The Voices (2014)

What if Dr Dolittle was a serial killer?

It’s not often that you get a film about a man with mental health issues that effortlessly balances comedy, empathy, gore and horror – but the largely ignored film “The Voices” (2014) starring Ryan Reynolds, Anna Kendrick, Gemma Arterton and Jacki Weaver does just that. It’s a downright hilarious film that shows you the world from the very unique perspective of mentally unstable Jerry. Jerry navigates through life with the help of his talking pets – the lovable dopey dog Boscoe and his viciously sassy cat Mr Whiskers who act like the Angel and Devil on jerry’s shoulder.


The film received positive reviews from critics but fell into relative obscurity due to a limited release and minimal publicity. The film only came to my attention by accident after being offered free tickets to an early screening of the film at FACT Liverpool, otherwise it would be entirely likely I’d have completely missed it too. In fairness not giving the film a wide release and big publicity budget was probably the correct move as it caters to a certain type of movie goer. It’s often bubblegum pop aesthetic, main characters and actors  are appealing to one type of audience buts its black comedy, dark plot and excessive gore, swearing and general weirdness probably appeal to another audience completely. Anna Kendrick for example is very much a Marmite actor but even me as a massive fan would (wrongly) question her casting in a dark horror comedy.


I left the cinema expecting this film to slowly gather a cult following as it has all the aspects and potential for that but I’m still yet to meet anyone who has even heard of it unless I’ve personally sat them down to watch it. It’s a shame especially as for me Ryan Reynolds puts in his best performance to date and yes I’m even saying he plays this role better than his universally adored Deadpool.


Reynolds plays the main character of Jerry the lovable naive serial killer as well as providing the voices for both of his pets, a half dead deer and his sock puppet Bunny Monkey. He manages to keep you on side with Jerry even as he spirals further and further down the rabbit hole of murder and decapitation. It’s seriously impressive as you find yourself almost trying to justify his actions, if not just truly empathising with his heartbreaking family history that brought me to tears. His character awkwardness and lack of confidence is so endearing that’s it’s also the most attractive I’ve ever found Ryan Reynolds, perhaps that says something more about me than the character but he makes me swoon in this film.


However Jerry isn’t the best role Reynolds plays in the film, not even close in fact. Enter Mr Whiskers. If you have ever wondered what a cat would say if it could speak I’d say this is about as close as you are going to get. Mr Whiskers is straight up vicious, crude, evil and absolutely hysterical. Full off witty one liners, insults and vulgar questions it’s safe to say he’s my new sprit animal.


I mean I couldn’t even decide on one gif to use to represent him.


Without giving too much away the plot focuses on Jerry trying to fit in at the office making friends, join a Conga Line and dabbling at dating the office’s stunning English girl Fiona played by Gemma Arterton. After initially standing him up for a karaoke party the date goes ahead with an unfortunate accident that leads to Fiona’s head being placed in the fridge to flirt and hurl insults at Jerry when needed. Don’t worry about Jerry’s love life though Anna Kendrick’s Lisa doesn’t mourn her friend for long before taking her man.


Jacki Weaver plays Jerry’s psychologist and through these sessions we are given some incite and great character building moments for Jerry as well as some superb acting on both parts. Despite some suspicions and unsuccessful attempts to get Jerry back on the medication it’s not long before Fiona has a friendly head in the fridge and another woman tied up on the couch. Cue some great moments where we see the world from others or Jerry’s medicated perspective that quickly snap you back to the reality. They highlight that despite all the laughs there is some pretty dark stuff going on.


The ending to the story is, well depressing but necessary and I’m glad they committed to that. However have no fear just when you think you were gonna leave this film on a down beat along comes one of the best musical credit endings ever featuring the talents of all the cast and Jesus.


So in conclusion it’s a crazy, dark but ultimately fun film that you need to watch. It’s a cult film to be, so lets make sure that happens even if it’s just so I can selfishly have someone to talk about it with and endlessly quote to. Grab a friend, grab some gin, popcorn, sit back and enjoy the craziest yet funniest movie night you will have anytime soon.


SM

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Previously, on Screaming Queenz…

We’ll be back after our little Summer break next week. Meanwhile have you caught up on all our podcast episodes so far? Here’s a selection for your delectation. A mix of vampires, witches, Italian slashers and good old-fashioned monster movies. All of them come with an unhealthy dose of camp humour, poor taste and disgusting language!

From Peter Cushing to porno, the references for Fright Night come thick and fast…

So who the fuck died and made the Babadook a gay icon? With a little help from The Village People we decipher just why this demonic children’s fable cashed in on the pink pound…

Who knew the eternally young Lost Boys would ever hit 30? Well they just did, so reminisce with big hair, 80s power rock, and the dark underbelly of Hollywood paedophiles…

Which witch are you? A badass 90s high-schooler or a psychadelic 70s lesbian with a penchant for S&M? Check out our two-parter on witches in horror, both parts here:

Do you like giallo? We love giallo. What the fuck is giallo? Find out here:

There’s like 37 more episodes for you to get your teeth into over on SoundCloud but you can also hear them via Podbean and Itunes, links below. So listen, laugh, loathe if you must. Get in touch and let us know your thoughts, get me on twitter @jonnylarkin or email us at Screamingqueenz@gmail.com!

JL

http://screamingqueenz.podbean.com

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/screaming-queenz/id1070845275?mt=2

Folk Horror

As a break from the collaboration series, I thought it would be interesting to look at a couple of my favourite bands that have taken inspiration from the obscure world of folk horror.

“Folk Horror” is an unusual term, it usually tends to mean a loose collection of UK films from the 60’s and 70’s, films from the likes of Hammer, Amicus and Tigon. Most of these films would contain themes of Black Magic, Devil worshipping cults, ritual sacrifices, things of that nature. It is a hard genre to pin down and sure to cause many arguments among genre fans. I’ve recently seen one or two articles including more modern films within the folk horror genre. Films like “The Blair Witch Project” would kind of fit as a modern take on a folk horror film I guess, witches in the woods, rituals and sacrifices.

the-blair-witch-project

Equally I’ve seen films like Haxan, which we’ve discussed before, listen here:

https://soundcloud.com/screamingqueenzpodcast/wicca-please-part-2-the-devil-got-inside-me

… and Onibaba considered by some people to be early examples of folk horror dealing as they do with folklore and superstition, except both these films are from outside the UK, so I’m sure that may cause an argument or two! I don’t claim to be an expert on the genre by any means, more of an interested fan, I am a huge fan of Onibaba though so any excuse I get to plug a favourite of mine, I’ll take it.

Onibaba

We will get around to doing a Folk Horror episode soon I’m sure, one of the films considered to be part of the “Big Three” of folk horror we have already spoken about, that being the Vincent Price classic Witchfinder General. See link above for that episode!

witchfinder-LG

Undoubtedly the highest profile of the films that traditionally tend to get lumped together under the umbrella term of Folk Horror and one of the greatest horror films ever to come from the UK, also featuring one of the titans of UK horror, is 1973’s The Wicker Man.

Wicker man 1

I’ll save going into a full review of the Wicker Man as it really deserves all our input and  I’m sure it will pop up in an episode in the not-too-distant future. While the artists included here might not be to everybody’s taste, hopefully it will at least be an interesting read from a horror fan perspective.

Agalloch

The first band I want to highlight is an American band out of Portland called Agalloch, The band played an unusual blend of styles with elements of Black Metal, Doom Metal, Post-rock and Folk. There’s not really a band to compare them to I don’t think, a genuinely unique band.

Agalloch

Starting out in the mid-90’s until calling it a day in 2016 Agalloch released 5 albums and numerous demos/EP’s/compilations in their 20 year history. Many of their songs focus on aspects of nature and themes of Paganism and Pantheism, you can see why a film like the Wicker Man might speak to them.

Here’s a typical example of one of their songs. They rely very much on creating an atmosphere to express the darker side of mankind and our strange relationship to nature, at times basking in the beauty of it, but at the same time lamenting that we sometimes go out of our way to destroy it.

In 2008 they released an EP entitled “The White”, for this release they do away with the majority of the other heavier elements and stick almost exclusively to the Folk elements. The White EP contains several samples from the Wicker Man sprinkled throughout, there’s some of my favourite lines of dialogue from the film.

A few years ago Agalloch released another EP entitled “Faustian Echoes” taking inspiration this time from the classic German tale of Faust. The EP ending up being one single song, running time, 22 minutes!

Faust-calls-upon-the-Devil

I was pleased to find that somebody on youtube has edited the song with footage of F.W. Murnua’s 1926 silent classic, which you can see below. I’m quite the fan of the German Expressionist era so I think it’s well worth seeking out the full film if you’ve never seen it. Some of the imagery is simply incredible and would be highly influential on many films in the future, well, the past to us but the future in 1926.

Blood Ceremony

Another band that I believe takes a lot of influence from folk horror are the Canadian band Blood Ceremony.

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Blood Ceremony hail from Toronto, formed in 2006 by Alia O’Brien, the singer/flautist/organist and all-round brains behind the band.

Blood Ceremony have been described as many things in the past, one of my favourites being “Witch rock” They draw on many influences musically, there’s a little Jethro Tull thrown in there with the addition of the flute giving a folky feel to a lot of the material, certainly elements of Black Sabbath are present too. The fact that they’re hard to classify is part of the appeal I think, it’s a bit different and a bit esoteric.

Most of their material draws influence from general horror themes, witchcraft, sacrifices, black magic, that sort of thing. You get quite a strong folk horror vibe from the video I think, with a hint of 60’s psychedelia thrown in. Skulls and rituals and Astrological themed mumbo-jumbo. Wouldn’t be surprised to see a green Barbara Steele pop up at one point.

BarbaraSteelejpg4pcb1fef68

Blood Ceremony seem to take a good amount of influence from a pretty obscure W. Somerset Maugham  novel from 1908 called “The Magician” telling the story of Oliver Haddo and his attempts at creating artificial lifeforms by way of sacrifices.

Interestingly enough the famous occultist Aleister Crowley was apparently unhappy with the novel’s main character, believing it to be caricature of himself and accused the author of plagiarism.

TheMagician1926

“The Magician” would end up getting it’s own big screen adaptation in 1926, with some even believing that James Whale’s later Frankenstein films took no small amount of influence from it.

I started this article talking about The Wicker Man and sure enough, Blood Ceremony do have their own song about The Wicker Man, it’s interesting to note that this song is unusual in that it’s the only song that Alia doesn’t perform the main vocal duties.

It’s a bit more of a sombre affair in comparison to a lot of their material, but I’m all for variety.

The influence and legacy of these folk horror films can still be seen and felt now. Some might even argue that it’s had something of a revival recently with the likes of last year’s surprise hit “The Witch” and Ben Wheatley’s duo of “Kill List” and “A Field in England”, the latter of which uses a similar Civil War setting as Witchfinder General.

afie19-reece-shearsmith-as-whitehead-by-dean-rogers-low-res

Speaking of Witchfinder General, if you’ve never seen the video for Cathedral’s song about Mr. Hopkins it’s certainly worth a look,  if only for it’s strangeness.

The influences of horror in general on many bands is huge, and I may get into other bands / film genres at another point if people enjoy this and would like to hear more about the music / horror intersection.

JB