DON’T LISTEN aka VOCES (2020)
Spanish supernatural thriller finds house flipper Daniel (Rodolfo Sancho) moving into a new project with his wife Sara (Belén Fabra) and his young son Eric (Lucas Blas). Eric claims to be hearing voices, but his parents and psychologist (Beatriz Arjona) think it is simply the effect of moving so much on a lonely boy. When Eric dies tragically, Daniel begins to hear voices too and seeks the help of a paranormal investigator (Ramón Barea) and his daughter (Ana Fernández). What they find is Daniel’s worst nightmare as there is an evil entity in this new house and it wants vengeance on any who enter.
Haunted house flick is directed well by Ángel Gómez Hernández from a script and story by he, Santiago Díaz, Víctor Gado and Juan Moreno. Hernández creates an atmospheric and spooky story, as the grieving Daniel finds out there is a horrible history attached to this new house and the spirit of a vengeful witch on top of that. He and his fellow writers create some likable and sympathetic characters, in the grieving Daniel, the sweet and scared Eric, and the paranormal investigators with a personal loss of their own. It gives the film some nice emotional depth and the audience becomes emotionally invested in the characters. Hernández keeps the spooky stuff in-camera, with no CGI and the flick presents it’s subject with a subtle hand, until the chilling last act. What little blood or gore there is, is very effective when it comes. The cast are all good and the make-up FX, portraying our witch, are very well rendered, but used sparingly, so as not to loose their potency. It also has a chilling ending that will stick with you after it’s over. Hernández knows the tropes well and how to use them effectively. A very entertaining and spooky haunted house tale that will keep you looking at all parts of the picture frame for lurking spooks, just like The Haunting of Hill House. Watch through the credits for an additional scene and look out for a fun cameo from frequent creature performer Javier Botet as himself at a book signing. Flick is currently streaming on Netflix.
HIS HOUSE (2020)
Supernatural chiller finds Sudanese refugees Boi (Sope Dirisu) and Rial (Wunmi Mosaku) seeking asylum in England. They are put on probation and sent to live in a small, decrepit house in a London ghetto. Still grieving over loosing their daughter (Malaika Abigaba) durning their harrowing escape, the couple now face harsh guidelines set by the British government, racism, prejudice and the struggle of assimilating without loosing their culture. Worse still, there is a malevolent entity in the house with them and Boi is determined to keep his new home at any cost.
Film is written and directed by Remi Weekes and while the tropes are familiar, the perspective is not. The supernatural elements are steeped in Sudanese culture and are quite effective. It can be spooky at times and it’s messages about racism and the plight of refugees is subtly woven into the story. We also get some surprising reveals as to what this African spirit, called an apeth, wants and why it is there, along with some solid drama with the conflict between the eager to assimilate Boi and the reluctant Rial. The cast, which also includes Matt Smith (Dr. Who) as their case worker, are all very good and the visuals and FX are effective, with Javier Botet performing one of the entities. Flick is currently streaming on Netflix.
INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY (2017)
Fourth installment in this franchise is again a prequel, this one taking place just before the events of the first film. First, it opens in 1953 and shows us a young Elise (Ava Kolker) in her childhood home showing her psychic abilities much to the anger of her abusive father (Josh Stewart). We relive a horrifying event and then are taken forward to 2010 where an adult Elise (Lin Shaye) is called by the current occupant of her old childhood house to investigate some paranormal activity. Now Elise must overcome her inner fear and go back to that house and not only relive those awful memories, but find out some horrifying truths as well.
Flick is again written by Leigh Whannell, who also appears as “Specs”, but this time directed by Adam Robitel (The Taking of Deborah Logan). Robitel brings atmosphere and provides some spooky moments, though the series is starting to show signs of loosing steam. It is interesting to go into Elise’s past and see where this all began, but even so, the backstory isn’t enough to freshen things up completely. The story is well presented and we get the tension between Elise and the estranged brother (Bruce Davison) she left behind when she walked away from her father and that house, but despite the dramatic weight of this being a very personal investigation for Elise, we still feel it could have been stronger. The final showdown in The Further with the house’s reigning specter should have had more intensity. The evil entity lacks weight with being given little to no backstory and is kept on the sidelines till the last act. Still, it is well directed and shows, with a stronger script, Robitel could deliver a spooky and atmospheric film. This flick does have some good moments, including a fairly shocking reveal and there was a purveying sense of dread whenever the action took place inside the house. The film is entertaining, it’s just that it may be time to let this franchise rest in peace, or bring in new blood both creatively and on camera. We are introduced to Elise’s psychic niece Imogen (Caitlin Gerard from Smiley), so maybe such plans are already in place. It’s hard to do much with Elise when they killed her off in the first film, which in hindsight was a big mistake.
Lin Shaye is once again in top form as Elise. She is a great character and the actress gives the role lots of heart. She’s very likable and despite her experiences, she’s still vulnerable and can be scared. She makes the character very endearing which would explain her continual return in prequels. Angus Sampson and Leigh Whannell are fine as Tucker and Specs, but it’s Elise’s show and they are wisely kept to side-kick duties. Bruce Davison is a class act and is sympathetic as her emotionally wounded brother, Christian. Josh Stewart is detestable as Elise’s dad and both Spencer Locke and Caitlin Gerard are likable as Melissa and Imogen, Elise’s nieces. A solid cast.
This was a good effort in many ways, just unfortunately in a franchise running out of gas. They gave us some nice backstory on Elise and made the story more personal, but the adventures in The Further and even it’s Key Face (Javier Botet) demon are routine and showing series wear and tear. Adam Robitel added atmosphere and handles the spookiness well, but Leigh Whannell’s script fails to freshen things up despite a more Elise-centric story. Overall, it was entertaining enough, but not going to win new fans and will have current ones questioning how much longer they are going to stick around for “Further” adventures.
Rated 3 spooks.