An Average Movie-Goer’s Review
Spoilers! If you don’t want spoilers – check out the Spoiler-Free post
I love horror movies and if I’m going to watch them anyway, why not write an entertaining/funny review from the POV of an average movie-goer and not a professional critic.
Today we’re looking at 2020’s Spanish horror Voces also known as Don’t Listen
A house flipper moves his family into his latest project but his son soon starts hearing voices at night that threatens the family.
Is Don’t Listen (2020) Scary?
Don’t Listen has some effective tension-building scenes and a bunch of jump scares. While a large number of the jump scares work, the ones that don’t feel cheap and lazy. By the end of the film, you’ll have jumped a few times and felt a bit scared but that fear won’t last too long after the credits roll… unless you just moved into a clearly haunted house and you’ve started hearing voices at night.
Don’t Listen (2020) Full Plot Summary:
The film opens with a man using a net to pull a red ball out of a dirty pool surrounded by a metal gate. We quickly learn the man is named Daniel (played by Rodolfo Sancho) a house flipper who has recently purchased the home the pool belongs to. Along with his wife Sara (played by Belen Fabra) and his 8-year-old son Eric (played by Lucas Blas), the family has moved into the home until Daniel can finish fixing up the house.
Upstairs, Eric speaks with a psychologist (played by Beatriz Arjona) who believes Eric has been having a hard time adjusting to the move. Eric clarifies it’s not the move that’s bothering him, it’s the voices that wake him up in the middle of the night and that’s a big red flag.
Eric tells the psychologist that the voices often tell him to draw things after waking him up and hears the voices constantly. When she asks what they tell him, he says he’s not allowed to say.
Later, as the psychologist leaves, she tells Daniel and Sara that the cause of Eric’s behavioral issues are mainly due to the constant moving. Weirdly she leaves out the part about the voices which I feel was pretty important.
After the psychologist drives off, Eric’s walkie-talkie goes off emitting static and he starts drawing. Meanwhile, the psychologist’s radio emits static as we see a fly enter her ear. Her eyes become blood red as she appears to become possessed by something forcing her to put the pedal to the metal.
Unable to slow down, the psychologist crashes as we switch back to see Eric has drawn a bloody tree branch. Back at the crash site, we see a branch has broken through the psychologist’s windshield and pierced her face, killing her.
Sometime later Daniel spots a fly infestation in a crack in the wall and instead of investigating what’s causing the flies or checking if there’s something behind that wall, he just sprays it with some poison. Eric then calls him on the walkie-talkie and asks him to help get his red soccer ball from the pool since he’s not allowed to enter the pool area alone.
Later while Sara gives Eric a bath, Eric asks if it’s true his father hates him. Sara is taken aback by the question and asks who told him that, which is not an immediate no. Eric says his own father told him over the walkie-talkie.
Sara denies it’s true but that night asks Daniel if he recently yelled at Eric. He denies ever yelling at Eric but assumes Eric is just acting out because of the move and promises to spend more time with him.
A few hours later, Daniel is awoken by the sounds of the pool gate opening and goes out to investigate. Meanwhile, Eric is awoken by static emanating from his walkie-talkie which means it’s ghosting time. After Daniel closes the gate, he enters the house and hears Eric on the walkie-talkie speaking with someone.
In Eric’s room, his toys suddenly start going off and he spots the decomposed feet of someone standing behind the plastic sheeting in his room. He immediately hides under his covers as the voices, which sound like unintelligible whispers, get louder.
As we hear someone enter his room, the voices stop and the intruder is revealed to be Daniel who attempts to pull the sheets off of Eric to find out why his son is being weird. Because Eric doesn’t realize it’s his father, he pushes him away causing Daniel to cut his hand on a picture frame. Sara rushes into the room, sensibly turns on the lights, and comforts Eric.
The following day as Daniel works, Sara arrives home with Eric and reveals Eric has been expelled from school for biting the principal. Did the ghosts tell him to do that? When Sara tells Eric that the psychologist will now start visiting daily, Eric reveals the voices told him she’s dead.
Later Daniel and Sara call the psychologist only to find out she died and Sara wonders how Eric could have known that. Daniel assumes someone at school told him and brushes it off. You know how kids love passing around the local obituaries during recess.
Daniel goes to check on Eric and asks who he was talking to on the radio the night before. Eric claims he was talking to him but when Daniel denies this, Eric asserts that it was his voice. That night, at 2:30 in the morning, Eric furiously draws as he holds the walkie-talkie to his ear. On the other side of the room, we see the silhouette of a woman watching over him.
A short time later, the creaking of the open pool gate wakes up Sara who wakes up Daniel to go close it. As Daniel heads downstairs, he sees the front door open and decides to grab his shotgun just in case. Outside he spots Eric’s clothes on the ground and rushes to the pool calling out to Eric.
Meanwhile, Sara enters Eric’s room and discovers he’s missing, and upon hearing Daniel call out to Eric, she rushes outside. At the pool, Daniel finds Eric face down in the water and pulls him out as we fade to black. I mean they’re not going to kill off the kid on the poster so I’m sure we’ll cut to him in the hospit-
After Eric’s funeral, Sara decides to spend a few days with her parents while Daniel decides to stay and finish the renovations on the house. The two briefly argue about what to do with the house as Sara refuses to live there.
That night as a teary-eyed Daniel watches some home videos, he sends Sara a voice message apologizing for the argument. Meanwhile, we see the spirit watching him from the other room. After turning off the video, Daniel hears weird sounds coming from behind him and thinks he hears someone on the walkie-talkie. Talking into it, he gets no response and gives up.
The next morning he wakes up to a call from Sara who claims the voice message he left included some weird sounds and screaming. Daniel blames the weak signal but when replaying the message, Eric’s voice is very clearly heard saying “Papa please help”.
Apparently, Daniel must have bad hearing because he transfers the message to his computer in order to isolate the voice. Playing it on a high volume, Daniel freaks out realizing it’s his son. A short time later, Daniel attends a book signing for a famed paranormal investigator who specializes in electronic voice phenomenon, Germán Domingo (played by Ramon Barea).
Upon meeting Germán, Daniel asks “Are you a fraud” which is always a good opening line. Daniel then begs Germán to listen to the recording he captured of his son and after some back and forth, Germán finally agrees. Possibly the next day and after hearing the recording, Germán and his daughter/assistant Ruth (played by Ana Fernandez) who doesn’t believe in ghosts, arrive at Daniel’s home to start their investigation.
Entering the house, Ruth notices the fly infestation around the crack in the wall and somehow doesn’t immediately ask, “hey, you got a dead body in there?”. Instead, Ruth asks for a room so she can set up her equipment which includes sound recorders and thermal cameras. Meanwhile, Daniel and Germán discuss the recording as they walk toward the pool.
Daniel notes that in the recording, Eric is asking for help and asks Germán if it’s possible Eric is trying to tell him something. I’m going to take a shot in the dark here and suggest that maybe Eric is trying to tell him he needs help.
At the pool, we learn that investigators blame Eric’s death on him getting caught in a branch while in the pool and attempting to get his ball. This is something Daniel believes to be impossible as Eric could swim and would never enter the pool alone. So we’re dealing with some violent spirits.
Back at the house, in Eric’s room, Ruth sets up a thermal camera and doesn’t see it pick up someone standing behind her. Daniel and Germán then enter the room and the group prepares for their first investigation. Germán enters the master bedroom alone with a recorder while Ruth watches him in another room through security cameras.
Switching over to the thermal cameras, Ruth spots who she believes is Daniel in Eric’s room. After telling Germán to tell Daniel to leave the room, Germán reveals that Daniel is outside and that’s when shit got serious. Ruth switches over to the regular cameras and sees that there’s no one there despite the thermal still capturing someone.
Germán makes his way to Eric’s room and captures what sounds like humming in his recorder. Entering the room, he loses connection with Ruth and captures several static garbled voices. Ruth is finally able to regain connection with him and demands he leaves the room as whatever is in there, is standing right in front of him.
There’s a quick jumpscare when the spirit screams but, apparently, the spirit is too weak to do anything else as we cut to a short time later with Ruth, Germán, and Daniel reviewing the footage. Ruth points out it can’t be a ghost as you need a body, emanating heat, to appear on a thermal camera but this is waved away by German saying “There are things we don’t understand.” A line that feels like the writer is telling us not to ask too many questions.
Realizing that there is definitely something haunting the home, Ruth and Germán decide to spend the night and continue their investigation the next day. That night Germán wakes up from a nightmare and hears the voice of his late wife calling to him.
Here’s a tip, if you’re staying in a confirmed haunted house and you hear a voice calling out to you, it’s a freaking ghost. Germán follows the voice and upon entering the kitchen, it changes to a memory of him at home with his wife, Sofia (played by Nerea Barros) who is preparing a meal.
Sofia has Germán sit down and says she’s been waiting for a long time while pulling out a knife. As she places it on Germán’s wrist, she tells him they’ll be together again and I’m starting to feel like it’s not the real Sofia. Germán tells her no but she starts cutting anyway.
Luckily, Ruth enters the room questioning what is going on and we see that it was all a hallucination caused by the spirit. Well, the Sofia part was a hallucination, the spirit was making Germán actually cut himself.
Meanwhile, Sara gets a call from an unknown number and hears Eric’s voice begging her for help. Ghost Eric claims that the man Daniel brought to the house is trying to hurt him and he is currently hiding under his bed. I know Sara has been through a lot after losing her son but she did bury him, so maybe don’t trust the random call?
The next morning Ruth steps outside for a smoke and discovers the nearby tree now has almost two dozen dead cats hanging off of it.
A short time later as Daniel is burying the cats, Germán warns him they can’t trust what they see or hear and that it might not actually be Eric on the recording. Sara arrives at what is the worst possible moment because catching your husband with a stranger your dead son warned you about while your husband buries several cats, is never a good sign.
Meanwhile, in town, Ruth leaves a local store when a random woman calls out to her and warns her about “The House of Voices”. Back at the house, Sara enters Eric’s room and sees Eric’s spirit playing with a toy by his bed. Before she can approach him Eric scurries under the bed and disappears. Sara looks under the bed and sees a pair of decomposed feet on the other side but when she looks up there’s no one there.
For some reason, instead of running out of the room, Sara decides to look under the bed again. She does this 2 more times! There’s a quick jumpscare when “Eric” runs past her causing Sara to fall backward and bump into the spirit haunting the house.
Downstairs Germán finds references to cat hangings in his notes and realizes they are dealing with the spirit of a witch. As he informs Daniel, Ruth arrives and tells the group she learned the house used to be a courthouse where witches were kept, tortured, and killed three centuries ago. Apparently, the people in town are well aware the house is haunted which means Daniel did no research before buying the house.
As Germán explains that the killings, even of innocent women, could have created evil, Sara’s dead body crashes through the window and it’s revealed she’s been hanged. Later, while police and paramedics take Sara’s body away, Germán realizes where they can find the witch’s body. Let me guess, is it the hole in the wall that’s vomiting flies? Unfortunately, we might not find out because Ruth isn’t about the witch-hunting life and demands they leave instead.
Meanwhile upstairs in Eric’s room, Daniel hears Eric’s voice asking him for help through the walkie-talkie. Looking over at the plastic sheeting, Daniel now sees Sara’s spirit holding Eric, although this could just be the witch using their likeness.
Daniel approaches the sheeting and in the most obvious jump scare so far, something lunges at him but disappears just as quickly. Downstairs one of the monitors plays back the video recording of a possessed Sara hanging herself and switches to an infrared view.
Ruth and Germán see a glimpse of the witch’s spirit holding the walkie-talkie confirming that the voices everyone has been hearing, are not of the deceased family but just a trick of the witch. This was definitely one of those reveals where you’re like, “Okay, but we knew that already right?”
A loud bang is heard and Ruth and Germán rush upstairs to find a crazed Daniel readying his shotgun… to shoot a ghost? Germán is able to calm him down and tells the group he believes the witch’s body must be under the house where the cells of the courthouse were kept. Daniel believes he knows how to get to the cells and we cut to Daniel chopping at the hole in the wall.
As they break through the paneling and some loose bricks, the group finds an old set of stairs leading to a basement.
The three head down with flashlights and find the torture chamber along with the witch’s body still locked up in a cage. Germán touches the cage and gets a quick vision of the completely unexpected Spanish Inquisition arresting and torturing the witch for the crime of blasphemy. Germán then states the only way to kill the witch is to burn her body.
The group rush upstairs and into the garage where Daniel hands Germán a red gas tank that’s about a quarter full of gasoline. Germán states it won’t be enough which is weird because it’s just one body. Despite this, Daniel says he’ll keep looking for another tank while Germán heads down to the basement alone after telling Ruth to stay behind.
We get a bit more backstory on Sofia’s death before Germán goes down but I really do mean a bit. From earlier in the film it’s apparent that Sofia killed herself but Germán suspects it wasn’t her choice, possibly something supernatural and something he’s kept Ruth in the dark about.
Though Ruth suspects Germán knows what happened, Germán has refused to confirm or deny anything. Before Germán goes downstairs he reveals to Ruth he doesn’t know why Sofia killed herself so while this subplot doesn’t exactly feel out of place, it does feel like it’s something the writers aren’t planning on resolving in this film.
Anyway, in the cells, Germán first hears the voices of those tortured screaming out in pain but then things get serious when his flashlight starts flickering. Between moments of light, we see spirits running past and spirits replaying the torture they inflicted on women thought to be witches. As everything gets quiet the spirit of the witch appears and lunges at Germán.
Upstairs, Ruth calls out to her father but hears someone walking behind her. Grabbing a box cutter and searching the first floor, she sees the spirit of her mother (clearly the witch in disguise) standing in the hall. Sofia calls out to Ruth to hug her and we learn that Sofia must have died when Ruth was extremely young. We also learn that Ruth was not allowed to attend Sofia’s funeral.
Since Ruth doesn’t exactly recognize her mother and knows that a stranger equals danger, she doesn’t fall the trick and tearfully rejects her mother. Sofia walks away and disappears as the witch approaches Ruth from behind.
In the garage, Daniel is still looking for another gas tank when Eric’s red ball rolls in. The witch appears for a quick jumpscare because this movie does not waste an opportunity, followed by the spirits of Sara and Eric who ask Daniel to stop Germán. Daniel hugs his family but as we pan out we see he’s actually hugging the witch… DUN DUNN DUNNN
Back in the cells, Germán is totally fine so I guess we’re pretending the witch lunging at him a few minutes earlier didn’t happen. As Germán pours what is definitely enough gasoline to burn a witch’s corpse, he’s distracted by humming. This allows a possessed Ruth to sneak up behind him and stab him in the stomach with the box cutter.
As he gives her his best “et tu, Ruthus” look, he begs her to fight the witch’s influence and picks up his shotgun. Meanwhile, in the garage, we see a possessed Daniel pouring gasoline on himself and preparing to light himself on fire. Luckily possessed people are really slow during the climax of a movie.
Germán is able to push Ruth away and fire at the gasoline-covered corpse causing it to ignite. Both Daniel and Ruth come back to their senses and Ruth helps Germán out of the basement cells.
The next morning Germán wakes up with Ruth having dressed his wound and the two agree to leave. Germán tells Ruth that Sofia’s death led him to believe evil exists but has dedicated his life to looking for spirits that prove good also exists. Ruth asks what they’re going to do next and Germán says a friend of his asked him to take a look at an exorcism… sequel baiting!
Upstairs Daniel sits on Eric’s bed and notices all of Eric’s drawings. After pulling them off the wall he realizes that they all have foretold the events of the movie, the tree of dead cats, Sara’s death, Germán cutting himself, etc. One picture shocks Daniel and although we don’t see it, we see a flashback of the night Eric died.
It’s revealed the witch possessed Daniel that night, grabbed Eric, dragged him to the pool, and drowned him. As the memories return to Daniel, he sits by the pool heartbroken, and we see the witch watching him from afar.
At the house, Ruth looks for Daniel and discovers the pictures along with a smashed walkie-talkie on the ground. Back at the pool, Daniel reveals he’s carrying his shotgun and kills himself as we pan over to the final drawing that depicts Daniel drowning Eric. Ruth hears the gunshot and runs out of the room as we see one of the drawings on the ground depicts Daniel shooting himself.
The film ends as Ruth discovers Daniel’s dead body in the pool.
But wait, there’s more! In a post-credits scene, we see an exorcism being performed on a young girl which doesn’t work. This is revealed to be a video being watched by Ruth while she sits in Germán’s hospital room as he recovers from his stab wound. Have I mentioned sequel baiting yet?
Don’t Listen is good. The acting is good, dialogue is good, but I do feel like the movie was trying to over-explain the story to the audience. If you’re a writer you know the worry that if you don’t explain everything in detail, the audience won’t get it or they’ll miss something important, you forget that audiences are pretty smart.
For example, we didn’t need a scene of Ruth and German seeing the witch holding the walkie-talkie to confirm the witch is tricking everyone with the voices and ghosts. The scene of German being tricked into cutting himself clearly shows that; everything else that happens in the movie also clearly shows that. Ruth learning the house is haunted from a random person in town is also unnecessary as German is learning the same thing from his research at the same time.
The over-explaining also feels weird because there are some good twists/details that aren’t over-explained, for example, the witch isn’t strong enough to hurt the living, she has to possess someone in order to force them to hurt themselves which explains why her jump scares never end in injury. There’s also the reveal that Eric was actually hearing Daniel’s voice on the radio because Daniel was being possessed at night by the witch.
Besides the above, which I feel is a bit nitpicky, the only other negative I have is that it feels like a jump scare fest at times. Some do work but other scenes feel like they’re telling you “get ready, there’s a jump scare about to happen at the exact moment you think it is.” It gets to a point where it feels overplayed.
It has some good surprises, like killing off Eric which raises the stakes for the rest of the film and it’s that tension that makes you actually worried for the rest of the characters. For the most part, the plot is well-told and well-paced, there’s good suspense and tension, and, while it’s not mind-blowing, the story is entertaining. The introduction of Ruth and German gives the film a Conjuring feel in terms of story beats since you have a pair of paranormal investigators with their own backstories being sought out for help.
Overall I recommend Don’t Listen to any horror fan that wants to casually watch something that’s entertaining but won’t blow your mind.
Stuff to Ignore
Metacritic – No Page