It’s difficult to know what to make of The Voices, a film which at first appears, eye-rollingly, to be trying too hard to be niche. The film’s opening introduces protagonist Jerry Hickfang (Ryan Reynolds) as a genial goof – the factory floor employee of a bathtub company in the provincial and fictitious town of Milton, USA. He longs, romantically, for Fiona from accounts, a self-assured babe who is aware of her power over men (and women), played with tongue firmly in cheek by Gemma Arterton.
After finally starting to bond with her when he gives her a lift in the rain, all turns to disaster. In a freakish series of events, Jerry’s car careers off the road, a deer smashes through the wind screen, and he finds himself stabbing Fiona to death in a forest. He ends up keeping her decomposing head in his fridge, at which point the narrative starts to get genuinely weird.
The film quickly mutates into a sort of reverse and comedic slasher, told from the perspective of the mentally troubled killer who slices his way through a spree of homicides. The haunting personal past – a pre-requisite burden of all slasher villains – is in Jerry’s case a history of child abuse, which he suffered at the hands of his step-father and is played out in difficult to watch flashbacks.
The voices belong to his dog Bosco and cat Mr Whiskers, who respectively represent the angel and devil advisories upon his shoulders. Bosco reassures schizophrenic Jerry that he is good, while Mr Whiskers urges him on in his murderous plight. It turns out that the voices only disappear when Jerry manages to take his medication, at the plea of his trusting psychotherapist. However, the pills adjust his mindset (and thus the viewer’s perspective) to reveal the grim reality of his life as a lonely man in a filthy home.
The result is a gruesomely bizarre offering from Iranian director Marjane Satrapi, well-known for her award-winning 2007 animation Persepolis. While The Voices not a life changing and important movie it is entertaining, which is exactly what a slasher film should be. Its comic-like aesthetic and genre-evading uniqueness also make it indulgently interesting.
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