Horror Quickie: The Voices (2014)

If you’re anything like me, the first thing you’ll notice in the newly released horror comedy The Voices, is the refreshing lack of irony in star Ryan Reynolds’ performance. The second thing you’ll likely notice is that Reynolds has the makings of a damn fine actor, which was also obvious in his tour de force role in the claustrophobic nightmare Buried, but it’s nice to see that performance was no fluke.

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Contrary to Buried, where Reynolds basically WAS the entire movie, here he has many co-stars to play off of, including talented actresses Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick (so so underused) and Oscar nominee (Silver Linings Playbook) Jacki Weaver. He also spends a lot of time acting against a big, sweet doggie named Bosco and a naughty orange kitty who goes by Mr. Whiskers, talking pets that steer Reynolds’ character Jerry in the right or (more often) wrong direction. Voiced by Ryan himself, the two domestic beasts play the role of angel and devil on Jerry’s shoulder, with a hilariously foul-mouthed Mr. Whiskers advocating he give in to his basest homicidal desires, and a Sam Elliott sound-alike Bosco trying to get Jerry to do what’s right.

Can you guess who wins out?

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Soon enough Jerry is speaking to a half-dead deer and disembodied heads and doing some very, very bad things, and yet somehow Reynolds’ innocent, wide-eyed portrayal of this earnest homicidal killer never loses our sympathy. Much like Elijah Wood’s Maniac (although not quite as perfect a performance), I often found myself looking at Jerry and thinking, “oh you poor thing”. It’s not an easy feat for an actor to be a sympathetic villain, and I did not think Ryan Reynolds was capable of such a layered performance, especially not without Van Wilder popping up mid-scene (oh my god how I hated that bloody movie), but happily I was wrong.

Seriously, hated Van Wilder…moving on.

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Stylistically, director Marjane Satrapi (writer and co-director of the uniquely beautiful Persepolis) bathes Jerry’s strange world in light and color, but allows us glimpses into the bleak reality that Jerry cannot (or more likely will not) see. This duality is ever present in The Voices , good and evil, light and darkness and most poignantly the sweetness of fantasy compared to the bitter pill of the real world, a world that Jerry steadfastly avoids living in.

All in all, this is a fascinating movie, deeply flawed at times (especially the ending) but definitely interesting. I must admit though that I had to watch it twice, mainly because the first time I was so distracted watching Reynolds’ face for any sign of a tell-tale raised eyebrow or smart alec expression, that I missed the whole point of the movie (cause I’m nutty like that), but pleasantly there was no irony to be found.

In fact, The Voices’ boasts Ryan Reynolds’ best performance to date, which absolutely makes it a movie worth watching, even if it could have been way better. Still, it’s an enjoyable movie, and if there’s one thing I’m hoping for it’s a spin-off starring Mr. Whiskers, cause that little fucker is funny as hell.

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