Voices (2007) / Horror-Thriller
aka Du saram-yida
aka Someone Behind You
MPAA Rated: R for strong, bloody violence throughout, and some language
Running time: 84 min.
Cast: Jin-seo Yun, Gi-woong Park, Ki-woo Lee
Director: Ki-hwan Oh
Screenplay: Ki-hwan Oh (based on the manhwa, "It's Two People," by Kang Kyung-ok)
Loosely based on the South Korean comic book series by Kang Kyung-ok, known in English as "It's Two People," Oh Ki-Kwan's (Art of Seduction, Last Present) adaptation takes what may be relatively rare in comic books (serialized horror) and makes it into a routine film. There's very little, if anything, in Voices that you haven't seen before in any number of recent horror entries, which leaves its appeal mostly to J-horror fanatics who base their enjoyment of a film solely on slow atmosphere and copious amounts of bloodshed.
There isn't a great deal of storyline. A teenager named Ga-in (Yun, Oldboy) is terrified after she discovers that her family and friends around her are exhibiting bouts of homicidal tendencies for reasons she cannot begin to fathom. Could the mysterious stranger in school have something to do with it, is it a family curse, or is it her own hidden desires and fears being projected? Not able to trust anyone, she's going o have to get to the bottom of the mystery herself, and hopefully before she loses everyone she cares about in the process.
Plot points are telegraphed early and often. Scenes of Ga-in engaged in the sport of fencing will come into play late in the film, as expected. It takes her much longer than the audience to realize just what's behind all of the murders and attempted murders, and the nature of who the mysterious strange boy in school who seems to be around whenever a homicidal flare-up appears. As there isn't much of a mystery to solve, nor much of a storyline to follow, all writer-director Ki-hwan Oh, working for the first time in the horror genre, can deliver on is in the gore department to keep horror fanatics interested. There isn't a great deal of gore, and most of the acts of violence are not actually shown on the screen, though the gooey sound effects and buckets of blood that are sprayed everywhere may still have some feeling very uneasy.
Even at 84 minutes, Voices often feels padded for time, with shots that linger, developments that go on past their effectiveness to the story (a girl in a hospital bed is stabbed dozens of times before she expires), and some flashbacks that have little utility to what's going on in the present. Scares come at regular intervals and often make no sense (Ga-in is attacked by some sort of demonic creature that reaches out from her school locker for no reason). If it were a half-hour segment of a horror anthology, perhaps this might have been effective enough to think it worth a look, but with nearly an hour of material best left on the cutting room floor, it will likely make some anxious viewers feel a bit restless when there isn't much going on, especially those who've figured out where the story is going. Nice cinematography, but of limited interest, strictly for those who prefer blood-soaked stabbings to graphically gory dismemberments in the visceral horror subgenre.
©2009 Vince Leo