WARNING: SPOILERS AHOY
TL;DR version: A horror film in the guise of a romantic comedy. Great production values, great acting, fucking awful ending.
The Voices looks like an odd one from the trailer; a guy who believes his pets talk to him ends up killing women. Alright. The tone looks a little bizarre as it’s a romantic comedy, but I’ll play. It seems quite funny.
At first while I watched this it reminded me of From Dusk Till Dawn (stay with me here) in that it has a total tonal shift fairly early on. The film starts off as this saccharine sweet romantic comedy that just happens to contain mental illness. Then BAM! The tone shifts with a literal thump as Jerry accidentally kills his co-worker and takes her body home, where he chops her up and places her into Tupperware (Which he keeps on his counter). He leaves her head in the fridge. She then speaks to him alongside his pets. While the film isn’t necessarily funny from this point (I laughed more from nerves than anything else) the fact that we expected laughs and were given some fairly dark horror is a pretty ballsy and exciting move.
It’s actually a pretty hard film to categorise; it’s marketed as a quirky, dark rom-com, but there’s not really any romance in it at all. Jerry is not romantically attached to anyone in the film, and barely shares any screen time with the ladies he kills. We also don’t see much of the heads talking, which seemed like a promising part of the story. I thought there’d be a bit of Telltale Heart-style tension in Jerry’s apartment, but no dice. I guess you could say it’s a psychological horror/thriller, but I’ll get to that in a bit.
It’s a film that gets increasingly eerie as it goes on. We begin to really like and to an extent relate to Jerry; he’s the nice guy at work, doesn’t fit in but isn’t overly shunned; he is liked by the ladies in accounting but the lady he likes isn’t into him; he tries to see life in the best way possible but obviously this doesn’t always work out. However, the more we see Jerry do and the more we tap into his mind the more we want to see him get caught. We don’t see him as the protagonist for long. He’s not even an anti-hero by the end of the film; even he can acknowledge that he isn’t doing the right thing. There’s real tragedy here because (nearly) everything that Jerry does is accidental but at the same time he does nothing to prevent or solve the problems, instead just making bigger mistakes.
The use of gore isn’t overly extreme (At least by my jaded standards) but it is effective. There’s just the right amount of blood and sound effects to imply the horror of the situation. There’s also great insight into Jerry’s view of the world; he can’t see all of the blood in his apartment and he sees the heads in the fridge as they were when they were alive.
I want to say this film is excellent. I want to praise the acting, the production values and the attention to detail. So I will; the cast is fantastic, particularly Reynolds playing three or four characters at once and doing a not-too-awful Scottish accent; the film is beautiful both in execution and aesthetic. It’s almost Edward Scissorhands-y with its bright colour scheme and the lighting is beautiful. The film feels a bit like if Psycho was entirely from the point of view of Norman Bates. There’s also a wee bit of American Psycho in there if you squint. However, there is one major deal breaker with this film; the fucking ending.
Had they gone with the ending I thought they would go with, it would have been great. Jerry accepts that he has done too much and allows himself to die in a house fire. We see his ‘pets’ reconcile and go their separate ways. A little cheesy, but fine. He is at peace. Great.
That’s not the end of the film. We see Jerry, his parents and the girls he killed dance together in a completely white room as the credits roll. Jesus is there too. He literally floats down and joins in.
The ending is a massive slap in the face to the audience. What had been a visceral, challenging, deeply touching film about a mentally ill man struggling with self-identity and medication while trying to fit in the world has a cheap cheerful ‘oh, wasn’t that wacky?!’ ending tacked on. That’s how the ending feels. It feels tacked on, and that really made me angry. It feels like the creators (I assume this was an executive decision) didn’t want to leave the audience feeling sad and so threw this ending into the mix. This film was full of emotion and felt very genuine, and to have such a patronising, ‘oh it’s all right now look they’re dancing’ ending felt like a waste and an insult.
The Voices feels like a horror comedy that doesn’t want to be a horror comedy; it tries to find laughs in the middle of a terrifying situation and leaves everyone with a grimace. It becomes a full-fledged horror, which I’m not sure is what the creators were going for given the abysmal end. To fix this it goes for what now feels like a traditional rom-com dance party end with little buildup and awful execution. If they wanted a rom-com, they should have had some actual romance in it. If they didn’t want a horror film, they could have made it more surreal or less bloody. All in all, I’m split between recommending the film or telling you to steer clear all because of that godawful ending. The film is worth a look, but do yourself a favour and leave sharpish.
I can’t even think of a way to round off other than I hate dance party endings. Imagine Norman Bates and his mum dancing with Marion Crane at the end of Psycho. Bloody hell.