Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Voices (2007)

An explanation for why murder/suicides really happen

Have you ever wished someone around you would just die or go away but kept your actions to yourself? Hey, hey, not all at once. Well, getting along with those you normally have to isn't even an option here. One thing that should be learned about the experience is that it isn't very liberating, just a dark and deplorable look at primitive emotions that were thought to be left back in the cavemen days. This is a supernatural horror tale from Korea that centers around a teenage girl where those that get too close try and kill her.

After a horrific opening scene with a family getting mudered, it plays out with some humor and good natured vibes, until a woman named Ji-sun falls off a balcony at her own wedding. If that wasn't enough, when she's in the hospital her sister brutally stabs her to death. There appears to be certain violent tragedies in the family with kin killing kin dating sometime back. Her niece, a teenage girl named Ga-in Kim, is having nightmares about "something" out to get her, which makes her ill. She's in the nurses office when she gets attacked by someone who is jealous about an earlier event. The morose new kid at school gives her advice that it wasn't just an "accident" (must have been a mistranslation to mean "coincidence" instead) and that she shouldn't trust anyone--friends, family and herself included. Soon enough more attacks happen and she tries to piece it together that it may be a curse by asking her auntie and older relative about what's making people out for blood.

Part of the story doesn't transition as smoothly as it could have, that she would just go with it that it is a curse. The people don't always look ghostly and often speak with her during the attacks. Now, from an audience's point of view it may be more effective at making you think back when someone has killed their family or friends that they didn't look any different either. Though from her character's point of view, they're just jealous of her happiness. Possibly Asian culture has a closer acceptance of superstitions, but for some skeptical western audiences there isn't always more of a convincing element to make you cross over with her. The rules of its mythology are spread about, so part of its own mechanics don't always line up about when certain people become violent and when they don't. Or what pulls them out of the trance and what can keep that going for a longer period of time. There are some effective uses of anticipation but this usually jumps right into them to make sure you still have a functioning heart beat. It makes the events happen more at random than the filmmakers intended them to since it tries to do the whole one-by-one format like a slasher and string it along till an ending revelation that might make sense then but not always during.

There's a kind of hidden moral message here with jealousy, rage and hate fermenting inside for those that might have better opportunities than you. It deals with temptations to erase that person from this world that is causing you so much pent up turmoil. Whether you give in or not is possibly an option I'd imagine--at least I'd hope for the sake of the human race--but this keeps it downbeat in that everybody is susceptible to a risk of seeing nothing but red. There are no heroes here and the relating points that you might find to the character's lives are trampled at some point for scares and shock. This is told from Ga-in's perspective, so at certain points the story is heavily elusive--more like a never-ending nightmare than a typical narrative unfolding--and it's hard to make heads or tales for a share of it till the end as a result. The atmosphere is somewhat depressing in that she has to eventually avoid human contact and goes around in a state of confusion.

"Voices" tries to make you lower your guard by showing a scary scene, then a positive one, then back to putting the fear of murder back in you. It delivers a sort of black-and-white, tense-and-relax type of formula that sprinkles some personality and dramatic moments into the characters to make it more impactful when a senseless and unexplainable situation of violence ensues. This mode of filmmaking doesn't always come with a natural tone and flow by at times resembling a template to manipulate the audience into a certain emotion. Part of that keeps this just a cinematic experience than an organically occurring possibility. This is cruel and bloody for the morbid onlookers, and the performances are well-received in either behaving normally or crazed. "Voices" has some neat ideas to work with, they just weren't all told in an appropriate order, and would have made more sense watching this from the ending to the beginning. Sometimes I wonder if surprise endings are worth it, as some filmmakers, western ones too, want to hold on to that twist for dear life, even if it can jeopardize part or all of the rest of the picture.

Rating: 6/10

Director: Ki-hwan Oh (Art of Seduction)
Link: IMDB

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