Monday, January 11, 2010

Mindless Movie Monday: House of Voices

Oh how I wanted to love this film. First off, it was directed by Pascal Laugier - and he also wrote and directed Martyrs. This was his first movie, and was known originally as Saint Ange.
Secondly, it just reeked atmosphere. Looked like a classic ghost story on par with say, The Others or even more appropriately so - The Orphanage.
Alas, it was not meant to be.

The opening sequence really gets your hopes up. Saint Ange is an orphanage in the French Alps back in 1958. We see a little boy trotting off to the bathroom in the middle of the night, armed only with his trusty flashlight. A little girl peeks out of her room and asks to come with him. The two head off, hand in hand, to the restroom. Naturally, a sense of dread is in the air.

The bathroom is an industrial size Saw look-a-like and is just flat out creepy. They do their business, but the little boy seems intrigued with turning the faucets every which way. Apparently, a ghostly presence will turn them on or off. When nothing happens, they leave. As they walk down the hall, they hear the faucets turn on, water gushing loudly. The little boy tells the girl to wait for him and he goes back to check, and turns off all the sinks. However, he hears something and upon crawling up onto a counter, sees an image in the mirror and falls, hitting his head on a cast iron sink and slamming to the ground. Cue scary music.

Soon after, we meet Anna (Virginie Ledoyen of 'The Beach' fame), a young woman who has come to Saint Ange for a job cleaning the orphanage.

(The Von Trapps interview a new nanny for their new French Alps property.)

The children who lived there have all been moved elsewhere due to the death of a child - apparently the place was deemed unsafe?? Go figure.

Anna and her only other co-worker, cook and housekeeper Helenka (Dorina Lazar) answer only to the headmistress Francard (played by Lucio Fulci's leading lady in The Beyond, House by the Cemetery, and City of the Living Dead - haven't seen her in awhile!) and are also tending to the only orphan left, a twenty-something young woman named Judith (the always creepy Lou Doillon - star of the 'Sisters' remake -who I'm afraid still looks like a transvestite).

(White is the new black on the runway.)

Judith has long-buried secrets that have her mind not exactly functioning at full capacity. Well, that and the drugs Helenka seems to be giving her at every turn.

("I seriously have to dust every inch of the wrought iron staircase?")

Anna has her own secret. She's pregnant, and how it happened must not have been pretty - but we're never privy to the backstory, just left to form our own opinions. Soon enough, Helenka and Judith both realize her condition. In the meantime, Anna has been experiencing some strange things. Bad dreams, strange noises, the voices of children, etc.

(The power of Christ compels you! The power of Christ compels you!!)

It takes an exceedingly long time for anything to really happen here, and though I love a good slow-burning ghost story, this one just had too many plot-holes - too many things left unsaid. I found myself waiting for something to happen, and nearly falling asleep in the interim.

(So that's where the Dead Man's Chest ended up...)

Nothing ever scared me here, though there are a few disturbing images, and truly the film is shot beautifully. Dark and brooding, the cinematography was the best part of the movie.

I wanted to be in love with it. Just didn't happen. By the time we get to the meat of the story, if you can call it that, it falls flat. It sort of wandered off into Fulci-land. You know how a lot of his films' endings just didn't really tie up any ends or explain anything? That's the impression I got here.

(Samara from The Ring gets a haircut and visits the refurbished Session 9 set.)

Creepy ghost children should be hauntingly unnerving. Well maybe if we actually saw them for more than two minutes they would have been. You have to give us something....the whole film should not be left open for interpretation. We were never even told why Anna was there in the first place? No one was to be living there, so why were they cleaning it? Washing sheets and clothes? Making meals? I didn't get it. Why did anyone need to still be there?

All in all, I wouldn't really say I disliked House of Voices, I'd rather say that one viewing and I'm good. Unlike, say 'The Devil's Backbone', which I rushed out to buy on Amazon after renting once from Netflix.
Oh please give us more of that, oh gods of decent film making....pleeeeaaase!!

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


James said...

Thanks for reviewing this one Chris - I've been wanting to check it out since I watched Martyrs... Some beautiful images there too. :o)

The Film Connoisseur said...

I havent seen Martyrs yet. The reviews for that one are sometimes positive, sometimes negative, but I will be giving it a shot at some point because in my opinion, French Horror is kickings lately.

I mean...Inside? Wow!

So I didnt know this was from the same director, I might be watching both films back to back. Thanks for the review!

Richard of DM said...

Ooo, I loves me some House of Voices. Went into this one without a clue and found so much to love. Atmosphere is king and plot is pretty much totally forsaken. Can't wait to watch this one again. Would make a great double feature with The Abandoned.