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Dead Silence (2007)

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"Beware the stare of Mary Shaw. She had no children only dolls. And if you see her in your dreams; be sure to never, ever scream."
Children's rhyme


Dead Silence was a 2007 horror film directed by James Wan of Saw fame. The film is a ghost story that chronicles the actions of a vengeful spirit named Mary Shaw, a vaudeville ventriloquist who died in 1941. Due to the brutal nature of her demise, her spirit now seeks revenge against the families of the small town of Ravens Fair. At the center of all this is Jamie Ashen, who returns to the town where he grew up in the hopes of learning the truth behind the murder of his young wife, Lisa. Trailing behind him is hard-boiled police officer Detective Lipton who is investigating the death of Lisa Ashen and believes Jamie to be his number one suspect.

Plot Edit

Mysterious Mail Edit

Billy the Doll (Dead Silence)

Billy the doll

Jamie and Lisa Ashen are newlyweds who only recently moved into a new apartment, far away from their home town of Ravens Fair. Jamie is underneath the sink trying to fix the plumbing, when Lisa reminds him that he promised to cook dinner that evening. She lets him off the hook however, and tells him that she would prefer Chinese take-out. Jamie realizes that he will have to go out into the rain to get food.

The doorbell rings and Jamie answers it. There is nobody there, but resting on the floor is a large box wrapped in brown paper. He brings it inside and notes that it has no return address on it. He opens it up and discovers an old-fashioned ventriloquist's dummy. A name etched on the doll's neck identifies it as Billy. Neither of them have any idea why someone would send them a doll. Lisa is reminded of an old Ravens Fair ghost story which included the nursery rhyme:

Beware the stare of Mary Shaw.
She had no children only dolls.
And if you see her in your dreams;
be sure to never, ever scream.

Lisa Ashen

Lisa's final fate

While Jamie goes out to get food, Lisa plays with the doll. She props it up on their bed, then begins looking at herself in the mirror. Admiring her figure, she stuffs a pillow under her shirt, giving the illusion of a pregnant woman. She has yet to tell Jamie the happy news. She turns back towards the doll which now has a bed sheet draped over its head. The bed sheet leaps forward and attacks Lisa, strangling her. Lisa struggles to get away, but ends up vomiting a massive amount of blood. She scrambles out of the room, but the animated bed sheet pulls her back inside.

Jamie returns home and finds the tea kettle whistling and blood all over the floor. He calls out to Lisa, but gets no response. He continues calling out to her as he slowly walks to the bedroom, then hears Lisa's muffled voice saying, "I have a surprise for you, Jamie". He steps inside and sees Lisa sitting on the bed with a blood-stained bed sheet over top of her. He pulls the sheet away revealing Lisa, who is now dead. Her tongue has been brutally removed from her mouth.

No Alibi Edit

Detective Lipton

Detective Lipton

The police are called and Jamie watches in horror and sorrow as his wife's body is taken away by the coroner. He is then brought down to the police station for questioning. Homicide detective Jim Lipton consults with a colleague about the mysterious nature of the murder. Both of them believe that Jamie is the one responsible for his wife's death, but there is no escaping the bizarre brutality of the crime. Lipton goes into the interrogation room to question Jamie. He openly accuses him of killing his wife, and sarcastically informs Jamie that his lawyer should get to work cooking up an alibi. Jamie is shocked to discover that he is actually a suspect. He tells Lipton about the strange doll that arrived at their department, but Lipton scoffs, indicating that the "mysterious toy department" is down the hall and that he only deals with homicides. Unless Jamie can come up with some rational explanation that ties the doll to the murder, it's irrelevant. Jamie tells him how the dummy is a symbol of bad omen from his home town. Lipton however, is more bothered by the fact that Jamie claims to have heard his wife's voice calling to him minutes before he discovered her body; which would have been impossible, since she didn't have a tongue. Lipton knows he doesn't have enough evidence to hold Jamie for now, so he lets him go.

Jamie returns to his empty apartment. He finds Billy the doll on the floor. He packs it back into its case and loads it into his car. Jamie begins the long drive back home.

Ravens Fair Edit

"You know, Jamie. You really are forcing me to use the word "perplexed" an awful lot lately."
Detective Lipton
Ravens Fair 001

Welcome to Ravens Fair

Arriving in Ravens Fair, Jamie finds it to be a town that has seen better days. Everywhere he drives, streets are deserted and businesses are closed down. He arrives back home at his family's manor. Jamie's young stepmother, Ella, answers the door and welcomes Jamie home. She invites him inside and brings him to his father, Edward. Edward, having suffered a stroke two months ago, is now confined to a wheelchair. Jamie is surprised, but shows little sympathy. His father and he have had an extremely disagreeable relationship over the years. Edward apologizes for Jamie's loss, and insists on arranging for Lisa's funeral. Jamie doesn't want his charity and tells him that he will bury Lisa himself.

He leaves and goes to the Walker Funeral Home. He meets Henry Walker and his deranged wife, Marion. Together, Jamie and he go over the arrangements and casket options. Henry tells him that Lisa's body will be arriving that evening.

Jamie leaves and rents a room at the Ravens Fair Motel. He props Billy the doll on a chair and tries to get some sleep. In the middle of the night, he hears strange voices and awakens with a start. Billy is staring directly at him.

At the funeral home, Henry Walker receives Lisa Ashen's body. He unzips the body bag and is stricken by what he sees. He hears noises coming from the crawlspace and determines that it must be his wife. He opens a panel into the crawlspace and calls out to her. Marion cryptically responds, "She's here now". Henry coaxes her out and walks her back to bed. He then returns to his parlor and takes a photograph of Lisa's body.

Jamie Ashen

Jamie attends his wife's funeral.

A few days later, Jamie attends his wife's funeral. Afterward, he is walking through the woods when Marion Walker comes upon him. She begins reciting the poem of Mary Shaw. She warns Jamie that "she is here" and that he must "bury the doll". Henry appears, pulls Marion away and apologizes to Jamie for his wife's actions.

Moments later, Jamie discovers the gravestone of Mary Shaw. He gets back into his car and races towards the motel. He collects the doll and drives it back out towards the cemetery. He finds Mary's grave marker, which is surrounded by more than a hundred similar graves; all of which correspond to one of her ventriloquist dolls. Jamie finds the one marked "Billy" and digs up the coffin. He throws the doll into the empty coffin and seals it. As he gets back into his car, he suddenly hears a barrage of voices coming from all around him. Shadows scurry past the car and for a brief instant, he sees Billy staring back at him through the driver-side window. Just as quickly as he appeared however, the doll is gone again.

Jamie drives back to the motel and washes up. When he exits the bathroom, he finds Billy sitting on top of his bed. Moreover, he also finds Detective Lipton sitting in a chair across from him. He's been watching him, and knows that Jamie tried to bury the doll which, as far as he is now concerned, is evidence in a capital crime. Lipton makes a disparaging remark about Jamie's wife and Jamie grabs him violently. Lipton warns him against adding assaulting an officer to his growing list of offenses. He smugly grabs the doll and leaves, indicating that he is staying in the very next room. Jamie bides his time until Lipton leaves, then sneaks into his room and steals back the doll.

The Story of Mary Shaw Edit

"There are things you remember. And there are things you cannot forget."
Henry Walker

Jamie drives back to the Walker Funeral Home and finds Henry Walker. Henry recognizes the Billy doll and knows that it once belonged to Mary Shaw. He brings Jamie inside to tell him the story of Mary Shaw.

Flashback:

Mary Shaw was a performing ventriloquist who closed out shows at the prestigious Guignol Theater back in the 1940s. Henry was but a young boy the night he attended his first and only performance at the Guignol. Mary Shaw pretended that her dummy, Billy, had run off and beckoned Henry to retrieve him from beneath his seat. What unnerved Henry however, was the fact that Billy knew his name.
Another young boy in the audience, Michael, made an outburst, declaring that he could see Mary Shaw's lips move. Mary restrained her embarrassment, but allowed her frustration to find voice within the doll. As both Mary and Billy tried to defend themselves, their voices eerily began to overlap.
Mary Shaw and Billy

Mary Shaw and Billy

A few weeks later, that disbelieving little boy disappeared without a trace. Shortly afterward, Mary Shaw was murdered. She had stated in her will that all 101 of her stage dummies were to be buried with her. Further, Mary left instructions that her body was to be cosmetically altered so that she resembled a doll herself. Henry's father, Richard, was the director of the funeral home at that time. On the evening when her body was being prepared, young Henry sneaked into the room to have himself a look at Mary Shaw. He leaned on the casket too much and it fell over, spilling Mary's body onto the floor. Though the corpse never moved, it appeared to Henry as if Mary was standing up, looking down upon him. This experience forever traumatized the young boy. Ever since Mary Shaw's death, the town of Raven's Fair had been plagued with death. Entire families were slaughtered, their bodies found without their tongues.

To Make the Perfect Doll Edit

"Spirits have long memories. She'll come for us in the end."
Edward Ashen
Mary Shaw 002

The ghost of Mary Shaw

After hearing Henry's story, Jamie decides to go out to the Guignol Theater where Mary Shaw lived before she died. He leaves Billy with Henry Walker and drives out to Lost Lake. From there, he takes a rowboat across the lake to the crumbling ruins of the Guignol Theater. The theater, having been left empty since 1941 is in a severe state of disrepair. Jamie climbs some of the steps leading to the upper chambers, but they are rotted and falling apart. He finds Mary's private dressing room, as well as some remnants of her old dolls. He also finds a text book which includes instructions on how to make the perfect doll. The book contains a photograph of Michael Ashen, the boy who disappeared shortly before Shaw's murder. Jamie realizes that both Michael and he share the same last name.

At the Walker Funeral Home, Henry hears his wife speaking to someone from the parlor. He enters the room and finds her talking to Billy the doll. Angrily, he grabs the doll and prepares to bury it. He then hears Marion weeping. The sound appears to be coming from the crawl space so henry opens it up and crawls in to find her. The access panel slams shut behind him. Henry turns around and tries to open the door, but it is sealed shut. As he turns around, the ghost of Mary Shaw appears before him. Henry screams and Mary takes his tongue. She growls, "Your voice is mine now."

Henry Walker death

Mary Shaw claims another victim

Jamie meanwhile returns home. He confonts his father and demands to know the truth about Michael Ashen and how it affects their family. Edward relents and tells him how the Ashen family, as well as several others, were responsible for murdering Mary Shaw after the disappearance of his great-uncle, Michael Ashen. Following the death of Mary Shaw, dozens of towns people turned up with their tongues ripped out of their mouths. Edward confesses that he had sent Jamie away in order to protect him. Frustrated and determined to put an end to this, Jamie turns on his heel and leaves. He walks directly into Detective Lipton. Lipton is here to reclaim the Billy doll that Jamie stole from his motel room. He also mentions that every single doll that Shaw owned had been exhumed from the Ravens Fair Cemetery. He is fired up and wants to arrest Jamie on the spot, but Ella beckons Jamie back inside and tells him that there is a telephone call for him. The voice on the other end of the line belongs to Henry who tells him that he is at the Guignol Theater and has proof that Jamie didn't murder his wife. Hanging up, Jamie pleads with Lipton to forego arresting him until he can hear what Henry has to say. Failing that, he pushes the detective over and runs out to his car.

The Guignol Theater Edit

"Remember. Whatever happens... don't scream."
Jamie Ashen
Michael Ashen puppet

The final fate of Michael Ashen

Jamie races to the Guignol Theater and Lipton is hot on his tail (although he complains about having to chase him with only half a tank of gas). Jamie gets to the island first and begins scrambling through the darkened corridors of the theater. He hears Henry's voice beckoning him. Lipton catches up and he decides to give Jamie a chance to prove himself. As they walk deeper through the darkness, he reminds Lipton not to scream, for that is what will draw Mary to him. Lipton unwittingly unveils a vault containing 100 of Mary Shaw's prized dolls.

Soon after, they come upon the remains of Michael Ashen. The boy's body has been turned into a macabre puppet. Jamie recognizes the corpse as a "long lost relative". They suddenly a strange rocking sound coming from the other room. Investigating it, they find a clown doll sitting in a rocking chair. Mary Shaw speaks through the doll and says that she wants to "silence all those who silenced me". She also says that in order to construct the perfect doll, she sometimes has to use "existing parts" (meaning human cadavers). When Jamie inquires why she killed Lisa, Mary Shaw tells him that she was pregnant with his child. She then produces a tongue through the doll's mouth, which laps at Jamie's face. Lipton decides that he has had enough and blasts the clown with his shotgun.

Suddenly, from all around them, the faces of all of Mary's dolls begin to animate and leer at Jamie and Lipton. Jamie tells him that she is living in the dolls and sets the display case on fire. The two then flee the room, but as they run across a catwalk, Lipton tumbles and begins to fall. He screams, which draws Mary's spirit to him and she kills him. Mary then attacks jamie directly, but he manages to escape.

Revelation Edit

Mary Shaw 003

Mary Shaw

He gets outside and to his car. Realizing that there is only one doll left, he goes to the Walker Funeral Home to find Billy. He instead finds Marion, cradling her dead husband's body. Marion tells Jamie that his father came to the funeral home and took the doll. Jamie knows that this is not possible, but heads back to his father's estate regardless. The house appears to be empty, but Jamie finds the doll resting inside of a cradle. Mary Shaw appears and attacks him, but Jamie throws the doll into the fireplace. Mary reels in agony and disappears.

Just when he thinks the nightmare has ended, Jamie learns the truth. His father is dead. In fact, he's been dead for quite some time. His back is split open and a wooden rod rests where his spine should be. Its clear now that his father was a puppet and that his stepmother, Ella, was his puppeteer. Ella appears and speaks in Mary Shaw's voice. "Now who's the dummy?", she asks. Jamie screams in anguish and Mary Shaw's spirit reaches forth to claim him.

Cast Edit

Notes & Trivia Edit

  • Dead Silence is also the working title of the 1990 sci-fi film Tremors.
  • DVD special features for this film includes: An alternate beginning; an alternate ending; The Making of Dead Silence documentary, Mary Shaw's Secrets documentary, Evolution of a Visual FX documentary and the "We Sleep Forever" music video by Aiden.
  • A newspaper clipping found in Mary Shaw's dressing room reveals that Michael Ashen's disappearance took place in the year 1932. According to her tombstone, Mary Shaw died in 1941. The context of the film suggests that Michael's disappearance and Mary's death took place within a relatively short period of time from one another, likely the same year. Also, actor Michael Fairman (Henry Walker) was born in 1934, which would have made his character's appearance in the flashback scene (despite using a young actor for his portrayal) nearly impossible.
  • The woman who plays the female detective that Jim Lipton speaks to in the in the beginning of the film is never credited.

Alternate Versions Edit

The DVD version of this film includes an alternate beginning and an alternate ending. In the alternate beginning, an unidentified woman is tucking her son in for bed. She tells him a bed time story, which includes the story of Mary Shaw. She warns him that should he ever encounter Mary Shaw, he should be sure never to scream. The only thing that can protect him is silence. With that, she blows out a candle.

The alternate ending begins where Jamie finds his father's corpse. The revelation of Ella as the villain includes exposition flashbacks where Edward Ashen is shown beating a pregnant Ella. Though it is not made clear, presumably Ella loses the child, which serves as the catalyst for becoming a host body for the spirit of Mary Shaw. The ending concludes with a revisited version of the alternate beginning, only this time it is a dead, adult Jamie lying in the bed and not a little boy. The woman speaking to him is now clearly Ella Ashen, who is also speaking in Jamie's voice via ventriloquism. As in the alternate beginning, she tells him that the only thing that can save him from Mary Shaw is silence. Then she blows out a candle.

Characters Edit

In alphabetical order

Billy
Billy was the name of Mary Shaw's prized dummy. This was the doll that showed up at Jamie and Lisa's apartment, which Jamie later attempted to bury.
Edard Ashen
Edward Ashen was the father of Jamie Ashen. Edward always knew that the angry spirit of Mary Shaw had sworn to murder everyone in Edward's family line. To protect his son, Edward was forced to drive him away from their family mansion in Ravens Fair. Edward eventually married a woman named Ella who, unbeknownst to Edward, was actually a vehicle for Mary Shaw's vengeance. Ella studied the arts of ventriloquism and doll-making and murdered Edward Ashen, turning him into a veritable human puppet.
Ella Ashen
Little is known about Ella Ashen, save that she was the instrument of vengeance for the angry spirit of ventriloquist Mary Shaw. Ella found a book called How to Make a Perfect Doll and used it to animate the corporeal remains of her husband Edward Ashen. Turning him into a human puppet, Ella manipulated Edward by way of a wooden rode inserted into his spine. She convinced Edward's son Jamie that Edward was still alive, and used ventriloquism to imitate his voice. Jamie sought to put Mary Shaw's spirit at rest by destroying her doll collection, but Ella had the last laugh by unleashing Shaw's ghost upon him saying, "Who's the dummy, now?"
Henry Walker
Henry Walker was the son of funeral home director Richard Walker and grew up in the town of Ravens Fair with his wife Marion. In 2007, a man named Jamie Ashen returned to Ravens Fair to bury his murdered wife, Lisa. When Henry inspected her remains, he knew that she had been killed by the ghost of a dead ventriloquist named Mary Shaw. A few evenings later, Henry heard his wife's voice emanating from a crawlspace below the funeral home. He began crawling after her, but realized only too late that it was actually the voice of Mary Shaw that had beckoned him. Henry screamed in horror and Mary killed him, tearing out his tongue just as she had done to so many others.
Jamie Ashen
Jamie Ashen grew up in the town of Ravens Fair. In 2007, his wife Lisa was brutally murdered moments after they received a strange doll in the mail. Jamie returned to Ravens Fair to bury her only to discover that he was at the center of a plot wrought by the angry spirit of a woman named Mary Shaw who sought to avenge herself against the families responsible for her death.
Jim Lipton
Jim Lipton was a homicide detective investigating the brutal murder of Lisa Ashen. He immediately suspected her widow, Jamie Ashen, of killing her and interrogated him at length. He followed Jamie to the town of Ravens Fair, hoping that Jamie might do something to incriminate himself. Jamie tried to tell Lipton that a doll that once belonged to a dead ventriloquist named Mary Shaw was responsible for his wife's murder, but Lipton didn't believe him. As Lipton became more involved with the intrigues surrounding Jamie's life, he came to realize that Jamie was telling the truth. The ghost of Mary Shaw was committing murders, using her old stage dummies as the instruments of her wrath. Lipton and Jamie went to the old, abandoned Guignol Theater where they had hoped to put an end to the restless spirit once and for all by destroying her dolls. Mary Shaw projected her spirit from one of her dolls and attacked Lipton, killing him and tearing out his tongue in the process.
Lisa Ashen
Lisa Ashen was the pregnant wife of Jamie Ashen. Jamie and she had known each other since they were children living in Ravens Fair. In 2007, the Ashens received a mysterious package on their front doorstep containing a ventriloquist's dummy. When Jamie left the apartment, the ghost of Mary Shaw acted through the dummy and killed Lisa, brutally tearing her tongue out of her mouth.
Marion Walker
Marion Walker was the wife of Henry Walker and lived in the Walker Funeral Home in the town of Ravens Fair. A deranged woman, she knew well the legend of the ghost known as Mary Shaw. Marion tried to warn young Jamie Ashen about the coming of Mary Shaw, but her warnings were dismissed in light of her dementia.
Mary Shaw
Mary Shaw was once a ventriloquist who headlined the Guignol Theater in Ravens Fair. When a young boy named Michael Ashen criticized her ability, Mary kidnapped him and turned him into a virtual doll. The townsfolk learned of this crime and murdered Mary in 1941. Ever since, her ghost has sought vengeance against the townsfolk and the only way to avoid her punishment is to be sure to never, ever scream.
Michael Ashen
Michael Ashen was a young boy who grew up in the town of Ravens Fair in the 1930s. He attended a performance of ventriloquist Mary Shaw at the Guignol Theater in 1941. After criticizing her performance, the embarassed Mary Shaw kidnapped the child and murdered him. His remains were discovered decades later by his great-nephew, Jamie Ashen.
Richard Walker
Richard Walker was the father of Henry Walker and the owner of the Walker Funeral Home in the town of Ravens Fair. In 1941, Richard Walker was obliged to honor the wishes of the late Mary Shaw, who wished to have her body cosmetically altered to resemble a ventriloquist's doll.

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