Early James Wan Haunted Doll

The men behind Saw bring you the decidedly less impressive Dead Silence, an early jump scare-fest in director James Wan’s oeuvre. The deadly curse of Mary Shaw atmospherically comes alive in a half-baked screenplay, a supernatural thriller let down by a bland protagonist played by a dull Ryan Kwanten.

What Dead Silence does have going for it is James Wan’s grasp of genre frights and a creepy doll known as Billy. More a terrifying ghost story than haunted doll movie like Chucky, Dead Silence is spine-chilling horror in its best moments saddled with logic-defying baggage.

Dead Silence is spine-chilling horror in its best moments saddled with logic-defying baggage

Jamie (Ryan Kwanten) is thrust into the middle of a killer mystery when he comes back to find his wife brutally murdered in their apartment. Now the target of an investigation by a hard-boiled cop played by Donnie Wahlberg, his troubles all began when a mysterious ventriloquist doll appeared at his door step. Jamie returns home to the creepy town of Ravens Fair to bury his wife and unravel the chilling legend of Mary Shaw. Mary Shaw’s brutal backstory revolves around a ventriloquist act and her doll Billy, which might be possessed.

Dead Silence is firmly a studio product of its day, a fairly typical horror flick from the 2000s. The excellent production values and Gothic atmosphere are the headliners. The cast is almost an afterthought, carried by strong visual effects and a keen grasp of spooky jump scares. Amber Valleta, Donnie Wahlberg and character actor Bob Gunton all contribute their own worth, partially making up for a forgettable lead in Ryan Kwanten.

James Wan hadn’t quite become a master of horror by Dead Silence, only his second film. He’s excellent establishing the eerie tone and creating effective frights within the story’s confusing parameters. Wan would go on to bigger and better things, becoming the guiding force of two horror franchises in The Conjuring and Insidious. He displays a cool command of terror and relentless tension even this early in his career.

More of a disappointment is the muddled screenplay by his writing partner Leigh Whannell, stumbling around its early set pieces with brisk confusion and happenstance. The pacing is slow and cumbersome, not to mention sub-plots which go nowhere. It’s only in the final act when the real rollercoaster ride begins and everything goes screaming. There is a cool twist at the very end, the most memorable thing about Dead Silence.


Scream Factory employs Universal’s new 4K master of the theatrical cut on a triple-layer UHD, remastered from the original 35mm film elements. Replete with visual effects creating an ominous atmosphere, the 2007 film receives a fine Dolby Vision encode replicating the filmmaker’s gritty intentions. The grading avoids making revisionist history on a proper film transfer struck with no egregious changes.

The main feature on UHD runs 89 minutes, its full R-rated version. No problems are evident in the HEVC compression provided by Scream Factory. More fully realizing the film’s original vision than Blu-ray, the 2.40:1 presentation at 2160P resolution reflects an unvarnished reproduction of dark cinematography.

Done in a manner which eschews absolute detail and clarity for shadowy constructions, Dead Silence isn’t a great choice for a 4K demo. It’s sharpish at best and even soft in select scenes. There’s less jaw-dropping definition than expected, possibly a side effect of the lighting choices and stark grading. Exteriors occasionally pop but interiors lack the dimensionality we’ve come to find on UHD.

This is not a colorful film despite a few splashes of deep reds. Wan and his cinematographer John Leonetti go for a heavily stylized appearance, using a steel-blue filter once popular in the 2000s decade which drains the film of its natural primaries.

By today’s standards, the movie’s original theatrical color grading is out of touch and a byproduct of Hollywood’s learning curve for digital color grading back in the 2000s. The aesthetic certainly produces a distinct mood and tone, almost like a modern period piece.

The HDR is best capturing the light and dark nuances previously obscured at 1080P. The solid shadow delineation highlights the intensely dark tone. Much of the production’s budget clearly went into crafting the eerie visuals and it shows up on screen. This isn’t a stunning 4K UHD but Dead Silence looks as good as it ever will on the format.


No next-generation audio like Dolby Atmos here to ramp up Dead Silence’s many spooks, a missed opportunity. Scream Factory includes the same rudimentary 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack found on the earlier Universal Blu-ray. The sound design is a step behind the lavish visuals. It’s a rather disappointing mix coming from the director of dynamite mixes found in Wan’s later horror movies like The Conjuring. The jump scares and thrills in Dead Silence are punctuated by heavy bass, almost too much bass. Channel separation is adequate across the front speakers.

A few discrete passages are noteworthy but not the primary focus, especially the disembodied ghost voices and a piercing whistling tea kettle. The surround mixing is fairly passive though immersive in stretches, primarily spreading the haunting score around the soundstage. Dialogue is cleanly intelligible, though dynamics are a bit tight in balance.

Optional English SDH subtitles play in a white font, always inside the scope presentation. Secondary 2.0 stereo DTS-HD MA is also included on the UHD.


Scream Factory brings Dead Silence to 4K UHD for the first time in the world. The 2-disc collector’s edition from the horror label includes the theatrical version in 4K on UHD, while all special features and the film’s inferior unrated cut can be found on the included Blu-ray. The Blu-ray is locked to Region A.

A cardboard slipcover is available in early pressings. Orders from ShoutFactory.com get an exclusive 18” by 24” rolled poster of the original theatrical artwork while supplies last. The site also offers a super edition with an exclusive slipcover and two different posters.

Scream Factory ports over everything from the 2015 Universal Blu-ray with one exception. They drop Aiden’s 2007 music video. For years Dead Silence was exclusive to HD DVD, one of Universal’s exclusives they didn’t bother releasing on BD until eight years later.

What Scream Factory adds are three new exclusive interviews made in the past year, including conversations with creators James Wan and Leigh Whannell.

Masters Of Puppets: A New Interview With Director James Wan (15:45 in HD)

Dead Assignment: A New Interview With Writer Leigh Whannell (12:26 in HD)

No Children, Only Dolls: A New Interview With Ventriloquist Dummy Creator Tim Selberg (12:15 in HD)

Alternate Opening (01:37 in SD)

Alternate Ending (03:42 in SD)

Deleted Scenes (03:50 in SD)

“The Making of Dead Silence” 2007 Featurette (11:55 in SD)

“Mary Shaw’s Secrets” 2007 Featurette (06:41 in SD)

“Evolution of a Visual FX” 2007 Featurette (03:59 in SD)

Dead Silence Theatrical Trailer (02:15 in HD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided by the label for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle all review material, please visit our about us page.

Dead Silence
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James Wan’s atmospheric supernatural thriller overcomes a bland protagonist with stiff chills and impressively eerie frights

User Review
2.67 (3 votes)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 40 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD:

One thought on "Dead Silence 4K UHD Review"

  1. The Phantom Stranger says:

    For those wondering what are the differences in Dead Silence’s unrated and R-rated versions:


    There’s about 2-3 minutes of extra footage in the unrated cut.

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