There are few films that affect me the way that a particular film does. I refuse to watch it alone and especially not in the dark. It is the only film that features moments that truly frighten me and that film is Dead Silence. Yes, not exactly the film that would be expected but nonetheless, I find it's terror to be unequivocal. Even films widely known for terrifying their audiences such as The Exorcist and A Nightmare on Elm Street, do very little for me. I suppose everyone has their kryptonite and mine is James Wans' underrated film post-Saw.
Yes, this is from the creators of the Saw franchise, which for many has grown into a stale and tired series once considered fresh and original. James Wan (the films director) made the smart decision of not continuing with the franchise after the first one and he went to go do something completely different from the grisly metallic nature of the Saw universe. That next film was Dead Silence.
Wan brings with him a visual flare which is unseen in most horror films. His use of angles and transitions add to the movie and are as much a part of the storytelling as the visual on display. One particularly impressive aspect is his use of lighting. He uses the mantra of "less is more" to fill out a pivotal role in the movie: Darkness. What is and isn't there can make or break a film. Showing too much makes the film too predictable and showing too little makes it confusing. A balance must be stricken in a way that builds tension and uses the visuals to it's advantage.
It is precisely Wan's style and use of lighting which makes the film's main villain, Mary Shaw, more than just your average ghost. Her movements resemble that of an old 30's era ghost, with her floating along the floor in an extremely creepy fashion. Her features protrude in a way that brings about a skeletal figure when lit properly. All of these combine together to create a truly creepy character and one that you'll be imagining is there in the dark afterwards.
Much like the filmmaker's freshman debut, their sophomore effort brings with it a twist which comes as if from nowhere. But what truly makes it an impressive twist is that it has been subtly imbedded in the proceeding 90 minutes. There's little things that go completely unnoticed upon first watch. With spoilers following, I'd recommend staying away with you haven't given the film a watch. It's ending, while not the best twist in film history, is entertaining and really makes you think about everything you have previously seen.
Mary Shaw living through the dolls seems like a twist that is all too obvious. So when it happens, it leaves you more with a feeling of the filmmaker's laziness than the high point of an awesome twist. That's when the real twist is revealed and it shows just how alone the lead truly has been. Most of the people he is in contact with throughout the film is dead, being controlled by Mary Shaw. The few real people he talks to throughout the duration are a detective who thinks he murdered his wife, and an old man which fills him in on the horror of the puppeteer.
With this recommendation also comes a warning, this film may not have the same effect on you which left me with such high regard for the film. The circumstances for my first viewing were perfect and have left me with a good impression of the film. You may not feel the same way and may end up disliking it like a large portion of the population. But please, do yourself a favor and watch the theatrical version. It takes out some of the silly stuff (What's with Mary Shaw's crazy tongue) which plagued the unrated version.