Sunday, October 28, 2012

House of Voices

After watching two very frustrating movies in a row, I really wanted to settle down and watch something more simple, a straightforward ghost story or something, so I picked this one without bothering to look at the credits.  I should have paid more attention, because if I had, I would have noticed that the director of this movie was none other than Pascal Laugier, the same guy who directed "The Tall Man," which I finished watching right before this one, and I could have turned it off and picked something else.  Now this is not to say that this movie isn't good, but it's unsettling and unsatisfying, and it raises a lot of questions that it never bothers to answer, and basically it fucked with my mind just as much as "The Tall Man" and "Martyrs" did, and now I kind of want to kick Pascal Laugier in the nuts.

This movie is about an orphanage in the late 1950s that is being shut down after a child has died there.  A teen girl is hired to work as cleaning staff, getting the orphanage ready before it closes (ready for what?  The movie never says).  The girl is hiding secrets of her own, and the remaining staff of the orphanage are hiding secrets of course, and there is another young girl living in the orphanage who is too old to be adopted with the rest of the children, so she remains living there and we're not sure what is going to happen to her after the place closes.  There are a lot of suspicious happenings at the orphanage  possibly supernatural phenomena, and the new girl becomes determined to find out what happened there and why the place is haunted.

The imagery in the movie is very effectively spooky.  The camera can simply pan around the inside of the orphanage and give us chills even if nothing actually happens.  The music is very atmospheric  sometimes too much so as it drowns out dialogue or overpowers more subtle acting by the cast.  Judith, the girl who lives at the orphanage because she is too old to be adopted, is often frenzied and out of control, and the cleaning lady who works with the new girl says that Judith is simply crazy and no one should listen to what she says or believe her.  Because of this, and because we can see how erratic her behavior is, it's hard to tell whether we should believe what she says when she starts hinting that she knows what is going on behind the haunted happenings at the orphanage.  The new girl is rather unhinged herself, albeit with good reason, and it's hard to tell where reality ends and fantasy beings with her perceptions, which makes the movie even more headache-inducing.

This movie bears more than a passing resemblance to the movie "The Orphanage," which came out two years after this one, so it's not a ripoff, though it might appear that way - it certainly crossed my mind - and "The Orphanage" is better than this one, I think, because it's much more straightforward and doesn't fuck with your head as much as Pascal Laugier seems to enjoy doing.  Like "The Tall Man" (and "Martyrs") this movie raises a lot of questions that it doesn't bother answering, and some dialogue during the wrap up doesn't match what we've been told by other characters, so it's hard to tell who was lying or disturbed and who was telling the truth.  It makes the movie rather unsatisfying and again, it's not one I can recommend, but I can't say it was bad or that I regret watching it...I just wish I hadn't watched it back-to-back with the other unsatisfying movies I watched today, because now I'm in a cranky mood.

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