THE VOICES movie poster | ©2021 Vertical Entertainment

THE VOICES movie poster | ©2021 Vertical Entertainment

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Valerie Jane Parker, Jonathan Stoddard, Rezeta Veliu, Ashley Bell, Jordan Ladd, Lauri Hendler, Phil Baker, Jo Ann Olivera, Leslie Easterbrook, Jenna Harvey, Romy Reiner, Colton Reese, Chloe Romanski, Claire Marie Burton
Writers: Daniel Hathcock and Nathaniel Nuon
Director: Nathaniel Nuon
Distributor: Vertical Entertainment
Release Date: April 2, 2021

VOICES begins with two women, Lilly (Valerie Jane Parker) and Emily (Rezeta Veliu), chained up in a dirty room. This makes us momentarily wonder if we’re heading into a torture scenario.

We’re not. With VOICES, director Nathaniel Nuon and his co-writer Daniel Hathcock are trying to make several different types of horror movies at once, while simultaneously going for a character study. There ambitions are more commendable than the results.

Lilly, in voiceover, makes an observation about how sometimes things are much worse than we’d expect.

We flash back to Lilly, working as a psychotherapist. She is married to William (Jonathan Stoddard), has a spacious home, and is blind. She is sympathetic to clients who wonder whether they will see deceased loved ones again.

We then flash back, further, to Lilly’s childhood. Young Lilly (played by Chloe Romanski) misses her deceased father. She and her mother (Ashley Bell, in a cameo) get into a car accident. Mom dies, and Lilly is blinded. She is taken in by her Aunt Becca (Jordan Ladd), who raises her to be a strong young woman.

We also flash back to Lilly’s adolescence (she is played as a teen by Jenna Harvey), when she forms her friendship with Emily (played as a teen by Romy Reiner) and is courted by William (played as a teen by Colton Reese).

Young Lilly sometimes hears people whom other characters can’t see, though the audience can. This phenomenon follows Lilly into adulthood. When Lilly becomes pregnant, one of her clients, Diana (Jo Ann Olivera), who is psychic, says that Lilly is special. She has been granted the ability to choose the soul of her unborn child; if she doesn’t make a choice, it will be made for her, possibly by an evil entity.

There is also a couple in the neighborhood (Lauri Hendler and Phil Baker) who are lying about the whereabouts of a little girl (Claire Marie Burton).

If all of this sounds disjointed, that’s because it is. The frequent jumps back and forth in time provide plenty of back story, but they don’t help with the mythology.

There is a downright peculiar fumble with Lilly’s ability to hear ghosts, in that it never matters plot-wise that she doesn’t also see them. While there is a lot of dialogue around her blindness, it seldom matters to events at all. It’s heartening to see a blind character depicted as someone with a full life – marriage, career, exercise. VOICES, however, can’t seem to make up its mind as to whether being blind makes Lilly more vulnerable than average or not.

Then there are the subplots. Some of them are well-acted but prosaic. One of them has an off-the-charts ick factor. While this is discussed rather than shown visually, it has a weight that the rest of VOICES isn’t equipped to bear.

Director Nuon makes the most of the Mobile, Alabama locations and scenery, giving VOICES atmospheric appeal.

We can applaud VOICES for trying to do several new and different things. The film’s diverse elements might have fared better, though, if they’d been explored in separate projects, rather than lopsidedly blended together.

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