Creepy dead people who speak to you is nothing new (hello, 1999’s The Sixth Sense), but creepy dead people talking to a blind woman who also desire reincarnation through the body of her unborn child has definite potential. The feature film debut of director Nathaniel Nuon, The Voices tries to sway from typical horror genre tropes by injecting way too much drama. Horrifying moments are few, however, the ones that are good are great. An eerie early scene where Lily (Valerie Jane Parker) gets offered help across the street from a kid with a bleeding hole in the back of his head evokes Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. My favorite is an intense scene where dead people flood into Lily’s home and chant “we want to be your baby!” It’s a shame the film doesn’t have more of these moments, choosing to focus on unnecessary flashbacks instead.
The horror sequences showcase obvious directorial strengths from Nuon, while other elements are less successful. The horror angle is barely there and is far more intriguing than neighborhood secrets. The road the film eventually takes is underwhelming. Constant narration from Lily is forced and unnecessary, belonging more in a book than a film.
The Voices takes a seemingly simple premise—a girl blinded as a child after a tragic accident hears the voices of dead people—and needlessly complicates it. Excessive setup, backtracking and use of flashback was enough to give me an instant headache. The progression of the story is so sluggishly slow that it was hard to stay interested. Line delivery is stilted, melodramatic and silly. Dialogue about how a new life is formed “when you have too much to drink and a hell of a night” made me giggle in its dull simplicity. The story does have merit and occasionally shows glimmers of promise hampered by budgetary constraints. The climactic final moments are, like other sections of the film, too drawn out. The Voices premieres in select theaters and on demand Friday, April 2nd.