They’ve sunk everything they have into their latest “fixer upper.” It’s a big, remote manor house in Spain, and it’s their biggest project, if not their first.
But their angel-faced son Eric (Lucas Blas) is spooked. His toys are switching on by themselves. And he’s hearing things, “voices” in his head, in radios, in the walkie talkie he uses to keep in touch with Dad (Rodolfo Sancho) and Mom (Ana Fernández).
And that shrink (Beatriz Arjona) they’ve called in? She’s not getting answers to her “What do the voices want?” queries.
“I’m not allowed to tell you,” Eric mumbles (in Spanish with English subtitles.
But the static-filled whispers go on, Eric draws pictures of what he hears and the flies — the FLIES! They’re always buzzing around.
When one flies into the psychotherapist’s ear on her static-filled drive home, that’s all she wrote. And she’s just the first grisly fatality in “Voces,” retitled “Don’t Listen” for North American Netflix.
This latest H-Horror (Hispanic Horror) film is a real kitchen-sink ghost story. As in the script throws in everything but the kitchen sink.
Flies, scratchy voices, apparitions, a father and daughter team of scientists investigating that big, old house and…wait for it — The Spanish Inquisition even figures in.
Because to this day “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!”
It’s an ungainly affair, not at all a graceful film. We lurch from the kid hearing the voices to a shocking death or two, a brief mention of EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) when the parents see this writer and expert on the subject (Ramón Barea) interviewed on TV and before you know it, he’s been dragged out there, with his sonic engineer daughter (Belén Fabra) for a little infrared camera/microphones all around investigating.
Because Dani (Sancho) is hearing dead people. Does that mean they’re not really dead?
“You’re clinging to something that can’t come back.”
I tend to like haunted house tales built around “investigations” — the “experts” shocked and awed by encountering the reality of the supernatural, often for the first time. But “Don’t Listen” left me cold. And the deeper we get into “explanations” that are more just revelations about the house’s past, the duller it gets.
A surprise twist or two is nice. But the many people with a hand in feeding ideas to screenwriter Santiago Díaz and director Ángel Gómez Hernández missed the obvious and break a couple of cardinal rules of horror.
They set up stakes, and then remove them by killing off somebody we’re supposed to care about in the first act. And then they expect us to shift alliances and root for the investigators, who aren’t remotely as engaging as say the daffy ghost hunters of the “Insidious” movies.
It’s nicely shot and cut together, but the disconnect from the characters makes “Don’t Listen” too easy to tune out.
MPA Rating: TV-MA, graphic violence
Cast: Rodolfo Sancho, Ana Fernández, Ramón Barea, Belén Fabra and Lucas Blas.
Credits: Directed by Ángel Gómez Hernández, script by Santiago Díaz. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:38