Based on the Korean Manhwa (comic book) It's Two People, Ga-in is a happy Korean girl whose seemingly perfect life does a U-turn when at a family wedding the bride (Ga-in's aunt) is thrown by her fiancÚ from a balcony. While recovering, Ga-in's aunt is viciously murdered in her hospital bed by another aunt. More family members end up dead by other family members, and after being haunted by a freakish creature in her dreams, warning her of more murders to come, Ga-in becomes convinced that she's suffering from a curse. Determined to get to the bottom of things, Ga-in is forced to trust no one, not even herself.
Titled 'Du saram-yida' (Someone Behind You) in its native South Korea, VOICES is director/writer Ki-hwan Oh's first whack at the genre. So, what better way to break into the horror genre and the North American market than to sign your film up for the After Dark Horrorfest? Really, it probably wouldn't make it to Cannes. But despite the rather original premise, VOICES unfortunately ends up saying a whole lot of nothing.
For starters, the film looks like almost every other South Korean horror film, in that it's beautifully shot. Many scenes, both the horrific and the mundane, are captured with the varying yet muted colour palette that's quickly becoming the norm for these films. This probably isn't a good thing in the long run, but really, you can't help but take note of it, especially when us Westerners are digging the grungy look, nowadays. Comparably, the violence is plentiful and is captured in the energizing and bloody way that we all go ga-ga over.
The other thing that piqued by interest was the somewhat new take on the whole 'curse' thing. Instead of watching a video or entering a house where a guy whacked his family, you get hexed by a little thing called jealousy (or is it anger?). Piss somebody off, you get that somebody trying to jab scissors into your face. It's all helped by the fact that Ga-in comes across as a likable and deep character.
Unfortunately, the film falls apart soon after it gets going, and whether due to some questionable writing or if something was lost in translation, VOICES starts blabbing incoherently as a story. As I said, I wasn't sure if it was jealousy or anger that sets folks off in the film, due to a lack of a clear explanation. Furthermore, at the start you're led to think that Ga-in's curse is contained within her family, but then the thing turns into a curse that seems to be inherited by Ga-in, where anyone so much as looks at her wrong gets the inkling to kill her. Then the thing switches again into a friggin' pandemic.
Eventually, VOICES turns into a by-the-numbers Asian horror flick involving curses. The soundtrack (TALE OF TWO SISTERS, anyone?), the characters (Asian schoolgirls?), the twists (that would be telling), the build-ups and so on all feel old and have all been seen before. It's sort of like the Western film equivalent of remakes/reboots, where everyone and their dog have a remake on the go, and try as they might, end up becoming making an addition to the lineup of me-too films that bring nothing new to the table. I have to wonder how long until VOICES gets its Stateside remake...
Video: Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, the film looks spot on. Details for the most part were pretty good, although deliberate or not, some scenes were a bit on the soft side. Stylistically, the colour palatte varies from strong to muted, and was great either way. There are a few instances of ghosting and some grain, but you'd be stretched to point it out to a non-discerning viewer.
Audio: No dubbing here. We get the original Korean Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track, which sounds great (even if I don't speak Korean). You get the gradual crescendos helping to up the tension, as well as the more sudden loud cues from the score. Don't worry, we do get optional English subtitles.
The only extra involves the return of the Ms. Horrorfest Webisodes, which feature some moderately attractive goth chicks vying for the title of Ms. Horrorfest by doing various competitions. Yeah, I don't know why, either.
As with the other releases this year, VOICES gets a lenticular slipcase featuring its onesheet, which fittingly seems familiar.
VOICES could've been a nice spin, but unfortunately disappears into the mire of being just another horror film from Asia, with nothing new being brought to the dance. Taking the same characters, music and basic premise as you've seen before, and add to that holes in the plot regarding just what exactly the origin of the curse is, you won't see anything new or understand just what the real deal is. It's not a bad film, but it's been done before, and much better.