DEAD VOICES (2020)

Dead Voices.jpg

Studio:      High Octane Pictures
Director:    William Butler
Writer:      Jacob Kyle Young
Producer:  Jacob Kyle Young, Melissa Vitello
Stars:     Jacob Kyle Young, Lochlyn Munro, Angelica Briones, Lauren Albo, Jack Buckley, Cody Anderson, Naama Silver

Review Score:

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Summary:

Two sisters hire a psychic medium to contact a dead boyfriend and end up immersed in a satanic mystery at a woodland cabin.


Synopsis:     

Review:

Sara broke her boyfriend Lucas¡¯s heart when she turned down his marriage proposal in 2018. Adding unintentional insult to humiliating injury, Sara¡¯s sister Emily recorded the awkward event under the presumption it wouldn¡¯t have an unhappy ending.

Sara simply couldn¡¯t bring herself to become a military wife. Her worst fears were validated the following year when an IED explosion left Lucas presumed dead in Iraq. Sara moved on with a new beau, but Emily intends to open old wounds by trying to literally revisit old ghosts for a college project.

With her sister¡¯s reluctant permission, Emily turns on her camera and starts searching for a medium who can find out what happened to Lucas. After a seeming psychic strikeout with Paul, Emily hits apparent paydirt with Mike. Unknown voices tell Mike that Lucas might not be dead after all, and the mystery of his whereabouts could be connected to a remote family ranch. Things get weirder when Emily, Mike, and Sara head out to that location and find signs of Satanism as well as strange shrieks and shadows in the night. Whatever Lucas may have been involved in, it now has the sisters in its clutches too.

Unless a shotgun wedding between the dusty subgenres of cabin in the woods creeper and ¡°found footage¡± lights your cigar, you won¡¯t need a crystal ball to predict ¡°Dead Voices¡± will bring you an evening of unfulfilling entertainment. The first ¡°uh oh¡± premonition arrives immediately after opening logos when a girl who looks like she¡¯s still in high school appears as a network news anchor to tell us about the two missing sisters. Trust me when I tell you believability does not get any better from here.

Headlines accompanying press for ¡°Dead Voices¡± boast about a ¡®Riverdale¡¯ star in the cast. No, not Camila Mendes, Cole Sprouse, or another one of the pinup-perfect young heartthrobs. That star is Lochlyn Munro, a.k.a. Betty Cooper¡¯s father Hal, taking the kind of in-and-out cameo usually reserved for a genre movie mercenary like Eric Roberts or Malcolm McDowell.

Munro appears onscreen for only three minutes. His two brief scenes occur days apart, maybe months, yet he¡¯s wearing the same shirt both times, erasing any doubt about him filming his footage as fast as possible before cutting and running. I can¡¯t be sure if his ham sandwich performance is a result of not giving a spit since he¡¯s slumming it in DTV horror, or if he genuinely thinks a psychic in a trance should cartoonily contort like Ace Ventura sticking his tongue in a bug zapper. In a meta moment, Munro¡¯s inconsequential character then abruptly says, ¡°I need to leave¡± and exits permanently just 10 minutes into the movie. So if Lochlyn Munro¡¯s prominent placement as a supposedly featured player attracts you to ¡°Dead Voices,¡± you¡¯re going to be doubly pissed at the film¡¯s misleading marketing.

What scant kind words there are for ¡°Dead Voices¡± can be volleyed directly at Lauren Albo and Angelica Briones, who play sisters Emily and Sara. Both actresses have inviting presences, but it¡¯s Briones who impresses most with a surprising ability to cry on cue in scenes that exhibit authentic acting ability. It¡¯s easy to roll cynical eyes at her tear-stained sniffles, yet Briones puts up an infinitely more impassioned performance than viewers are used to seeing in this brand of B-movie. Oftentimes she¡¯s too impassioned, though that can be pinned on the director for not guiding Briones to use her tools correctly. She and Albo don¡¯t salvage ¡°Dead Voices¡± singlehandedly, but they do bring a dim light to its disappointing darkness.

Even Katharine Hepburn couldn¡¯t mold a diamond out of the script¡¯s towering piles of clich¨¦d coal. Jacob Kyle Young wrote the screenplay. He also plays medium Mike, making it more than a little suspicious that Mike has a sex session with each sister, conveniently setting up Young to make out with both women.

The movie¡¯s biggest blunder comes in the setup stage when Mike leaves Emily and Sara¡¯s home. In a sequence so forcibly faked it would make a kindergarten drama teacher cringe, a woman just happens to be driving by at the moment Mike steps out the door. The curious woman calls out, ¡°Patrick?¡± Mike shrugs her off with, ¡°Sorry babe, wrong guy¡± and walks away as she continues calling the other name.

Emily thinks nothing of the odd encounter, but we now know Mike isn¡¯t who he says he is. There must be one hundred less obvious ways to drop this clue about Mike¡¯s true identity without the improbable coincidence of a random driver recognizing him in a five-second window. What¡¯s worse, ¡°Dead Voices¡± doesn¡¯t need to give us this information at all. Its telegraphed twist might actually deliver a mild shock if the movie wasn¡¯t playing with all of its cards facing the audience.

Snipping that ham-fisted scene wouldn¡¯t solve countless other issues. ¡°Dead Voices¡± dates itself by drowning in ¡°found footage¡± staples that rusted 20 years ago including video glitches, recording a tearful confession in selfie view, repeatedly calling someone¡¯s name while wandering the woods, a camera that frames properly no matter where it haphazardly drops, lame lines like ¡°(My psychic ability) may be a gift, but it¡¯s also a curse,¡± and an audience left constantly wondering, ¡°why are they still filming?¡± Horror is so far past everything ¡°Dead Voices¡± has to offer, the movie may as well tie a tag around its own toe.

Review Score: 30