Dead Silence: The Perfect Cut (2008)

(Release Date: 2008)October 28, 2008

Silent but Violent!!!!Silent but Violent!!!!Silent but Violent!!!!

Dead Silence... Re-cut, without a Saw!!!

RE-Made Up... and still Wooden!!
J.C. Maçek III
The World's Greatest Critic!

One of the things I've been known to do on rare occasions is make music videos for existing songs using existing footage. Sure, I work hard on synching the footage with the music and lyrics and shaping the sound and video to have additional meanings, but I'm never deluded enough to believe these are my films. It's fun to do and fun to watch, but when viewers check out my Star Doors Video, my "Breakfast Club meets A.F.I." clip, my Professor Chaos' New World Order manifesto or my Led Zeppelin tribute to my own Black Dog, Novara they realize I'm not the artist behind the works, just the editor.

Of course, I'm also the Critic, so it helped that the creator of the full length The Mist - The Novella Cut felt much the same way about his own work, though he admittedly added a bit more than I did (except that Novara Vid. I did shoot that). Interestingly, this critic of many an "Ultra-Indie" soon had another "Fan Edit" sent to him from a reader who had checked out my article on The Mist - The Novella Cut. His name is Jason "Wolf" Kasper and the film he re-cut a few months ago is Dead Silence, the 2007 Universal Picture from the guys who kicked off the Saw Franchise.

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For those of you who haven't seen Dead Silence (and every bit of the four people out there who actually enjoy my overlong introductions), it was a semi-original, semi-derivative tale about ventriloquist dummies brought to life as envisioned by Writer/ Director James Wan and Writer/ Producer Leigh Whannell. The good news is that Kasper also seems to easily accept that he is the editor of this particular cut and not the creator of the actual movie. The better news is that there really is no bad news here.

The big difference between The Mist - The Novella Cut and Dead Silence: The Perfect Cut (a lofty title to be sure) is that 2007's The Mist practically begged for a re-cut from a talented editor, considering the wildly divergent ending from its source material. 2007's Dead Silence on the other hand was neither based on an American Classic, nor was it screaming for a re-cut due to some egotistical flaws. Then again, the changes made by Monsieur Wolf don't amount to quite as much as those of the last fan edit I reviewed.

The plot remains essentially the same with Jamie Ashen (True Blood's Ryan Kwanten) still on his creepy quest to discover who or what is behind the marauding wooden doll slashers who have scared and petrified not only Jamie himself but the entire town where he and his wife (Laura Regan's Lisa Ashen) grew up. The quest seems to start with and point to that creepy and wooden old actor named Billy, who is a real dummy.

We're soon introduced to more of the town of Ravens Fair, including Jamie's dickweed of a dad, Edward Ashen (Bob Gunton). Edward has a good deal of experience with marriage and with having his ex-wives painted out of family portraits as soon as he marries a new one. Le Bride Du Jour is the (actually quite hot) Ella Ashen (Amber Valletta) who somehow manages to dote on Jamie's stiff of a father. This is particularly hard to picture, seeing as how Dad isn't merely creepy and old, but apparently something of a douche to women... and to Jamie himself.

Also taking a ride on the kooky train are old timers Henry and Marion Walker (Michael Fairman and Joan Heney, respectively). She's more than a little out to lunch with her senility, while he seems to be in a constant struggle to remain normal. Two things counting against him are the fact that he's the (still quite busy) coroner of this sleepy and creepy little hamlet and the fact that he happens to be one of the only people who knows the truth about the curses in the history of the area. That's especially the mysteries surrounding the now-legendary (literally) Mary Shaw (Judith Roberts), ventriloquist, proprietor of the Grand Guignol (ha ha) theatre, suspected murderer and, of course, murder victim. Oh, and she might actually still be active in some Freddy Krueger meets the Blair Witch kind of way.

If only that were the least of Jamie's problems. See, there is at least one person who doesn't think that there's something supernatural behind the rising body count and that's Detective Jim Lipton (played by New Kid on the Block Donnie Wahlberg) who can't stop shaving (which is better than him singing, I'll grant you). You know who Detective Tea Bag thinks is behind it all? Jamie, man! Ah, yes, Formula Horror, we know you well!

The rest... is dead silence. Of course it has to lead up to a horrific finish that ws calculated by James Leigh W(h)an-deux to give the viewer both starts and nightmares. Of course it's not without its flaws. And of course, I've already reviewed that theatrical release, so for more on that, yank your Marionette Strings over to that review!

This review is for "The Perfect Cut", from Kasper the Friendly Wolf. Again, "Perfect" may set expectations a little high for what this is. I mean, it's not like the film is suddenly transformed into an all-nude, female Shakespeare production (that WOULD be perfect... I think I'll do that!). No, Jason Kasper's claim to that title has to do with what he did to create this version. The unrated DVD contains a good deal of alternate footage, shot by Wan, but not used in the final cut. This includes some even more disturbing (and effective) images surrounding our main predator and even a richer, more effective ending. Unsatisfied with merely leaving these as DVD extras, J-Wolf-K put his editing talent to work and reconstructed Dead Silence into a hybrid of the theatrical version and the deleted/ alternate takes. How does he do?

Well, he does pretty well. I suppose it's at this point that I've become somewhat delinquent in my reviews of ultra indie films (and ultra-indie re-edits) of late. To be sure, since Kasper sent me this DVD, Donnie has rejoined the New Kids on the Block (a sure sign of the coming Apocalypse, I have no doubt) and Kwanten has found himself naked with a series of beautiful women on True Blood (what an occupation). Needless to say, it's taken some time. I mention this because, as I was watching his version of Dead Silence I started to wonder what I was going to tell this kid... after all, I wasn't noticing much of a difference. After a while, things started to phase in and out quite smoothly from what I knew of the original film and what I was seeing on the screen. Kasper has done something interesting here, knowing when to leave the film alone to tell its story and when to embellish and replace. Most notably, he does this all with a seamless editing style that feels professional.

To be fair and honest (as opposed to Ravens Fair and Hostile), a good bit of this credit should go to original editor Michael N. Knue as well as Whannel and Wan, the actual creators of this film. However, just as I can't give our re-editor all of the credit, I also can't give him a whole lot of the blame. Dead Silence is fun, sure, and it has its fair share of startles and suspense, but it's far from a perfect film. Jason's editing doesn't suddenly remove the flaws of this puppet piece, but here's the thing... Jason's editing also doesn't make the film any worse. With his efforts, these DVD Extras can be seen as part of the overall film... something of a Director's Cut without the involvement of the director himself. Is this Jason Kasper's own film? No. Nor would he claim it to be. However, what he does with someone else's footage makes me interested enough to see what he might do with a film of his own.

Dead Silence, like Saw, is flawed in any version, but it's also fun in either version (something later entries in the Saw "Trilogy" simply have not been). It was still interesting to see the Ventriloquist's Doll from Saw ("the OTHER Billy"), still fun to see the startling images and laugh at the easy-to-make cracks about Child's Play and Goosebumps. Somehow this time out it's just a little bit more fun and sensible after having the altered versions back in with the original film. It still may not be "perfect", but I would vote that Dead Silence: The Perfect Cut is pretty well on-par with the original film, earning Three Stars out of Five. Nice work, amigo. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to close now. All the sound has been sucked out of the room I'm in and my wife's Russian Dolls are looking at me funny. Damn. And I was about to watch Star Doors again! See you in the next reel.

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Dead Silence: The Perfect Cut (2008)
Reviewed by J.C. Maçek III
who would be attended by a SWARM of Mourners
if he were to lose his TONGUE!
Yes. Yes, I went there.
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At least I didn't claim to be a "Cunning Linguist"!

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