The Voices stars Ryan Reynolds as a disturbed young man who takes counsel from his cat and dog before cutting the heads off of young women. Director Marjane Satrapi tries really hard to make dismemberment fun, but this broad, tone-deaf comedy about a psychotic killer flops miserably for one key reason: there's no point to its pseudo-subversive premise.
There's a long line of notable black comedies about murder, but the best of them still remember to take human life seriously, using the acknowledged severity of death and the weight of its associated loss to inform a potent theme or social commentary. It's difficult to discern any design in the bloody mayhem of The Voices beyond the juvenile thrill of doing something naughty.
Satrapi's visual approach is stylistically appealing, with a bright, candy-colored, artificial aesthetic meant to express the lead character's delusional state of mind, but it also represents a bewildering inversion of the real effects of anti-psychotic medication. She and writer Michael R. Perry so fundamentally misunderstand the subject of their own movie — and take such pains to mitigate their antihero's monstrous actions — that it only works as pure fantasy, in which case it's a depressingly sick exercise. If The Voices is intended as satire, a satire of what? the mentally ill? Whatever the intent, Satrapi and Perry only make a mockery of themselves.
Gemma Arterton and Anna Kendrick are saddled with miserably stupid characters who are depressing to behold; Jackie Weaver has an equally thankless role as criminally negligent psychologist; Reynolds is OK in his shticky role, but the backwards conceit of the movie rarely permits him any moments of honesty. Those brief glimpses at reality — the ones during which his pets stop speaking in ghastly comical dialects and the horror of his life is plain to see — are The Voices' only moments of merit; the rest is a profoundly callous and gross misfire.
The Voices, with its meaningless gore, is a very odd choice for Satrapi, who wrote so movingly about her childhood in and out of Iran's murderous post-revolution regime in her two-part graphic novel series and movie Persepolis.
The Voices was brought to my Potluck Film Fest by Flickcharter Nigel Druitt, who can be found on Flickchart under the username johnmason. He ranks it on his chart at #485 / 1685 (71%), making it his 13th favorite Black Comedy out of 36. The Voices ranked on my Flickchart at #2996 (22%), putting it at #140 on my chart of 172 Black Comedies.