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Friday, November 12, 2021

‘Voices’: A Death Curse Runs in the Family in 2007’s Korean Horror Movie [Horrors Elsewhere]

Horrors Elsewhere is a recurring column that spotlights a variety of movies from all around the globe, particularly those not from the United States. Fears may not be universal, but one thing is for sure a scream is understood, always and everywhere.

A black cloud hangs over the family at the center of the 2007 movie, Voices. The children live in blissful ignorance while the adults anxiously await the day their legacy finally comes to light. What they had hoped would skip a generation is now underway to destroy an entire bloodline.

Voices, also known in English as Someone Behind You, is based on Kang Kyung-ok’s Korean comic book series, Du saram-ida (“two people”). Oh Ki-hwan’s adaptation opens with an unknown family’s grisly murder-suicide scene before shifting to the actual main character, Kim Ga-in (Yoon Jin-seo). Not only is Ga-in a talented fencer and a popular student, she is dating a handsome, young doctor (Lee Ki-woo). She leads a good life from an outsider’s perspective. However, everything changes after she attends her Aunt Jee-sun’s wedding. When her new husband fails to kill her, Jee-sun (Jo Seon-ju) is finished off by her own sister, Jung-sun (Seo Yoo-jung). What appears to be a bizarre and isolated tragedy is really the start of something bigger.

Aunt Jee-sun’s death was dismissed as sibling rivalry; Jung-sun dated her fiancé before he decided to marry Jee-sun. The theory of an embittered sister taking swift revenge is good enough for the police. Like a virus, though, the animosity is contagious. Ga-in witnessed firsthand Jung-sun slashing Jee-sun to shreds in her hospital bed. It does not take long before Ga-in herself is the target of wanton aggression at the hands of those she trusted.

Ga-in falls prey to various and unprovoked attacks by those around her. At first her aggressors are acquaintances at school. A studious overachiever named Eun-kyung (Oh Yeon-seo) feels slighted when she is passed over for an opportunity, so she comes after Ga-in with a pair of scissors. A teacher and Eun-kyung’s sole supporter (Ahn Nae-sang) tries to complete what his star pupil started. Ga-in’s fencing teammate (Yeon Je-wook) comes to her rescue before later launching his own assault. These alarming incidents do not quite register with Ga-in in spite of their ferocity and timing, but once a family member turns on her, she takes a new classmate’s warning more seriously: “trust no one.”

The apparent cause of the Kim family’s suffering is a deeply embedded curse. A family curse is often metaphorical in storytelling; characters feel fated or burdened by past acts committed by their ancestors. A variety of horror movies adopt this mode of curses, whereas Voices approaches the concept literally. Ga-in learns the source of her hereditary affliction when she seeks refuge with a long-lost relative (Kim Seong-jun) along with the above said classmate, Seok-min (Park Ki-woong). While other stories at this point would explain in detail how to remove the curse, this one only raises more questions. Frustration aside, the lack of concrete answers actually helps maintain a consistent level of dread until the very end.

By now people are wondering if the Kims’ curse is real or not. Voices negotiates the terms of its own premise all throughout; a supernatural force might be at play just as easily as a logical explanation encompassed by coincidences. An unearthly reason for everything is very well possible, but the director plays both sides of the argument. Countering the surreal moments is the grounded notion that the family curse is really a coping mechanism. This is how someone contends with the bad things they have done in life while preserving the idea they are still good regardless of their offenses. If the ambiguity feels unsatisfactory, the story eventually makes a bold and conclusive choice.

Voices is a passionate movie in spite of the many unidimensional characters. Anger, guilt, shame. A variety of emotions cross these people’s faces as they experience the hell that is now their lives. This clear lack of defined and gripping personalities incidentally makes it easier to focus on Ga-in’s situation without getting distracted. Audiences are also more locked into the story and its immediacy. Once the danger begins, there is no letting up. Several days worth of attacks and deaths become an endurance test for those watching.

Voices strikes fear into the viewers on a deeper level. The gratuitous and graphic violence within is not likely to do more than catch the eye. What is so unsettling about the movie is how it dissolves a person’s support system and absolutely destroys their life. Ga-in lives comfortably, surrounded by loving family and friends. One by one, the curse takes away Ga-in’s lifelines and poisons something not so easily recovered; her absolute trust in people. And without trust there is nothing.

Voices benefits from stylish and sleek direction, a relatively high body count accentuated by ample bloodletting, and a sort of narrative uncertainty not so readily found in teen horror today. When it was first released as part of the After Dark Horrorfest, Voices was unfairly lumped in with so-so East Asian horrors being indiscriminately bought up and distributed. In comparison to its contemporaries, the movie is unique.

In place of the usual vengeful ghosts and haunted technology lies a dark story about an innocent girl whose lot in life is fulfilling a self-destructive prophecy. Her greatest misfortune truly comes from the fact that she was born into the wrong family.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/editorials/3691209/voices-death-curse-runs-family-2007s-korean-horror-movie-horrors-elsewhere/

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