Movies

{Movie Review} Dead Voices (2020)

To me, found footage is like lasagna. I never crave it but will occasionally work it into the rotation. I know what to expect each time I sit down to have it. When it’s done well, I am satisfied, but rarely blown away. On the other hand, when it’s done poorly, I am left feeling nauseous and wondering why I chose it in the first place. So when I watched the trailer and read the synopsis for Dead Voices, I decided to end my four year hiatus from found footage to give it a shot, and I am very happy with my decision.

Dead Voices is the well-made labor of love from its lead actor, Jacob Kyle Young, who also wrote, produced, and edited the film. Directed by William Butler (Madhouse), the film is fast paced with plenty of twists and turns building to an absolute blitz at the end. The movie is carried by three characters Mike (Jacob Kyle Young), Sara (Angelica Briones), and Emily (Lauren Albo). One strength of the film is its quick start. Unlike many other movies in the genre, there is very little time spent on set up interviews or backstory. Dead Voices sets the foundation without feeling rushed.

The premise is simple: Sara’s ex-boyfriend, Lucas, is missing and presumed dead in Iraq, but his body has not been recovered. Emily, Sara’s sister, decides to use this as an opportunity to give her sister the answers she needs, while also completing a project for school. The first potential medium they interview is Paul (Lochlyn Munro), but Sara and Emily do not feel he is the real deal. So he’s out. Next they meet with Mike and he hints that Lucas may in fact still be alive at his parents’ house, which is out in the middle of nowhere. Desperate for answers Sara wants to move forward, while Emily, isn’t sure Mike’s legit. All we know is the next scene has Sara and Emily in the car on the way to Lucas’ parents’ house. And it begins.

In addition to pacing, another strength of the film is its simplicity. Three characters, isolation, evil spirits, alcohol, and handheld cameras. This simple formula sets the pace early. While a small cast really helps keep things simple, it also puts a great deal of pressure on the main characters. They all delivered solid performances. Sure, there was some forced dialogue, and occasional overacting. However, in the case of Dead Voices, these flaws feel more endearing than distracting. Since overall the acting is very solid, these minor blemishes help solidify Dead Voices’ position within the world of indie found footage filmmaking by making it feel professionally amateur.

Mike (Young) is consistent in his role. He is cryptic with emotional outbursts that range from terrified to the point of slobbery tears to angered to the point of uncontrollable rage. He also adds to the suspense by randomly disappearing from time to time. His erratic behavior, mixed with the fact he’s a medium, leads to a reasonable amount of suspicion.

Sara (Briones) is great. Her behavior is all over the place. Which is easy to understand given the stress she’s under, the possible influence of demons, and the fact that she is off her medication. Medication has played a large role in other movies this year. This creates an air of believably, especially during the times that she does everything wrong, which is often. If anything, I found myself wanting to protect Sara from everything, including herself. As the story progressed, I wondered if the primary threat was the demon or Sara, or maybe Sara under the influence of the demon. Either way, her unraveling kept me invested as I tried to guess what would come next.

While both Mike and Sara lead with intensity, I found myself most intrigued with Emily’s (Albo) character. As things heat up, it is her behavior that was most confusing and inconsistent. Which added to the notion that something sinister may be influencing her choices. At one point Sara bolts from the cabin and has been gone for hours. Emily looks for her for a few minutes, then returns to the cabin, gets drunk, sleeps with Mike, and takes a nap before she heads back out to look for Sara. Doesn’t seem to make sense, but maybe that’s the point.

At some point, you can’t help but ask “why are they still filming.” It is obvious that Emily and Sara are amateurs, so her dedication to filming these events in the face of imminent danger is unlikely. That said, this flaw was helped a bit by the fact that at one point or another all three characters jump into the role of filming the events. Then there are the times when the camera has been moved and no one knows who moved it. Once again, adding to the ominous feeling that someone or something is interfering with their investigation. Instead of taking away from the suspense, Emily’s curious behavior worked well in adding suspense and hopelessness to the plot by making it clear that the girls were in way over their heads.

In addition to the pacing and simplicity, the movie was enhanced by the film’s production value. There are no nauseating bouncing shots in this one. Each shot is crystal clear, and the handhelds do a great job of placing us smack dab in the middle of the mayhem. Some of my favorite scenes were when the camera was used as a flashlight, only instead of providing comfort, the light enhanced the depth of the black hole that threatened to engulf them at any moment.

Courtesy of Post Modern Entertainment

In the end, Dead Voices is one hell of a ride. The breakneck pace, solid acting, variety of scares, and plot twists build to an explosive finish. While the film’s final scene left me with questions, I was more than satisfied. In fact, I liked Dead Voices so much that I watched it three times, then watched four other movies from the same genre. So, much like lasagna, just sit back, relax, and enjoy it. Who knows once it’s over, you may find that you liked it enough to go searching for more. Dead Voices gets a wide VOD release in July.

3 comments

  1. Thank you so much for the thorough review, Kyle! I appreciate the time you took to watch my movie and I’m so happy you enjoyed it.

    Reply
    • Jacob, It was my pleasure. You made a fantastic movie. I can even imagine how much work you and your team must have put into making Dead Voices, but it really paid off. I am hoping Dead Voices will quickly become a fan favorite once it’s released in July. Best of luck and keep up the great work.

      Reply
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