Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Dead silence


When I saw Saw, I ended up hanging out with James Wan and Leigh Whannell after the movie at a small reception (a brief note of that event is here). We discussed a number of things over the evening, but one thing that stood out most was the ventriloquist dummy movie they were developing and seemed terribly excited about.

I had looked forward to this movie. I love the concept of the ventriloquist dummy in horror terms, and, sadly, through no fault of its own, Magic is tied up with memories of one of the worst nights of my life, although I have every intention of revisiting it soon (the movie, not the night).

Sadly, when Dead Silence was finally released, it was soundly dumped, in and out of theaters before I even got a chance to decide whether or not to see it.

So, last night on DVD was my first viewing.

Before I get on with what is going to be largely a positive review, let me say this: Directors, cinematographers, editors, producers and studios of the world, please, I beg you, stop tinting movies blue! Even if it looked cool for ten minutes back in 1999, the time has long, long, long past. You are making me very angry and sad.

I don't know if otherwise talented directors like Wan are firing up a firestorm of crack before making their movies and think this will still look cool or if they're under studio pressure. Here's what to say under studio pressure, "No. No. No! It won't be blue. I'll give it a happy ending. Everyone will fall in love and fly to Disneyland where they'll enjoy ice cold Coca-Cola Classics together. But, please, for the love of everything good in the Universe... or just the love of one small good thing, whatever floats your boat... Please, don't make the thing all bluish!"

Mind you, Wan puts it to some not entirely ineffective Dario Argento moments, blending the blue hued film with striking reds. But not nearly enough to make it worthwhile.

I think the reasons the movie were dumped are reasonably obvious. It's the kind of movie only horror fans really dig... Things like unironical killer ventriloquist dummies... And they weren't going to like this quite enough to build a firestorm of excitement. It's the kind we all say is pretty cool and note how effectively creepy it is in places and how solid the execution is.

And, sadly, it's also the kind that the masses, those free of imagination and willingness to suspend their disbelief, will dismiss as "stupid".

It's certainly not stupid, though. It's actually quite sharp and clever. It's a creepy little ghost story with a nice mystery that I was frankly jealous of Whannell's ability to write so well. As with Hostel part II, it's not moviemakers achieving their moment of greatness, but it is taking an interesting step in the right direction.

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