Sunday, March 26, 2023

DEAD SILENCE (2007) (Scream Factory Collector's Edition 4K Ultra HD Review)

Collector's Edition 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray 

Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: Region-Free, A
Rating: R (Theatrical), Unrated (Unrated) 
Duration: 89 Minutes 8 Seconds (Theatrical), 91 Minutes 33 Second (Unrated) 
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo, 5.1 Surround with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: Dolby Vision HDR10 2160p Ultra HD Widescreen (2.35:1), 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: James Wan 
Cast: Rwan Kwanten, Amber Valletta, Donnie Wahlberg, Bob Gunton, Laura Regan, Keir Gilchrist, Judith Roberts

From James Wan and Leigh Whannell, the duo responsible for Saw, The Conjuring and Insidious comes Dead Silence (2007), a supernatural frightener about the local legend of Mary Shaw, a murdered ventriloquist that haunts the town of Ravens Fair - it is said that if you scream when she appears she will rip out your tongue. The film opens with  young married couple Jamie Ashen (Ryan Kwanten, True Blood) and his wife Lisa (Laura Regan, Minority Report TV series), who receive an anonymous gift of a ventriloquist doll called "Billy" on their doorstep. That night when Lisa is left alone while hubbie runs out for Chinese food she is attacked and killed by the creepy doll, her tongue having been ripped out of her mouth. In the aftermath Jamie is arrested as the prime suspect but is released for lack of hard evidence. He heads back to his hometown of Ravens Fair to bury his wife, and to get to the bottom of the mystery of who murdered her, as there was a note inside the box the dummy arrived in indicating the dummy is tied to Raven Fair. While their he checks in with his estranged father Edward (Bob Gunton, The Shawshank Redemption), and his much-younger wife, Ella (Amber Valletta, What Lies Beneath), and his pops tells him of the local legend of Mary Shaw, which he dismisses as superstition. He also learns more about Shaw from the local undertaker Henry Walker (Keir Gilchrist, Mulholland Drive) who tells him about how he saw Shaw's creepy ventriloquist act as a kid and how he was convinced she had something to do with the disappearance of a kid-heckler after the show, which lead to her being hanged by the locals. 

Of course things get spookier and Mary Shaw's presence becomes a major factor in the proceedings, with Jamie attempting to get to the bottom of why his wife was murdered by her spirit. It's a stylishly slick and moodily atmospheric slice of millennial horror, not one I remembered liking all that much when I first saw it at the cinema, but upon re-watch I think it's aged pretty well. There's some not unexpectedly iffy CGI effects but overall it looks damn good. I didn't care much for the blue-tint that hangs over most of the picture creating  an unnatural coldness, but I dig the creepy dolls and Judith Roberts (The Swinging Barmaids) as Marty Shaw is absolutely frightful in both the flashbacks of her when she was still alive in flashbacks and as the vengeful specter. Her flaking skinned make-up effects are superb, and that Victorian dress she's wearing adds a Gothic elements to the fright-fest. 

We also getting Donnie Wahlberg (Dreamcatcher) as the ineffectual Detective Lipton whose defining trait seems to be his five o'clock shadow and an electric razor that he's constantly using. Kwanten is fine in the lead role but feels pretty shallow, when he should be mourning or freaking out his pulse barely seems to rise, but he's fine, just not great. 

Visually the movie has some fun set-pieces, including Mary Shaw's dilapidated theater, the Guignol Theater, which is located in the middle of small lake - which seems like a poor choice for a location but it looks great, and expensive to build. In reality I don't think a ventriloquist was raking in that kind of dough, not even in the vaudeville days as seen in the flashbacks, but it looks cool as Hell, reality be damned. This one is also packed with some fun twists, one of which I forgot about completely which made the finale all that more exciting this time around. 

Audio/Video: Dead Silence arrives on 2-duisc Collector's Edition 4K UHD + Blu-ray from Scream Factory, framed in 2.35:1 widescreen in both 2160p UHD and 1080p HD. Originally shot on 35mm film this new scan offers a lush grain field with sharp detail and excellent shadow delineation. The color balance looks fantastic as well, while the film is largely cool and cold looking when primaries get the chance to shine the Dolby Vision HDR10 allows primaries to shine, especially the reds. The Blu-ray also offers a pleasing viewing experience minus the 4K resolution and wider color gamut, but still quite sharp looking. 

Both the UHD and Blu-ray feature English DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround sound with optional English subtitles. On the Blu-ray we also get the Director's cut of the film, with the same audio options. It's a solid track with excellent fidelity, dialogue and effects are well-balanced, and the score from Charlie Clouser (the Saw franchise) has a nice presence in the mix. 

Previously released on Blu-ray Scream Factory go the extra mile with new extras produced by Reverend Entertainment. 
The 16-min Masters of Puppets – an interview with director James Wan features the director talking about his early attempt at horror, his love of Raimi and Romero, and Full Moon. How he came to work with his writing partner Leigh Whannell, and how post-Saw they were looking for go in a more supernatural direction, not wanting to be know as the Saw-guys, which resulted in Dead Silence. He mentions he got into creepy dolls after seeing Poltergeist at far too young of age, which I think a lot of us can relate to. He also gets into how the film didn't do so well upon initial release but has since gone onto garner quite a cult following. 

The 12-min Dead Assignment – an interview with writer Leigh Whannell features Whannell talking about his early love of film, meeting Wan at film school, and their shared love of genre filmmaking and their collaboration process, including the rushed way they put together Dead Silence. He also touches on his research into ventriloquism, even buying a few replicas of classic dummies, and talking a bit about various other script ideas that didn't make it into the film, such as a vaudeville era period setting. 

The last of the new extras is the 12-min No Children, Only Dolls – an interview with ventriloquist dummy creator Tim Selberg who talks about his early love of the form, and how he started creating his own dummies, which was cheaper than buying one prefabricated. Eventually he gets to how he came to make the dummies for Dead Silence, including "Billy", and how he plans out the design of a dummy. It's a cool look behind-the-scenes of designing and building a dummy, and includes highlighting the inner working of the dummy head, plus a demonstration minus the throwing of voices. 

Archival extras carried over from past releases include the Unrated Cut of the FilmAlternate Opening and EndingDeleted Scenes, and a trio of  archival featurettes - The Making of Dead Silence featurette (12 min), Mary Shaw’s Secrets featuretteEvolution of a Visual Effect - plus the Theatrical Trailer. The 2-disc release arrives in a dual-hub black keepcase housing the UHD/BD discs. It comes with a one-sided sleeve of artwork featuring the original theatrical artwork, which is also featured on the limited edition first-pressing only slipcover. 

Special Features:
Disc 1: 4K UHD (Theatrical Cut)
- NEW! 2023 4K Master In Dolby Vision (HDR 10 compatible)

Disc 2: Blu-Ray (Theatrical and Unrated Cuts of the film)
- NEW! 2023 4K Master (Theatrical Cut)
- NEW! Masters of Puppets – an interview with director James Wan (16 min) 
- NEW! Dead Assignment – an interview with writer Leigh Whannell (12 min) 
- NEW! No Children, Only Dolls – an interview with ventriloquist dummy creator Tim Selberg (12 min) 
- Unrated Cut of the Film
- Alternate Opening (2 min) 
- Alternate Ending (4 min) 
- Deleted Scenes (4 min) 
- The Making of Dead Silence featurette (12 min) 
- Mary Shaw’s Secrets featurette (7 min)
- Evolution of a Visual Effect featurette (3 min) 
- Theatrical Trailer (2 min) 

Screenshots from the Scream Factory Blu-ray: 

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