Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Film Review: House of Voices (aka Saint Ange) (2004)

House of Voices (aka Saint Ange) (Review)
France/2004
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No
A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!*

"...I found this film to move way too slow on more than one occasion."

In 1958, Anna (Virginie Ledoyen), a cleaning woman, is sent to the closing Saint Ange orphanage to clean, but finds it may be home to a sinister secret...

House of Voices is a conflicting film. On one hand, the story is very simple and even uneventful. On the other hand, the story features some great visuals and symbolism, and is mostly open to interpretation. In a sense, House of Voices is a simple yet complex horror film. The story simply follows Anna, her coworker, and the last remaining orphan as they work. Anna begins to hear and witness the unexplainable, such as whispers and moving objects. Then, she begins to unravel the mystery within the orphanage. The climax is interesting, and so is the ending; however, the ending was overly ambiguous -- I'm not certain I fully understood.

Aside from the often uneventful plot, House of Voices also suffers from some inconsistent pacing. I love slow-burn horror films, I think they're my absolute favorites in the genre. In this case, House of Voices occasionally moves too slow. It starts building up the suspense, keeps building to add the burn... then keeps building, and building, and building. House of Voices simply has too much buildup, which causes some of the suspense to dwindle. Consequently, it also keeps the film on the border of suspenseful and boring, and may cause the audience to disengage and doze off.

It's not all bad, though. I liked the simplicity of the story. I love a classic ghost story, and this film develops a decent atmosphere for the occasion. I also like the complexities of the film. The visuals of the film give you something to think about -- they give you the opportunity to participate in the mystery. At the same time, some of the visual terror is enough to give you goosebumps. The surreal climax is especially noteworthy. I won't lose any sleep at night, but the horror in this film is a saving grace for an otherwise uneventful and often dull story.

The acting is good. Virginie Ledoyen is a decent leading lady; the role isn't really demanding, though. The supporting cast is also decent. The cinematography is fantastic; the film looks amazing, featuring superb photography and camerawork. The music is also very effective in setting the ominous mood and developing the creepy atmosphere. The Netflix Instant version is available in English, but it is not a dub; apparently, this film was shot in French and English, but I might have false information. Writer and director Pascal Laugier is decent; Laugier is great in photography, visuals, and atmosphere, but lacks the proper suspense -- with too much buildup, the film never hits the fuse.

Overall, House of Voices, also known as Saint Ange, is a decent horror film. The story is interesting, but it has a very inconsistent pace, which in turn hurts the suspense and buildup. It can be frightening one minute, then dull the next. Even as a fanboy of slow-burn horror films, I found this film to move way too slow on more than one occasion. If you're a very patient moviegoer and a fan of ghost stories, this is worth renting or streaming.

Score: 5/10
Parental Guide: Some blood, and some full nudity.

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