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  Voices, The Conversationally Challenged
Year: 2014
Director: Marjane Satrapi
Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick, Jacki Weaver, Ella Smith, Paul Chahidi, Stanley Townsend, Adi Shankar, Sam Spruell, Valerie Koch, Gulliver McGrath, Paul Brightwell, Alessa Kordeck, Michael Pink, Ricardia Bramley, Alex Tondowski
Genre: Horror, ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Jerry (Ryan Reynolds) works in the one surviving factory of this small town, and is particularly deft at the forklift and general packing things away, but he is rather lonely and would like a romance in his life. He has his eye on Fiona (Gemma Arterton) who works in the accounts office, an English girl who somehow ended up out in this American nowhere in particular when her boyfriend invited her over then stranded her when he rejected his commitment to her, but she is not really interested in a relationship right now: mostly she's saving to get back home. This does not deter Jerry, however, and he does his best to be invited to the staff picnic where he hopes he can make a good impression, though his pets are sceptical...

Wait, what do his cat and dog have to do with this? As we soon discover, Jerry holds intense conversations with them when he's alone in his apartment which happens to be located on the outskirts of the town above a bowling alley. Or does he? Well, no he doesn't, for our hero suffers from a psychosis which colours his perceptions and has him believing real life as most other folks experience it is something very different, which might have been all right if Jerry was harmless, but he refuses to take his medication and thus is afflicted with that movie strain of psychosis that makes you kill people, something of a cliché even back in the nineteen-sixties when the psycho-thriller tropes became well and truly established.

That was a strain of the mad killer plot bolstered by psychology as a way of explaining the murderous characters' behaviour, chilling the audience by ramping up the paranoia about mental illness, not only because it could affect those watching, but apparently more importantly because they could be suddenly attacked by someone who seemed normal enough mere minutes before. That fear is a potent one, so little wonder it had been mined for suspense for so long, yet for director Marjane Satrapi, whose biggest success had been the animated biopic Persepolis, and her writer Michael R. Perry, what they wished was an approach that related that old, old story through fresh eyes.

For some reason they thought seeing the dark deeds of the serial killer through their own eyes was original, even though it wasn't especially (you may recall a movie called Repulsion from fifty years before), but Perry got his idea from talking with profilers of motiveless killers who told him their job was to understand the movie running in the murderers' heads and what role they played in it. The movie in Jerry's noggin is a charming romantic comedy which turns twisted when the setpieces embarrass him as he kills, not because he wants to, however - his hand is forced by a series of unfortunate events and in his addled state he cannot perceive any method of getting out of his situation other than relying on slaughter of people who mean him no harm.

Fiona may not be too sympathetic to Jerry's crush, but she isn't a terrible person who deserves to die, though Arterton for some reason felt the need to sprinkle her dialogue with as many British colloquialisms as she possibly could, which did grow distracting. Not so much that you want to see her die, and this was a distinguishing feature of The Voices, that none of the potential victims were your hackneyed cannon fodder for the horror flick slasher; Satrapi was on record for disliking horror, which at least offered a different take on the genre though not quite as different as everyone involved believed it to be. What was relied on for the bizarrely wacky humour angle was Jerry chatting away to his pets, both voiced by Reynolds, the cat with a Scottish accent almost as bad as Seth MacFarlane's, while later he collected heads in his fridge which also talked. It was interesting enough, but you feel they could have gone further, and it was more melancholy than hilarious when you didn't want to see the otherwise nice guy bumping off fairly likeable people. Its finale was... unusual. Music by Olivier Bernet.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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