Two fortunate (?) critics did manage to sneak a peak at the movie, and their reactions vary wildly...
Kevin Carr of 7M Pictures wrote: "It's a sad state of affairs when you're more interested in the horror movie trailers that play before the feature film."
Conversely, Sean Clark of Dread Central (where they're ever eager to prop up their heroes) proclaimed: "With this flm Wan proves his ability to terrify an audience."
There just seems to be something odd in a situation where Wan could direct a film like SAW, which goes on to launch a successful franchise directed by others, while his own directoriall follow-up is deemed so dubious by the distributor that they sneak it into theatres without pre-screening it.
I suspect there's some kind of lesson here, but I'm not quite sure what it is. Something about having the good luck to hit on a successful formula the first time out? Ormaybe that fans are more interested in franchises than auteurs?
UPDATE: I just wanted to check back in and apologize for my snarky comment regarding the Dread Central review. It turns out that DEAD SILENCE ain't half bad. Several scare scenes work really well, and the whole thing is drenched in deliberately old-fashioned atmosphere. Unfortunately, the "surprise" ending is obvious - I knew it was coming almost from the beginning of the movie, and I could believe the filmmakers thought they were fooling anyone. Still, this movie is not so bad that it should have been hidden from critics, so I can't understand why Universal didn't pre-screen it.