Brief synopsis: a young family; husband, wife and their young son, move into a remote, rundown, house. The husband plans to renovate the house and sell it, just as they have done before. The young son begins to hear voices.
When the boy is drowned in the outdoor pool, the wife leaves to stay with her parents. The husband hears his son’s voice. He goes and sees a man who looks into paranormal activities to get to the bottom of the mystery.
Is it any good?: Don’t Listen (Voces – original Spanish title) is a well-told and beautifully directed horror film. The acting is good from all concerned and the story maintains one’s interest throughout. The editing and the directing are first-rate and, along with the sound work, crank up the tension throughout. Worth watching.
Spoiler territory: Daniel (Rodolfo Sancho) retrieves a football from the outdoor pool that has come with the old, large, multilevel, house he has recently purchased. In the house, his son, Eric (Lucas Blas), is being spoken to by a psychologist, Doctor Carol (Beatriz Arjona). She asks him why is he having trouble sleeping and how he is feeling.
Eric tells her that the voices keep him awake. They won’t let him sleep. The doctor asks what the voices say. They tell him to draw pictures but he cannot tell her what they say. Eric stops talking and starts to play with his toy robot.
Sara (Belén), Eric’s mother, asks the doctor what is wrong. She tells her that she thinks Eric is just disrupted by the constant house moves and that he should be fine once he makes some friends. The doctor leaves.
In the car, as she is driving, the doctor’s radio cannot pick up a signal properly. Back at the house, Eric is drawing. In the car, a fly goes into the doctor’s ear.
As she struggles to get the fly out, her foot presses down on the accelerator. Eric is still drawing. The doctor goes off the road, crashing. Eric has drawn a picture of a tree branch with blood on the end. Back in the car, the doctor has been killed, a tree branch through her face. The fly comes out of her ear.
Later, Daniel is working on the house. A crack in the wall is infested with flies. He goes and gets some bug spray and uses it on the crack. Over a walkie talkie, Eric asks his father to get his ball from the pool again.
As he retrieves the ball, Eric sees the bug spray in his father’s tool belt and asks him about it. Daniel tells him it is for infestations.
Eric asks if he means like the flies by the fireplace in his room. Daniel tells him, yes. Eric’s mother calls for his bath. In the bath, Eric is distracted as he hears voices again. they are coming from the shower radio.
The voice is his father’s. He tells him he hates him. Sara comes into the bathroom. He asks her if his father hates him. She tells him that his father loves him.
Later, Daniel is watching television, engrossed by an interview with Germán Domingo (Rámon Barea), who has released a book, Sounds from the Great Beyond. Germán tracks the EVPs (electronic voice phenomena), voices that are believed to be from the afterlife and transmit via radios and other electronic media.
Sara asks Daniel if he told Eric off. No, not at all. Sara is worried about their son. Daniel repeats what the psychologist said; he will be better once he has made some friends.
During the night, Daniel is woken by the gate to the swimming pool banging. He gets up and closes it. Eric is woken by voices from the walkie talkie.
His robot toy springs to life. As he grabs it from the floor to switch it off, he sees old, gnarled, feet. He looks up to see a shadowy figure behind the semi-transparent dust sheet that is hanging in his bedroom.
Eric rushes to his bed and hides under the covers. Daniel comes into the bedroom to find the petrified Eric. He is followed by Sara. Eric clings to his mother.
The next day, Daniel sees that the flies are still coming out of the crack in the wall. He hears Sara drive up. Eric is with her. He has been expelled for biting his headteacher.
Sara tells him that he will have to see the psychologist again. Eric tells them that the doctor is dead. They ask him how he knows that. He tells them that the voices told him.
Daniel calls to schedule an appointment with the doctor. They find out that, as Eric said, she is dead. Sara wonders how Eric knew. Daniel thinks he must have been told at school.
Daniel goes to talk to his son. He asks him about the previous night. Eric tells him he was talking to him on the walkie talkie. Daniel tells him it was not him.
Eric is drawing in the middle of the night. A shadowy figure watches him. An hour later, Sara wakes Daniel because she hears the pool gates banging.
As Daniel goes to sees about the gate, he notices that the front door is open. He grabs a shotgun and looks around the house. A shadowy figure moves unseen by him through the house.
Sara goes into Eric’s bedroom. He is not there. Daniel sees Eric’s pyjama top, just outside the house. Frantic, he runs to the pool. He finds the boy dead in the pool.
They bury their son. Sara goes to stay with her parents. She tells Daniel she cannot live in the house. Daniel tells her that everything they own is tied up in the house.
Alone in the house, Daniel watches a video of when the family first arrived at the house. Eric had been very happy to see the new house. Daniel calls Sara and leaves a message for her.
He switches off the television and goes to leave the room. The television springs back to life. he switches the television off again and goes to sleep.
Sara calls Daniel. She tells him she got his message but it was very muffled and there was screaming obscuring it. He tells her that it is probably the bad service in the area. After the call has ended, he plays the message back to himself. He puts the message into his computer and plays it again. He hears Eric’s voice calling for help.
Daniel goes to a book signing by Germán Domingo. He begs Germán to listen to his recording. Germán is reluctant, having heard his share of hoaxes but Daniel convinces him.
Convinced there is something in the recording, Germán and his sceptical about EVPs daughter, Ruth (Ana Fernández), head to the house. They drive past the site of doctor Carol’s death.
At the house, Daniel welcomes them. Ruth asks if there is a room that she can set the equipment up in, a basement maybe. Daniel tells her there is no basement but there are many free rooms. Germán warns Daniel that he may not like what they find. Daniel tells him he just wants to help his son.
Ruth sets up cameras and microphones around the house. She is startled by Daniel, who asks her about working with her father. She tells him that she only occasionally works with him.
She does not believe in the afterlife. With everything set up, Ruth mans the monitors as her father checks for sound around the house. Ruth sees a figure sitting in Eric’s bedroom.
She tells her father that Daniel is messing with the infrared and needs to leave the house. He tells her that Daniel is outside. Germán goes to the bedroom to check but cannot hear or see anything.
Ruth tells him that the figure is right in front of him. Germán’s headphones shriek causing him to pull off the headset. Later, Germán is telling Daniel about the incident as all three watch the recording of two thermal images, one being Germán, in the bedroom.
Ruth is still not convinced. That night, Ruth is asleep in front of the monitors. Germán is woken by a nightmare. A voice beckons him. He goes down to the kitchen. In the kitchen, he sees his deceased wife, Sofia (Nerea Barros). They sit at the dining table as she speaks with him.
She wants him to join her, pulling out a knife and slicing it across his wrist, back and forth.
Ruth screams at her father. Sofia has disappeared and Germán is cutting his own wrist. Ruth stops him from cutting himself. He is very disorientated, looking for Sofia. Sara’s phone rings in the night and she answers. It is Eric’s voice.
The next day, Ruth is out on the balcony when she looks out to see a tree with multiple cats hanging dead from it. She tells the two men. Daniel buries the cats as Germán tells him that the voice he heard probably was not his son. Daniel is sure it was. Sara arrives back at the house.
Ruth goes into town to buy some items. A mature woman (Rosa Alvarez) calls to her. She knows she is at the house with the voices. She tells she should not return to the house.
The voices tell you things that are not true. Back at the house, Sara is in Eric’s bedroom. She is about to leave when she hears the robot. She turns around and sees Eric, his back to her, sitting on the ground. She approaches him but he scampers under the bed.
Sara looks under the bed. She sees old, gnarled feet on the other side but when she looks up there is no one there. She looks again. The feet are there again. They climb on to the bed. She looks up. Nothing.
Eric runs past her and she shuffles back towards a wall. She puts her hand down on a gnarled foot. A matching hand grabs her face.
Germán is looking through reference images, the cats’ deaths having reminded him of something. He finds one similar to the cats hanging from the tree. He tells Daniel that it is a warning.
A warning of what? Ruth returns and tells them it was a warning of it being the territory of a witch. The house had been a courthouse and witches had been tried there during the inquisition.
Their conversation is interrupted by Sara’s body crashing through the window, her hanging from the bedroom above. A fly leaves Sara’s ear. The police and coroner come and pick up her corpse.
Germán continues to research the images. He tells Ruth he thinks he knows where the bodies are buried. Ruth wants them to leave. Germán refuses, he wants to solve this mystery.
A distraught Daniel sees Sara and Eric behind a dust sheet whilst sitting in his bedroom. When he moves the sheet, they disappear. Back in the room where the monitors are set up, Ruth sees the film of Sara before she died. She killed herself.
Infrared picked up another brief presence in the room. Ruth and Germán hear a shot in the house. They go to Daniel’s room and see him with the shotgun. He is wild-eyed, pointing the gun at something unseen. They take the gun off of him.
Germán tells him he thinks he knows how to stop the voices. They need to find the corpse of the witch. Daniel says he knows where it may be. He smashes through the wall where the flies keep appearing from. Behind the wall, they find a staircase to a basement. The three of them go into the basement.
They find a skeleton in a cage. It is the witch. It is her voice causing things to happen. Germán says they have to burn her. They return to the house and look for gasoline.
Daniel finds half a can but Germán tells him they need more. Daniel keeps looking as Germán takes the half can back to the basement. He tells Ruth not to come with him. If he does not return in ten minutes, she is to leave.
Back in the basement alone, Germán is bombarded by apparitions, seeing the fate of the witch in the inquisition and different shocking visions.
In the house, Ruth sees her mother, Sofia. She has not seen her since she was a child. The apparition tries to entice her but Ruth refuses. Sofia disappears. Ruth sees the gnarled old witch. The witch disappears.
In the garage, Daniel is also being haunted by the witch. The witch disappears and is replaced with Sara and Eric. They beckon Daniel to them. Daniel hugs the apparition, thinking it is his family. It is the witch.
Down in the basement, Germán throws gasoline on the witch’s corpse. Ruth appears in the basement. She is controlled by the witch and stabs her father in the stomach.
Germán picks up the shotgun. In the garage, convinced to join his family, Daniel has doused himself with gasoline. Germán knocks Ruth unconscious and shoots the corpse, causing it to burst into flames.
His actions release both Ruth and Daniel from the witch’s power. Ruth helps her injured father out of the basement. She wraps his wound.
The next day, Ruth checks on her father. Daniel goes into his son’s bedroom. He sees Eric’s drawings. They depict all of the deaths and incidents that have happened. One of the drawings triggers a memory. He remembers taking Eric to the pool and holding him under. He killed him. Shocked at the recollection, Daniel kills himself. The final drawing shows that he blows his head off. The end.
Final thoughts: Don’t Listen is a very good horror film. Written by Santiago Diaz, Angel Gómez Hernández, Victor Gado and Juan Moreno and directed by Hernández, who also came up with the story, Don’t Listen is a beautifully crafted film.
The camerawork by Pablo Rosso is stunning. Every image looks fantastic. The editing is good, the sound is good, the makeup is good. This film is so well put together that there is very little to distract from the storytelling.
The story starts slowly but builds nicely, with a constant sense of foreboding after the unfortunate doctor’s demise. Even though there are only four deaths in the film – the doctor and the family – the film still manages to be tense. The acting is good from everyone on show, making an extraordinary story more believable.
The only, slight, complaint with regards to the story is the family seemed to suffer just because they bought the wrong house. There is no indication that they deserved the fate that befell them, neither bad character traits nor ill-intentioned decisions. It is only a minor slight.
Don’t Listen – Voces – is an entertaining horror, clocking in at ninety-seven minutes. A gem in the slew of tripe on Netflix.