies and dolls you'll ever see.

A making-of featurette is among several extras. Don't watch this alone - and whatever you do, don't scream...

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