Last week, a fake trailer made the rounds called “Not Another Sundance Movie,” which parodies every Sundance Film Festival cliche imaginable, from the handclap-soundtracked coming-of-age tale to the gritty story of the poor and depressing. I mention this because The Voices, which premiered at the festival this afternoon, is nobody’s first idea of a Sundance movie. It doesn’t have aimless indie slackers, naturalistic dialogue, or shaky, handheld cinematography; instead, this brightly colored horror comedy has Ryan Reynolds chopping up beautiful ladies because his cat told him to.
Yep, you read that right. In what surely wins the award for the most bizarre logline of the fest, The Voices stars Reynolds as a psychopathically cheery factory employee who heads home every evening to speak to his cat and dog, who continually debate whether he should kill more women. (The cat is for it, the dog not.)
“I mean, it’s fucking insane,” his costar Anna Kendrick said after the premiere.
That it is, Anna! Things start pleasantly enough, but by the time Reynolds makes his first kill, repeatedly stabbing his pretty coworker Gemma Arterton while also apologizing, “I’m sorry if I hurt you!” things take a real turn for the crazy. The scene where Reynolds saws Arterton into little bloody pieces and pops her severed head into the fridge — then imagines the head talking to him, too — pushed more than a few audience members to their limit, thanks to the movie’s gruesome, bone-cutting sound effects. Eventually, Arterton’s head “asks” Reynolds, “Can you get me a friend?” and he sets his murderous sights on Kendrick, his pretty coworker. It does not go well.
Surprisingly, the movie was directed by Marjane Satrapi, the Iranian-born cartoonist who first earned Hollywood’s attention in 2007 with the very different, Oscar-nominated animated feature Persepolis. Even Satrapi could hardly believe that she pulled off such a blood-drenched film. “I read the script and I said to my producer, we are not going to do anything with gore,” Satrapi said at the post-premiere Q&A. “I don’t like blood, there’s no way I’m gonna do this kind of stuff.” But when it came time to film a scene where Arterton is splashed with blood by a talking deer who asks to have his throat slit (it’s that kind of movie, guys), some sort of switch went off in Satrapi. “I was just completely crazy,” she said. “I was like, ‘MORE BLOOD! MORE BLOOD!’ And I realized that I actually really liked it.”
Her mother, on the other hand, was not as enamored of Satrapi’s transformation into a gorehound. “I showed her pieces of the movie and she told me, ‘You’re completely sick in your brain!’ I said, ‘Mom, it’s just a film.’ And she told me, ‘Yeah, but you imagined it. You’re sick in your brain.’” Satrapi laughed. “I really didn’t know that I was this attracted to blood and gore. Now, it’s a whole new world that’s opening for me.”
One thing’s for sure, though: Even if Satrapi becomes our new maestro of horror, she’ll never work with a cat again. “With a cat, you shoot half an hour and you have maybe five seconds that’s usable,” she moaned. “The dog obeys, but the cat! You tell him to sit, and he will not sit. That’s the last thing he will do. Plus, Ryan is scared of cats. And cats don’t like Ryan either.
In fact, said Satrapi, “98 percent of what you see of Ryan and the cat, they’re never in the same room.” The director used spliced shots to put Reynolds and the evil feline together, except for one moment where Reynolds had to overcome his fears and grab the pet for real.
Said Satrapi, “In the scene where he takes the cat and the cat says, ‘Put me down, you fucking psycho, or I’ll shit in your hand,’ I told Ryan, ‘First go and make the cat smell your hand. It takes about four minutes [to make him comfortable]. Just look at him and give him a little caress and then you can take him and everything is gonna be fine.” After she called “action,” though, “What does he do? He just takes the cat, the cat freaks out, they go in the bathroom and the cat just…” It’s here that Satrapi mimed a vicious slice down her forearm, earning horrified winces from an audience that had already been prone to them for the last hour and a half.
“But that’s his fault!” laughed Satrapi. “Be patient! You can’t just go and grab a cat — it’s a cat! It’s not a dog, it’s not your slave. The cat is your master.”