The first words spoken in the horror film The Voices come in the form of a voiceover. As a pair of as yet unidentified women struggle against their restraints in what appears to be a makeshift surgical lab or torture chamber, the narrator dispassionately proclaims, “If there’s one thing that’s for sure, it’s that things often get worse before they get better.” This is a particularly adept introduction to a film that offers increasingly little incentive to continue subjecting yourself to it as the story insists on unfolding. Part Sixth Sense, part Rosemary’s Baby, part Mama, with just a little too much Daredevil thrown in to possibly be taken seriously, The Voices draws on the rich history of horror and thriller cinema, but only seems to draw from the most hackneyed parts. On the rare occasion that the film does stumble across an interesting or original idea, these moments are consistently undercut by such incredibly inept execution that they are impossible to get excited about.
As a young girl, Lilly (Chloe Romanski) is caught in a tragic car accident that takes both her sight and her mother’s life. Though the mother is killed on impact, her voice guides Lilly to safety. The doctors dismiss the ghostly sounds as a delusion, and write off the other voices she continues to hear as nothing more than imaginary friends that she’ll eventually grow out of, and give her a pair of medical-grade headphones that she can use whenever the voices grow too bothersome. Nevertheless, the voices persist. As a child, a crying woman in a bathroom stall bemoans the loss of her own baby before notching up the creepiness and asking, “Can I be your baby?” Teen Lilly (Jenna Harvey) is saved from a pedophile when a former victim warns her not to get in his van. And as a professional therapist, Adult Lilly (Valerie Jane Parker) makes friends with all kinds of dead children who help her cross the street safely, and let her deliver saccharine pep talks about the nature of disability.
When Lily becomes pregnant, things go from strange to stranger when a medium posing as a client informs her that the voices that she keeps hearing are spirits vying for a second chance at life through her uterus. Their goal is to inject their spirits into the body of her unborn child, and if Lilly wants to have a moment’s peace, she needs to decide which spirit is going to get the thumbs up before her fetus has its first heartbeat. But the pre-natal Freaky Friday becomes even more complicated when it is interrupted by a barely comprehensible kidnapping plot.
The absurdity of the story isn’t even close to the film’s biggest problem. The acting is quite simply atrocious, which makes it impossible for any relationship to ever feel believable or worth caring about. Whether it’s an intimate moment between two best friends sharing the news of a pregnancy or a young high school couple sharing their first kiss, it all feels so forced that you have a hard time imagining any self-respecting apparition actually thinking that joining this family might be preferrable to Limbo. Making matters worse is the sheer earnestness with which the film routinely shifts gears into these insipid monologues about what it’s like to be treated differently because of a disability, or the importance of making the world what you want it to be. These inspirational asides are so excruciatingly clumsy that you’ll want to go out and find the nearest poster of a kitten hanging from a tree branch so you can burn it.
Verdict: 1 out of 5 Stars
The Voices is such a consistent travesty that it’s tempting to place the film in the category of “so bad it’s good.” However, it is simply too dull to even rise to that level. The whole thing plays less like an ironic wink – much less a legitimately terrifying horror flick – and more like an overly broad caricature of a wishfully misguided franchise opener. At one point, Lilly experiences a dream where a naked old man crawls across her bedroom floor, up under the covers, and into her vagina. Sadly, this is one of the highlights of a film which, much like the old man, really ought to give you a good jump, but will leave you feeling sad and icky instead.