“Voices” opens with a moment of what looks like torture porn — two women, strapped down or strung up, trapped by some unseen tormentor.
But that fictive present is abandoned for most of the rest of this sleepwalking, sleep-inducing thriller. As director and co-writer Nathaniel Nuon wrestles with child abduction, the unquiet dead and the torment of a blind psychotherapist who hears them, the single word that comes to mind is “adrift.”
It’s a horror tale of of limited chills, or attempted chills, unnecessary scenes giving the leads more chances to show off their good looks and limited skills.
Lilly (Valerie Jane Parker, tentative and remote) is a Mobile, Alabama shrink whose latest patient — a little girl who lost her mother — takes her back to her similar childhood experience, the accident that killed her mother and made her blind.
Flashbacks to her youth and dating years, which led to her marriage, feature Chloe Romanski and Jenna Harvey playing her at different ages, flashbacks that tell adult Lilly what she apparently forgot or never picked up on.
Her various “imaginary friends” as a little girl were ghosts, one even tricked the blind girl into playing “tag,” which wound up with her nearly drowning in a pool.
She experienced other moments where she was aware that something unnatural was in her presence, sometimes warning her not to get into this stranger’s car, other times less benign.
And now that’s happening again, more “voices.” Luckily her craziest patient (Jo Ann Olivera) is there to assert that “I have a gift” and the Lilly does, too. The unquiet dead are reaching out to her for some reason.
“I wouldn’t wish this on anybody,” Lilly complains, as she’s approached by a ghost who lost a baby and dreams of a naked old perv crawling under the covers with her.
As we work our way clumsily back towards that opening scene of peril, the picture drifts into childbirth classes and pervert come-ons and flashbacks within flashbacks — many involving the aunt who raised her (Ashley Bell) and way more detail about Lilly’s teen years than “Voices” needs.
And none of it works up so much as a mild fright.
MPA Rating: unrated, violent images, nudity, profanity
Cast: Valerie Jean Parker, Jenna Harvey, Chloe Romanski, Jonathan Stoddard, Claire Marie Burton and Jo Ann Olivera
Credits: Directed by Nathaniel Nuon, script by Nathaniel Nuon, Daniel Hathcock. A Vertical release.
Running time: 1:48