House of Voices tells the chilling story of a woman who discovers the frightening secrets of an abandoned orphanage. Starring Virginie Ledoyen (The Beach), this film brings a terrifying new look at ghost stories, with a tw... more »ist ending that is sure to shock you!« less
Atmospherically Frightening Tale That Falls Short...
Kim Anehall | Chicago, IL USA | 11/13/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"House of Voices original title Saint Ange refers to an orphanage in the French Alps in the year 1958. The orphanage, once full of children, prepares for the final move out, after a mysterious and terrible accident where a child slipped and fell in the bathroom, which the audience bears witness to in the opening. The protagonist Anna (Virginie Ledoyen) arrives amidst the chaotic scurrying in and out of the large building, as she is the only one carrying stuff inside. It almost feels like the rats are abandoning the ship while Anna is the only one who decides to stay, which immediately suggests that something is not right with the situation.
The camerawork enhances the eerie atmosphere with its cool bluish tint, which brings out the coolness and detached mood that the place emits. In addition, the peculiar camera angles elevate the weird feeling of the place. The abandoned orphanage almost produces a similar tension that Shining (1980) radiates where the husband decides to spend the winter with his family in a remote hotel, as a caretaker. In this story, Anna stays as the assistant to the caretaker, as she attempts to deal with her pregnancy. The parallels are strikingly similar, yet it does not come close to Kubrick's brilliant version of Stephen King's novel.
Not to give anything away, but there is something spooky about the orphanage (duh!), which the initial bathroom scene obviously portrays. The creepy atmosphere lingers throughout the film while some scenes have intensified moments of eeriness such as when Anna discovers old files of children in a forsaken part of the orphanage grounds and her nightmares, which will have the audience leaping out of their seats. Despite the scary elements, Anna remains working at the orphanage while she continues to hide her pregnancy to the two remaining characters within the abandoned orphanage, one, the cook and caretaker Helenka (Dorina Lazar) while the second is the estranged teenage orphan Judith (Lou Doillon).
Anna's youth and pregnancy suggests additional twists and uncanny elements to the story in combination with the orphanage. A pregnancy that she hides by tightly wrapping a bandaged around her inflated belly awakens thoughts of child deformation through the tightly secretive wrapping and self-injury. Yet, Ledoyen delivers an ambiguous tone to the character that both despises and loves the unborn within her. In addition, before the complete move out, a little orphan girl whispered something in Anna's ear, which comes back and disturbs her thoughts in regards to scary children. The thought of scary children remerges when she uncovers the files of the orphans in a hidden part of the large garden. At this moment, the film begins to increase the strange things that happen, as Anna seeks the help of Judith to find an answer to what happened to those scary children during World War II and why Judith is the sole survivor.
House of Voices has strong potential to be a very good horror film, but somewhere two thirds into the film a cinematic discomfort becomes obvious. The overuse of peculiar camera angles that indicates some thing is wrong begins to have less of an effect, probably due to desensitization, which limits the way the viewer responds to the eeriness. Also many of these camera angles signal when the scary parts are about to take place, which limits the audience's appreciation of the haunted story. Nonetheless, the film is very well cast, but there are also a couple of scenes where the characters feel a little phony. However, the film succeeds in capturing the ghost-like behavior of all other characters besides the three main individuals in the film. This is an essential facet to the understanding of the culmination of the film, which tries to toss the audience around a little in traditional M. Night Shyamalan manner. The intentional twist will leave some viewers perplexed and others discontent. In either case, the audience will have experienced a decent horror film that tries to bend the rules of storytelling, but does not fully succeed."
David M. Rossi | 01/11/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"House of Voices is an extremely atmospheric thriller that relies heavily on it's characters to propel it along. It also has something else so lacking in today's movies: Style. No matter how you slice it, many of the best horror films from any era ooze style in their presentation and that is what makes them so memorable. Our main character is a girl trying to hide her pregnancy at a home for orphans. Not having come to terms with this pregnancy, she begins to experience dreams and visions, as well as the occasional visit of ghostly children even while she is fully awake. The scenes with the ghost kids are always brief, and some kind of surprising action usually comes of it. The finale is downright eerie as we finally get to see what the children were trying to lead her to. We are led through a section of the orphanage that apparently originally served as some sort of hospital, and the terror is so effective in it's brightly lit, perfectly sterile appearing environment which is visible in this form only to the girl. The last scene will definitely stay with you as it is both creepy and extremely unsettling. If you are tired of the same old thing that's been done over and over again in horror and psychological thrillers, check out House of Voices. I doubt you will be diaappointed."
A Gem of Gothic Horror
Dancing Ganesha | Bangalore, India | 01/01/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am really surprised by the negative reviews of this film (also known as "Saint Ange"). It truly is a gem of an elegant Gothic horror, reminiscent of "Darkness," and I have already seen it three times and enjoyed it very much. Perhaps most viewers want more blood and gore rather than psychological thrills? This film also has beautiful cinematography, excellent actors, and a very good soundtrack."
House of Something?
Steve67 | Dallas, Texas United States | 05/08/2006
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This film is esentially the French's answer toThe Devil's Backbone. Set in the backdrop of a relatively abandoned orphanage in the French Alps, we follow our lead Anna, as she starts work as the new cleaning lady. With only a couple staff members, and a strange young woman who grew up there as a child.the building is perfect for witnessing oddly shaped shadowy figures and hearing strange creeks and voices in the night.Yes Anna soon discovers that this orphanage houses a dark past; a dark past that Anna is sure to discover. This is the feature film debut of director Pascal Laugier, and so far,I like what he puts on the table.Cinematically the shots are beautiful, and it has just the right amount of creepy atmosphere. Though, ultimately the film suffers from an identity crises towards the end when more is revealed.From the intial viewing I expected this to be just another flick about a haunted orphanage , but the story actually leads us to another direction towards the end. This is also the point when things get a little ridiculos and the atmosphere and pacing seems to shift in a diiferent direction. Eithier way, the movie is a pleasure to watch, which makes what unfolds a little more bearable. In the end, the movie falls under your standard straight to video ghost tale, with slighty higher production values. Overall a decent rent, but do not expect a lot of scares. Visually and atmosphere wise, it worked, but the story had problems. I would give this 6 out 10 stars. Rent it first."
Extremely pleasant surprise.
Robert P. Beveridge | Cleveland, OH | 05/30/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Saint Ange (Pascal Laugier, 2004)
While we on this side of the pond are subjected to French horror ranging from the mediocre (Brotherhood of the Wolf) to the awful (Haute Tension) on the big screen, take heart: the French have developed a cottage industry turning out small, exquisitely beautiful horror films that you can find if you look around a bit. Calvaire was the first instance of the breed I saw, and I was wowed by it; now I have found Saint Ange, and I was almost as impressed with this one. (Though there's nothing in it to top that bar dance in Calvaire, which is one of the most striking scenes in a horror movie in recent years.)
The plot revolves around the orphanage of the title, which is off in the middle of nowhere, and has recently been evacuated. (Why, we're never told, though it's inferred that the death of one of the children, shown in the film's opening scene, is part of it.) Only a skeleton crew are left, cleaning the place, including the newly-arrived Anna (Virginie Doyen), longtime resident Judith (Lou Doillon), and Francard (Catriona MacColl, in one of the longest-awaited returns to horror films in history), who's been working for Saint Ange, as she tells Anna early on, for more than thirty years. Judith is severely mentally disturbed, though we only gradually find out why; it has something to do with the "scary children", as one child we see at the beginning of the film calls a pack of ghosts who seemingly haunt the place. As Anna and Judith strike up an odd, but powerful, friendship, Anna comes to realize that Judith may be at the heart of the haunting, and becomes determined to find out who the scary children are.
Negative reviews of this movie abound, and I'll tell you right off the bat that if you're looking for a run-of-the-mill horror flick, this is not where you want to go. The first hour of Saint Ange views more like a film adaptation of a Maeve Binchy novel than it does a horror film. Laugier (who also wrote the screenplay) is content to let the material set up at its own pace. There's not even much ghostly activity once things get going; Anna's examination into the roots of the scary children is more like a mystery than anything you might consider horror. (Also, take note: while a good number of people debate what actually goes on in this film, all of them seem to miss one very important clue. I can't tell you what it is without spoilers, but note the picture on the record Anna finds in the hidden box.) It's a horror film in the way that Miike's Audition (a romantic comedy with gore, really) is a horror film; everything's pointing to other genres until the flick ramps up to its climax, and then all the sudden, wham, things get weird on you. Note that with this comparison, mind you, I am not trying to imply that Saint Ange is anywhere near is outrageously gory as Audition. In fact, it's all very low-key, as befits a film where the atmosphere delivers most of the creepiness.
Ledoyen (The Beach) and Doillon (the recent remake of Sisters) do their jobs competently here, but the real treasure is MacColl, one of Lucio Fulci's favorite leading ladies, and she's only gotten better as time has gone on. Much of the movie's atmosphere depends on the ambiguous nature of Francard's character, and MacColl pulls it off wonderfully. The technical details of the film are all competent, at least, and combine to create the creepy atmosphere Laugier was going for; I'm sure it could have been done better in the hands of a more experienced director (Laugier, a close compatriot of Christophe Gans, directed a number of the DVD extras for Brotherhood of the Wolf, but this is his first feature film), but I thought it worked rather well.
Go into it with an open mind. There's quite a rewarding experience to be had here. **** "