The Voices (2021) starring Jordan Ladd - (Movie Review)

The Voices (2021) starring Jordan Ladd - (Movie Review)
5 10

PLOT: Lilly (Valerie Jane Parker), a blind woman who can hear the voices of the deceased, finds herself at a crossroads when she becomes pregnant and faces the possibility that her baby may inherit her supernatural abilities.

REVIEW: Less of a scary horror film and more of a maudlin coming-of-age Lifetime movie about a woman who can hear ghosts, Nathaniel Nuon’s feature debut The Voices (watch it here) completely squanders its decent premise and fine technical craftsmanship through its muddled multi-timelines, shoddy acting, anodyne atmosphere devoid of any sense of menace, and painfully drawn out runtime...all of which add up to an impenetrably boring affair that will either take the patience of Job or a self-flagellating sadomasochist to finish in a single sitting. Seriously, this 108-minute movie feels like it’s four hours long and is quite a chore to endure, with none of the worthy payoffs you’d hope for or expect to be rewarded with for the painstaking effort of merely completing the film. Despite a freaky image or two, high-production values for its modest budget, and some above average camerawork, Voices can’t overcome its incoherent, uncompelling screenplay and dearth of genuine scare tactics. Do wise and plug your ears when Voices travels your way!

Set across multiple timelines, the story revolves around Lilly, a little girl who becomes a blind orphan following a tragic car accident that claimed her parents life. Raised by her aunt Becca (Jordan Ladd), Lilly soon discovers that she has the ability to hear ghosts in the absence of her eyesight. The film spends the first hour depicting Lilly at various stages of her maturity - from a child (Chloe Romanski), to a preteen (Jenna Harvey), to a teenager (Romy Reiner), and finally as an adult (Valerie Jane Parker) - while coping with her extrasensory curse. As an adult, Lilly has settled down with a husband and the two are expecting their first child. Lilly meets and makes friends with a little ghost girl named Madison (Claire Marie Burton), whose parents turn out to have a horrific hobby that may have led to her death. When Becca falls ill, Lilly is forced to care for her while the added pressures of impending childbirth continue to mount. As the movie slaloms between the timelines to show how Lilly deals with her gift at various stages of her maturity, it’s very difficult to discern the narrative thrust of the story or central dramatic fulcrum on which the film hinges. In other words, I have no idea what the hell is going on for the first hour of this movie.

When a medium enters the scene and informs Lilly that her pregnancy is doomed and that her infant has yet to develop a heartbeat, the plot comes into sharper focus, but never enough to truly care. The primary conflict seems to suggest that the malefic ghosts that tormented Lilly as a child have come back in an attempt to corrupt the soul of her newborn baby. Stuck in a purgatory limbo until the baby develops its first heartbeat, Lilly’s unborn infant is vulnerable to evil reincarnation. This is no doubt the most fascinating facet of the story, but it comes so late in the film accompanied by some poorly rendered CGI ghosts that it hardly makes a difference to the overall result. The dramatic crux of the film is simply too little and arrives too late to compensate for the preceding hour of inferior acting, editing, and storytelling. There is a decent parking garage scene in which Lilly is tormented with a gore-sodden infant as a sort of warning, and another with a sweaty old man aggressively attempting to fellate Lilly under her bed covers, but both are not only dream sequences, but they still can’t atone for the movie’s mawkish tone and lack of atmospheric terror.

Indeed, the temperamental tenor and visual tableau of the film registers as more of a Hallmark horror movie dripping with saccharine sentimentalism. Much of the action takes place in broad daylight and brightly lit, safe and sterile interiors, none of which feel like a macabre horror movie setting that conjures inherent danger. Still, to their credit, the craftsmen behind the camera make the movie appear much better than it is. The film is well lit and competently photographed and the crew members ought to be retained for a better screenplay. But again, Voices spends too much time portraying Lilly’s evolved coming-of-age without clearly laying out the main conflict or making her experiences very scary in the process. On the contrary, Lilly looks back with a wistful glint of nostalgia that lends a laughable Lifetime quality to the proceedings. It’s all so protracted and insufferably drawn-out that it becomes an unpleasant task to simply complete. There’s also the false advertising of the star billing, with Ashley Bell and Leslie Easterbrook on hand for just a single scene or two and Jordan Ladd used too sparingly for fans of either actress to feel satisfied.

To echo the sentiment, Voices is too muted to make a lasting impression. Despite an intriguing premise and some solid craftsmanship, the story is way too confusing, the acting is spotty at best, the runtime is laboriously overstretched, the scare tactics are too scant and ineffective, and the overall tone registers as a weepy Lifetime movie of the week. Honestly, you’re better off watching the 2014 Ryan Reynolds horror-comedy of the same name instead.

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