STUDIO: Cj Entertainment
MSRP: $21.99
RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes
• Trailers


The Pitch

The last thing you hear before you yawn.

Phil Spector excelled in the deadly arts even as a classical
music prodigy.

The Humans

Cast: Kim Ok-bin, Seo Ji-hye, Che Ye-Ryeon, Kim Seo-hyeong

Director: Ik-hwan Choe

The Nutshell

Ik-hwan Choe’s Voice, the fourth film in the Whispering Corridors series, follows the ghost of prep school student Yeong-eon (Ok-bin) after she’s brutally murdered during late night vocal practice.  Yeong-eon finds herself trapped within the boundaries of the school and unable to communicate with anyone save her best friend Seon-min (Ji-hye), who can only hear her voice.  Together, Yeong-eon and Seon-min must solve the mystery of Yeong-eon’s death before time runs out and her spirit fades into the windy fog of dusty memories.  Seon-min enlists the help of a clairvoyant student, and soon realizes that there may be more than one ghost haunting the halls of the school.  Yeong-eon spends hours staring mournfully out the window.

After installing the molecule disassembler fields, Aberdeen Prep saw a steep decline in horseplay.

The Lowdown

Marketing fraud warning:

The cover art for Voice makes it look like a grisly mix between Ju-on and Xtro.  The film’s ominous tagline suggests that it will be “The last thing you hear before you die.”  Screencaps from the back of the box emphasize gore and terror.

  Unfortunately, Voice doesn’t live up to any of these representations, and shares more in common with Ghost than it does with Splatter: Naked Blood.  It’s a well-produced, glacially slow, nearly tension-free murder mystery with a needlessly complicated plot.  It’s punctuated with brief moments of suspense and gore, but there isn’t nearly enough of either to sustain Voice as a good horror film.

Witness Munchkinland’s red light district and its unsurprisingly low head clearance.

That’s certainly not to say that successful horror requires gore, or that mystery films need action or violence to work – and we certainly don’t need another dark-haired ghost girl running around the halls of an Asian horror film.  Voice fails not because it isn’t visceral, but because its story and characters aren’t very compelling.  That it spends so much of its running time following our hero ghost shuffle between gloomy hallways as she watches her friends pass by (and sometimes through) her certainly doesn’t help.  The story would have worked much better had it stuck firmly to its original conceit, since the ghost vengeance genre is both fertile and entertaining.  Voice meanders and winds in its second and third acts, and verges on caricature in the end with a muddled and unearned denouement.  Not all ghost films need clever twists. Sometimes the traditional route works best.

Voice‘s biggest sin, however, is that it doesn’t even have much of an antagonist.  Without spoiling too much, there’s no dark and deadly spirit haunting the school, and the living don’t stand in the way of our paranormal detectives, either.  The school feels like a brown and depressing Riverdale High.  As this dawns on the viewer, the tension drains from the film and it becomes a slow Bataan-esque death march to the end of its running time.

It isn’t all bad, though.  The visual effects are all great, and the film quality is stellar.  The scene compositions for some of the notable deaths (see below) are often beautiful, and while the overall tone of the film may be part if its problem, it certainly exudes a strangely complex aura of death and boredom.  The performances all work well with the material. 

Voice‘s biggest strength is its judicious use of music.  Haunting choral strains integrate with the narrative in a way that emphasizes the eerie loneliness of Yeong-eon.  Music plays a central role in a subplot about a mysterious music teacher, and extends its reach throughout the rest of the film.

The Rube Goldberg suicide machine comprises eighteen yards of twine, a bathtub,
a drum set, and a gallon of motor oil.

In the end, though, good performances and handsome shots aren’t enough to justify Voice‘s journey.  It’s a great example of an exercise that might have worked much better as part of an anthology, or perhaps an episode of Masters of Horror; as a full length feature, there aren’t nearly enough compelling or suspenseful events or characters to engage the viewer in a meaningful way.  If you’re looking for a unique (if very flawed) ghost story, Voice may satisfy, but if you’re looking for horror, look elsewhere.

The Package

This one’s light on the extras. There’s a behind-the-scenes featurette and a single trailer.  The score sounds great in Dolby 3/2.1, and the visuals look very nice for standard definition.

5 out of 10