The Voices  Review: The Dishes Can Wait
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. After a traumatic experience our protagonist heads up to a secluded cabin to visit with an estranged family member and get some perspective. Little do they know the trauma they are about to unearth in this eerie isolated location. Sound familiar? Of course it does, it’s the premise behind many a ‘Cabin in the Woods’ horror film that allows the characters to deal with a multitude of issues in a familiar format. The Voices uses this genre convention to explore mental health, familial problems and isolation in an interesting, if sometimes confusing, manner.
Grace (Amanda Markowitz) suffers a devastating breakup with her fiancé David (Brendan Sexton III) after she finds him cheating on her. To aid in her recovery she heads to her sister Catherine’s (Victoria Matlock) house for some comfort and stability. After a run in with an ominous stranger (Lin Shaye) on the way to the cabin Grace should have known it wasn’t going to be the relaxing retreat she thought it would be.
Grace is a psychology student who may have found her thesis project in her sister, who is suffering after her divorce and losing custody of her daughter and showing symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia. The illness is hereditary and caused the suicide of their mother, and now seems to be taking its toll on Catherine. This thread of mental health issues runs through the entire film and causes Grace to question whether what she is suffering is internal or supernatural.
The Voices starts strong with some great atmospherics and some slow-burn build up that definitely warrants further exploration. Catherine begins to speak to herself in different accents, accentuating her possible schizophrenia whilst playing with the idea of possession also. This is where the execution becomes a little wonky though. Just in case we didn’t know that Catherine was losing her mind the cinematographer slams us with a canted angle accompanied by a jarring strings motif every time she says something strange, so that it really drives home the ‘crazy’!
There is a Groundhog Day feel to the middle of the film, which seems to drag, with Grace waking up late, having a strange encounter, going to sleep and having nightmares. Lather, rinse, and repeat. The nightmares themselves are interesting visually and have a lot of potential in the creep factor, but are being thrown by the strange presence of Grace’s unborn child as a young girl that, again, goes nowhere. There was a lot of groundwork laid that didn’t pay off, and due to the slightly lackluster ending never will be paid off.
Lin Shayne is, as always, a delight in this film, playing her Vagabond role beautifully. However she feels thrown in, there was very little reason for her to be there and she could have been removed completely. I would have loved for her to have more to do and be a more integral part of the plot. Markowitz and Matlock also deserve praise, their acting is strong and they carry the film with great presence, both managing to be convincing in difficult roles.
Throughout the film we came up with many theories on what the twist would be in this psychological horror. None of them were correct, which is usually a good thing, but in this case I almost wish we were right on at least a few occasions. So many elements were laid out that would have resulted in a better conclusion than the one we were presented with.
“The Voices is a definite hit or miss psychological horror that either lands perfectly or leaves an unpleasant after taste.”
Wesley Alley and Bradley Fowler co-direct in what seems to be the first feature film for both of them, and there’s a heap of potential there, just not quite right yet. Bradley also wrote this and he shows a strong understanding of the expectations of a haunted secluded house horror and manages to create a plot twist that wasn’t predictable. His tackling of mental health issues is strong from a script angle but lacking in execution.
The Voices is a definite hit or miss psychological horror that either lands perfectly or leaves an unpleasant after taste. Its runtime seems long and the ending was ultimately disappointing for me, whilst others may find it interesting and refreshing. Unfortunately it didn’t manage to capture and keep me throughout; ultimately I just wanted something more from this film.
Well, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go feed the chickens.