A pair of sisters head off into a cabin in the woods, armed only with a video camera and a suspiciously muscular psychic to try and contact the spirit of an old boyfriend, a soldier who they think was killed in Iraq although his body was never found.
That’s the basic premise of Dead Voices, the new ‘found footage’ film from William Butler (3 Bears Christmas). Like a lot of “found footage” horror movies, Dead Voices pretends to be all that was left in the girls’ damaged camera when it was discovered, presumably by Butler, at the cabin following some ‘awful tragedy. Like a lot of “found footage” movies, Dead Voices is filled with a lot of tedious, unnecessary camera shots that are supposed to make you believe the person in the film is running down a hallway or through the woods, even though anyone trying to film those scenes while running either away from or towards a suspicious noise would fall flat on their faces.
And, like a lot of “found footage” movies, Dead Voices would have been better if Butler had tossed the idea of it being a fake “found footage” documentary and just shot a regular horror movie. Much better. The last 20 minutes or so of Dead Voices, where the story threads are pulled together into a very satisfying plot twist, are really good, so good they almost rise above the “found footage” limitations that hamper the first hour of the film.
The acting in Dead Voices, is a bit uneven. The sisters, played by Naama Silver and Angelica Briones, have a few outstanding moments in the movie, primarily when they are directly addressing the camera. Briones is particularly effective as Abbie, the former girlfriend of the missing soldier who is experiencing the most direct contact with the evil in the cabin; her confessional moment with the audience is the single most effective moment in the film. The two actresses also have plenty of awkward, if not downright awful, moments in the movie when they have to pretend they are not acting. That’s what happens in “found footage” films.
Jacob Kyle Young is the suspiciously muscular psychic and while he certainly knows how to pretend he’s contacting the dead, getting all sweaty and screamy, he doesn’t show any real range beyond the sweating and screaming he does when he is crossing that line. It’s in these quiet moments when he’s just sitting with the sisters or standing in a room that you notice how buff this young psychic is as if he’s been training 6 hours a day just in case the battle with the undead gets physical. And while there’s no reason a person with psychic abilities can’t be a physical fitness enthusiast, Young doesn’t make that connection in his characterization.
Speaking of not making a connection, there is a very brief appearance at the start of the film by genre veteran Lochlyn Munro (Scary Movie, Dracula 2000) as the first psychic the girl’s contact. Seeing him on the screen, even though he (or his character) looks like crap, raises audiences’ expectations in a way that Dead Voices doesn’t deliver upon at all. Munro is in the opening and he’s the biggest presence on the poster, but Lochlyn Munro is not really in the movie.
Despite some stumbles along the way, most of which all stem from Butler’s decision to surrender to the cinematic fools gold of “found footage”, Dead Voices builds enough interest and momentum along the way to carry audiences through to the end and then satisfyingly sticks the landing. And while there is a hint in the final scenes that enough box office success could lead to a Dead Voices II, here’s hoping there isn’t any footage left in the girls’ camera and Butler will have to make the sequel the old fashion way.
- John Black, Dead Voices