Iranian filmmaker Marjane Satrapi is known best for Persepolis, the award-winning 2007 animated film based on her own graphic novel about growing up during Iran’s Islamic Revolution. But she’s turned that reputation upside down with the Sundance film The Voices, a twisted, disturbing horror-comedy that stars Ryan Reynolds as Jerry, a man with few friends – but two talking pets. During the day, Jerry is the sweet but slightly-off warehouse worker who catches the eyes of the office girls at a bathroom factory in a small blue-collar town called Milton. At night, he comes home to discuss his life with Bosco, his loyal bull mastiff, and Mr. Whiskers, a brogue-accented tabby who fans the flames of Jerry’s darker urges. When Jerry sorta accidentally-on-purpose kills one of his pretty co-workers, he finds it difficult to cap those tendencies, and before long, his apartment is full of body parts packed neatly in Tupperwear and a fridge full of severed heads.
Um, what gives, Marjane?
“When first I read the script and I said to my producer, ‘We are not going to do any gore,’” the director said on Sunday after the film’s world premiere in Utah. “I don’t like blood. No way I’m going to do this kind of stuff. Then there was that first scene where there’s blood all over [Gemma Arterton] and I was like, ‘More blood! More blood!’ And I realized actually that I really liked that. I showed my mom a version of the movie, and she told me, ‘You’re completely sick in your brain.’”
The movie is especially unsettling, in part because no matter how horribly Jerry behaves, you still like him. It turns out he’s a victim in his own right, and like Norman Bates in Psycho, you can’t help but see the helpless boy in him right up to the moment when he releases the beast within. After all, the cat made him do it.
“Persepolis is one of the greatest and most unique films I’ve ever seen, and then when I read this script – I mean, it’s f–king insane,” says Anna Kendrick, who plays one of the flirty office women. “I knew that it would be an experience and a finished product unlike any other that I might ever get to do.”
No doubt. The movie is funny at times but it’s humor dares you to laugh, not unlike that of American Psycho. In fact, Reynolds’ Jerry might become the most disturbing and most-talked about serial killer since Christian Bale’s Patrick Bateman. Reynolds not only instills Jerry with a Gump-like blank-faced innocence that makes his actions that much more sinister to witness on screen, but he also devised the voices of his two pets (as well as two other characters that I won’t spoil here). “The table read was very exciting,” says Kendrick, describing how Reynolds switched back and forth between the voices his character hears in his head.
Reynolds didn’t get along with one of his co-stars, however – Mr. Whiskers. “Ryan is scared of cats,” said Satrapi. “Ninety-eight percent of when you see Ryan and the cat, they aren’t in the same room.”
In one scene that required Reynolds to caress and cradle the cat, Reynolds reluctantly agreed after some careful instructions about how to handle Mr. Whiskers. But when Satrapi yelled “Action,” Reynolds was a little too rough with the feline, and Mr. Whiskers freaked out and tore up Reynolds’ arm. “But that’s Ryan’s fault,” said Satrapi. “Be patient instead of just going grabbing a cat. It is a cat. Not a dog. It’s not your slave. A cat is your master.”
It’s funny a little… because that is just so Mr. Whiskers.