“The Voices” gets both grisly and comedic while approaching deeper topics such as mental health, denial, and isolation in its wide breadth.Warning label: mild spoilers ahead.
For my debut article as a writer for Morbidly Beautiful, I decided to blend my love of mental health and horror and discuss one of the most underrated Ryan Reynolds vehicles, The Voices.
With a star-studded cast of ladies and a strangely innocent yet shockingly distinct performance from Reynolds, this film is as dark as horror comedy gets, including talking animals and the very important reminder to always take your medication as prescribed.
Milton is a town that runs like clockwork down to the factory where Jerry works. Quirky but eager and friendly, Reynolds drops the sarcasm for a more insecure mask than usual. Jerry is working under the guidance of a court-appointed psychiatrist, much as he would like to rush past that. But it looks like Jerry’s darkly referenced past is behind him. He’s ready to join a community and help plan an office party.
Eager to please, you can’t help but admire Reynold’s earnest portrayal of Jerry. As we cut from work, we find Jerry lives above a bowling alley, and he’s not alone; his pets, Bosco and Mr. Whiskers, are there.
A spicy conversation suddenly sparks with a man sporting an interesting Scottish(?) accent, hiding just out of frame, though we saw no one in Jerry’s apartment when he arrived.
Miserable, yawning party planning meetings allow Jerry to socialize, especially with his blooming crush, Fiona (Gemma Arterton). While some regard Jerry as over-eager, my heart aches as he tries to find his place amongst dismissive or non-empathetic coworkers.
Feeling empowered by his courage to do the party, Jerry attends a therapy session to discuss his good news.
This quickly turns to the necessary supportive talks of medication intervention and whether or not voices are being heard, seeing as Jerry’s mother suffered from an affliction that caused her to see and hear things she believed were angels. Encouraged by his therapist to take a risk on love (and conga), Jerry attends the work party and gets the reinvigoration he needs.
Once the party’s over, however, we see that it’s no man waiting in Jerry’s apartment when he arrives home; it’s Mr. Whiskers with that Trainspotting accent. And that cat is fully speaking, along with the dog, too.
Where there are no angels, I suppose we have pets.
Moving past this disturbing realization, a socially awkward Jerry can’t take a hint and tries to pursue Fiona while her coworker Lisa (Anna Kendrick) politely steps in to invite him to drinks with the girls.
In a film with many eccentric touches, these moments of humanity elevate the film, and I loved seeing Jerry connect with others and feel temporarily unburdened and included.
After a small spat between Lisa and Fiona to determine which one is getting driven home by Jerry, Fiona ends up in his car. This leads Jerry to pursue the possibility of a second date. But he ends up getting stood up by Fiona so can enjoy drunken karaoke while he sits alone at the saddest empty table watching a local Elvis performer.
In the pouring rain, Jerry wipes away tears of rejection and attempts to head home when, surprise, Fiona shows up needing a ride (she has a habit of only showing up when she needs a favor).
Bonding over their pasts and dreams, a sudden car crash rips the scene apart. While Jerry can see the deer they hit speaking to him, suffering, Fiona can only see Jerry speaking to himself as he slowly kills the agonized animal. Terrified by what she’s seen, she flees.
For some reason, with the knife still in hand, Jerry pursues. And in an unfortunate slip and fall, Fiona is fatally stabbed.
The real sick practical, special, and horror effects can begin to work as the movie speeds toward its second half.
I admire The Voices for many reasons, but I primarily appreciate an initially deserved empathetic look at a “disturbed” character.
The mentally ill are so often painted as unlikable, but here, we can’t help but root for Reynolds. Being the actor he is, known for his charm and mass appeal, he appears as the opposite of what we imagine a “sick” or “scary” person to be. The involvement of a therapist was key as well in tying themes together safely for a delicate topic.
But moving on from the serious stuff, The Voices balances a heavily weighted topic with humor and metaphor to keep things from getting too dark to handle.
The cat and dog are the perfect pair, your low self-esteem in one ear telling you the worst and your timid loyal confidence cheering for you. The humanization of animals and objects in the film is brilliant and leads to some truly funny and disturbing exchanges between Reynolds and his costars that add up to wonderful comedy and a revolving door of violence.
While the movie may not look like it’s setting up to be a potentially grisly watch, I’ll leave the literal headcount up to you.
Delivering horrifying violence and realizations by its end, The Voices can only sing a happy song for so long. Anchored somewhere in a tensely written drama and reality is the bold choice to end the film on a somber note.
The Voices addressed mental health and the burden of tending to it with care and humor while delivering the gore and shock factors you would hope for in a traditional slasher; it packs quite a punch as a dark comedy.