DVD Review: The Voices

(Written for Filmoria)

Ryan Reynolds is an actor known for his versatility… and by that I mean that he’s had a handful of decent roles, one iconic role in a great high school comedy, a known passion for his role as Deadpool, and then some very poor role choices in between.

His role in the horror-comedy The Voices, however, is one of the best performances that you will see from him. Starring as a troubled, med-addicted (although seemingly normal looking from the outside) factory worker, The Voices sees Reynolds play the role of Jerry, a young bachelor who is dedicated to living a normal life and succeeding in his new job at the Milton Bathtub factory.

Eager to get along with his factory co-workers Fiona (Gemma Arterton), Lisa (Anna Kendrick), and Alison (Ella Smith), Jerry only has his psychiatrist Dr. Warren (Jacki Weaver) to ask for advice from… oh, and his his dog, Bosco, and his cat, Mr. Whiskers (who are voiced by Reynolds himself)… But, as you can imagine, pets don’t give the best advice, and when they convince Jerry to stop taking his medication, his insanely bizarre world starts to come undone.

Directed by Marjane Satrapi, the Iranian author and filmmaker best known for the Academy Award nominated animation Persepolis (2007), serving as her English-language debut, and written by Michael R. Perry, The Voices is one of the most hilariously twisted dark comedies that you will have seen in a long time.

Making the difficult task of combining horror and comedy, The Voices isn’t a film for everybody; because of the often awkward mix, it will be difficult for some audiences to see either the comedy or the horror. But they are both there.

The comedy is hidden behind every action, and it’s mainly because of Reynold’s performance and character that you will be laughing so much. But because the script and the premise are so dark, not everybody will understand the films’ humour. There are some openly funny interactions between Jerry and his co-workers, but it’s understandably easy to be deterred from the humour when Jerry’s on his own and there’s no one else to bounce off; this is a story about mental illness after all, so it’s not exactly light-hearted.

As for the horror, The Voices isn’t scary in that you’ll be gripping onto the edge of your seat, it’s scary because of the focus on unhinged human characteristics and the complicated way the human mind works. It’s psychologically disturbing rather than scary, but it’s also incredibly gory. Both the lengths that Jerry goes to and the often disguised world that he lives in are gut-wrenchingly gross.

Whilst the murders are done in good taste with a lot of comedy behind them, it’s more about what you don’t see (rather than the buckets of blood that you do see) that make this a horror-ific watch. This is a common quality in The Voices, as it’s the aspects that you don’t see which have the biggest effect on you.

The story is well-thought out and has a great depth to it, the comedy works really well, and the cinematography and use of bright pink visuals to create Jerry’s reimagined world are attention-grabbing. But it’s the underlying story of the world that Jerry is escaping from that will get to you.

Whilst the central character is mentally ill and the story is premised around his conflicted internal conversations that he has with his pets, the theme of mental illness isn’t heavy or pressured. This is because the focus of mental illness is altered, as we see the world that Jerry has created rather than the world he actually lives in.

The world Jerry sees is clean and cheery, which is what we see most of the time and is what makes the film quite uplifting at times, but there are small glimpses into reality when Jerry is on his medication, and it’s understandable why he doesn’t want to live there because the reality really is quite disgusting.

It’s actually quite a heart-breaking undertone to the story, and you almost start to sympathise with Jerry by the end, even if his actions are unforgivable. But, like Jerry, we’re easily distracted from the real world – the squaler he lives in, the real issues that need addressing – and his character ends up being incredibly likable.

This is what keeps you engaged. Many viewers will find The Voices too quirky, and on first watch it does take a while to get into. But when these other themes start rolling in and you become comfortable in enjoying the film for what it is, then The Voices becomes a whole lot of crazy fun.

The Voices is original and surreal, and on a second watch you’ll be laughing twice as hard. If you go in watching this with an open mind and little expectations, then you’ll get a whole lot out of it.

Most of all, Reynolds truly is outstanding, and this role was genuinely perfect for him. His leading ladies are all superb, too. Kendrick is always lovable and Arterton is a real gem, and there’s so much great chemistry between the characters that you will want to watch this more than once. They all work really well together, which especially shows in an end-credit sing-a-long with Jesus, which is just as bizarre as the film itself.

Special features include:
– Interviews with the cast, director, writer, and producers about their characters, intentions and why they loved making the film.
– A scare prank in which a woman hides in a refrigerator with only her head on show, which is placed in the middle of a busy shopping mall encouraging the public to open.
– A number of deleted and extended scenes.
– A video of Reynold’s recording the voices of his pets.

The Voices is set to be released on DVD, Blu-Ray, and limited edition Steelbook on Zavii on 13th July.

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