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A colorful, quirky twist on the psychological horror genre, The Voices employs Marjane Satrapi’s unique perspective, and prodigious talent to deliver a wholly entertaining, and delightfully creepy film. A fun, yet uneven script keeps the audience off balance, while the surprisingly charismatic Ryan Reynolds lures them in for a closer look. Packed with visual cues and inordinate detail, The Voices demands a second look, and will make you see pink for days afterwards.
Jerry (Ryan Reynolds) is a normal guy. Working a steady job at Milton Fixtures and Faucets, Jerry might be a little shy, but his co-workers seem to like him. He has a dog, Bosco, and a cat, Mr. Whiskers, and both of them talk. Once we step outside of the bubble Jerry has created for himself, a whole new picture begins to develop. Jerry is not a normal guy. Jerry is schizophrenic, and has been struggling with a very vocal conscience for many years. Taking the form of his dog, the “angel,” and his cat, “the devil,” Jerry begins to make some substantial mistakes. A date with his crush, Fiona (Gemma Arterton) introduces Jerry to a side of himself that he had forgotten years ago. Sessions with his therapist, Dr. Warren (Jacki Weaver), offer Jerry minor reprieve, and end with little more than suggestions to continue the use of his medication – advice Jerry does not take.
Marjane Satrapi has a methodical and curious eye behind the camera. Introducing her audience to the film by first showing the neon pink bathtub factory – a glowing beacon of industry in the small, decrepit town – sets the tone for the rest of the film. Vivid colors and smiling faces dot most of the introductory shots; Milton seems to be a perfect little town. As with Jerry, this colorful veneer is just a chiffon façade, created by Jerry’s singularly deranged mind. When seen from an outside perspective, the gloss begins to crack, showing the horrors that lie beneath. Contrasting beauty with ugliness is nothing new (especially with horror), but when the juxtaposition becomes an uncontrollable figment of the mind, it develops a darker, more sinister quality. We know that there is decay and ruin all around, yet become willfully blinded by the shimmering colors and shyly charismatic Jerry – it is the perfect illustration of how profoundly mental illness can affect one’s outlook on the world.
Beyond her focus on Jerry’s disintegrating life, Satrapi utilizes a host of camera movements and editing techniques to tell her story. With abrupt jump cuts that would make Edgar Wright proud, Satrapi changes the tone of a scene in an instant. Fading out on a romantic evening leaves us feeling apprehensive of the unusual change; as a cliché romantic transition, its positioning in this film feels odd and deliberate. Horror cinematographer Maxime Alexandre feels equally as at home with intimate colorful moments as he does with the shocking glimpses of sepia-toned gore. Working perfectly with Satrapi’s intelligently placed camera, Alexandre helps to create some startlingly beautiful shots.
Michael R. Perry delivers a thoughtfully fresh script, bursting with smartly unassuming dialogue and darkly-demented humor. Perry’s script brings a new element to standard horror: honesty. Perry understands that the scariest things come from real life, and employs a realistic approach with his schizophrenic lead. While Jerry can lash out in anger or fear, the real tension in the film comes from our empathy for a clearly sick individual. Not only do we find ourselves rooting for the killer, we are equally terrified at how far gone his mind really is.
Reynolds himself delivers his best performance in years (while this does not say much, he is quite good) as the damaged Jerry. Providing the voices for both of his animals, Reynolds has plenty of charm left over from his Van Wilder days, and some unforeseen comedic timing. Fraying alongside Jerry, Reynolds begins to take on a much more sunken and exhausted persona by the end of the film. Able to refrain from showing off his trademark abs, Reynolds grapples with his sanity in a realistic, and compelling way. Fighting through tears, and lashing out in confusion, Reynolds’ Jerry scares himself as much as he scares his victims and the audience.
While not for everyone, The Voices was undeniably made with great forethought and care. Bursting with detail and jet black humor, The Voices packs enough sincerity and dread to cement itself as a future cult hit.