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House of Voices (2004)

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House of VoicesStarring Viginie Ledoyen, Lou Doillon, Catriona MacColl <!– zoom:/img/Reviews/ –>

Directed by Pascal Laugier

Released by Rogue Pictures


Those who look for fresh voices in horror are, more often than not, disappointed in American cinema.  Films that go for more flash than substance leave a bitter taste, leading many to look outside the country for their horror fix.  Those looking for a spooky ghost story might be rewarded to pick up a copy of France’s Saint Ange under its American-release name, House of Voices

Anna Jurin (Ledoyen) stars as a young woman who hires on at an old orphanage in the French Alps.  Her job is to clean the place in time for the next batch of children to arrive. During her first day, she discovers that only one orphan remains, an older and mentally unstable girl named Judith (Doillon).  She begins to notice strange goings-on in the house, with phantom footsteps and the disembodied giggling of children.  It soon becomes evident that the old building has secrets to hide and a history to protect. 

The movie begins well enough, with two orphans creeping along the deserted corridor in the dead of night, heading toward the bathroom.  Inside, lights flicker and faucets turn on and off by unseen hands, and a strange mirror attracts the attention of one of the children.  He slips and falls on his head, dying instantly and setting the tone for the rest of the movie.  However, no matter how creepy and tense the tone becomes, the movie never really quite pays off. 

Released in France in 2004 under the name Saint Ange, the movie marked the feature directorial debut of Pascal Laugier.  His previous credits included only two documentaries about the movie Brotherhood of the Wolf.  For his first feature-length film, Laugier does an admirable job of creating a creepy atmosphere.  A far cry from documentary style, this feature incorporates odd camera angles and well-placed lighting to achieve the director’s goal. 

Virginie Ledoyen, whom some might remember from The Beach, stars as Anna, who shows up at the orphanage with a secret or two of her own, primarily that she’s pregnant.  She hides her condition as well as possible by binding her enlarged belly, but soon discovers that the child within her is less of a worry than the “scary children” who still roam the halls.  Ledoyen’s portrayal is sympathetic and real, allowing the viewer to see real fear in her eyes, as well as the frustration at her own situation.  Her character comes across as strong and determined, caring about what happened to the children who came before.  Unfortunately, the script provides her with little chance to expand on that character. 

In her supporting role as Judith, Lou Doillon gives a remarkable performance.  Coming across as just a little more psychotic than tragic, she at first proves to be the creepiest part of the movie.  As the film progresses, her character moves from being unhinged to fragile and frightened.  Her performance is so utterly over-the-top that it is endearing and gives the viewer the chance that the actress may have more in common with the character than anyone knows.

The only major shortcoming of this film comes from the writing.  Penned by Laugier, House of Voices spends the entirety of its time building to crescendo that never happens.  The tension continues to build, as does the atmosphere, but there’s no payoff at the end.  The final scene which, without giving anything away, is creepy, but it falls flat and doesn’t really match up to the build. 

Still, House of Voices is a beautifully shot piece of film.  The location used for it, somewhere in the French Alps, is perfect as a haunted mansion.  There’s something about a huge empty building that makes it creepy to begin with.  Laugier’s camera only augments the chills. 

On the whole, there is something to be said for a directorial debut that is as well-done as this movie is.  The shortcomings of this film are forgivable up until the end.  Viewers that are looking for something that drips creepiness could do worse than this film.

3 out of 5

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Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)

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We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.

In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!

If you like what you hear, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.

The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTwitch, and YouTube.

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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View

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Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly

Directed by Marcel Sarmiento


Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as

17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?

What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.

  • Film
2.0

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Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?

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IAMX’s Alive in New Light Review – A Dark, Hypnotic, and Stunning Musical Endeavor

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Recording eight albums is an achievement no matter the artist, group, or band. This is especially true for Chris Corner’s IAMX, his solo project after the trip hop group Sneaker Pimps, which has enchanted listeners since 2004’s Kiss + Swallow with its dark electronic aesthetic. There’s something fascinating about the music Corner puts out as IAMX. Perhaps it’s the underlying melancholy that seems to pervade the music, almost certainly a result of the musician’s battle with depression and chronic insomnia [Source]. Perhaps it’s the unexpected melodies that reveal themselves with each new measure. Whatever it is, IAMX’s music is a constant delight.

On Alive in New Light, Corner reveals that his eighth album was a product he created as a way of “…breaking free from demons that have long plagued him,” per an official press release. Strangely enough, this uplifting attitude may easily be overlooked but repeat listens unveil a sense of hope and wonder that are simply breathtaking. The title track echoes with almost angelic choir pads that positively shine as Corner exultingly cries in a shimmering falsetto, “I’m alive in new light!” This comes after the Depeche Mode-esque “Stardust”, which offers the first collaboration with Kat Von D, whose pure voice is a beautiful addition to the pulsating track.

The third track, “Break The Chains”, has an opening that immediately called to mind Birds of Tokyo’s “Discoloured”, which is meant as a compliment. It’s followed by the Nine Inch Nails influenced “Body Politics”, which meshes Corner’s crooning vocals with a 90’s industrial backdrop. “Exit” has an almost sinister progression lurking in the background that builds to an aggressive, in-your-face third act. The cinematic Middle Eastern flairs of “Stalker” mutate effortlessly into a heartbeat pulse that features back-and-forth vocals between Corner and Von D. The haunted circus vibe that permeates through “Big Man” is mirrored by its playful gothic aura, ghostly “oohs” and “aahs” sprinkled carefully here and there.

While the album has been a delight up to this point, it’s the final two tracks that took my breath away and left me stunned. “Mile Deep Hollow” builds layer after layer while Corner passionately cries out, “So thank you/you need to know/that you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow/and I love you/you brought me home/because you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow.” The way the song’s melodies back these wonderfully uplifting lyrics feels grand and epic, as though a journey is coming to an end, which is where “The Power and the Glory” comes in. Far more subdued, it’s a beautiful song that feels almost like a religious experience, a hymn of a soul that is desperate to claw its way to salvation and escape a life of pain and darkness.

What makes Alive in New Light so wonderful is how much there is to experience. I got the album and listened to it no less than five times in a row without pause. I simply couldn’t turn it off because each return revealed something new in the music. Corner also makes fantastic use of Von D’s vocals, carefully placing them so as to make them a treat and not a commonplace certainty.

While some may be disappointed that there are only nine tracks, each of the songs is carefully and meticulously crafted to be as powerful and meaningful as possible. It really is a stunning accomplishment and I’m nothing short of blown away by how masterfully Alive in New Light plays out.

  • Alive in New Light
5.0

Summary

IAMX’s Alive in New Light is a triumph of music. Full of beauty and confidence, it doesn’t forget the foundation that fans have come to know and love for over a decade but instead embraces that comfortable darkness with open arms. Corner states that this album was a way to break free from his demons. It certainly feels like he’s made peace with them.

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