Director: Eric D. Howell
Screenplay: Andrew Shaw
Starring: Emilia Clarke, Marton Csokas, Caterina Murino
Country: USA, Italy
Running Time: 94 mins
BBFC Certificate: 12
Based on Silvio Raffo’s 1996 Italian novel “La Voce Della Pietra”, Voice from the Stone is an atmospheric gothic horror which is entertaining in the extreme. It is impressively self-contained, with pitch perfect performances from its cast and a clear knowledge and love for the genre. As a spooky and suspenseful horror with a tumultuous climax, it delivers.
This movie was, as the kids say, a wild ride. The catalyst for the story is a kid who doesn’t say anything; since his mother passed away, 8 year old Jakob hasn’t spoken a word. Verena (Emilia Clarke), a solitary nurse who keeps herself to herself, arrives at the house to help him to speak under the watchful eye of the boy’s brooding but passionate father (Marton Csokas). Things get spooky when Verena discovers the boy spending his nights with his ear pressed to his bedroom wall, apparently listening to the whispers of his mother’s voice as her spirit speaks through the stone. And as Verena is drawn further into the mystery, she is lost in a world where madness and the supernatural are indistinguishable.
Emilia Clarke is perfect in this film. If you come to this from Game of Thrones, you’ll probably know what to expect, but I was surprised at how well she vanished into the role. Her Italian is flawless, and the transformation she undergoes throughout the film is subtle despite its inherent melodrama. Verena isn’t the most complicated of characters, but gothic horror is all about atmosphere and Clarke plays with that skillfully.
There’s no doubt that this is a slow burner, and the first hour is fairly drawn out. However, the atmosphere of the house is crucial to the story, and the incremental building of tension makes its eventual breaking point even better. The final third of the movie is absolutely wild, starting with one of the most erotic scenes I’ve ever seen in a 15 rated film. Verena strips for sculptor Klaus, allowing him to move her into the correct pose, before sketching and sculpting her with a furious concentration while she imagines having sex with him (while dressed in his dead wife’s clothes. Because obviously). From there, it just gets more crazy - it’s impossible to explain without spoilers. Suffice to say the dead mother plays a crucial, if ambiguous role.
Like many films before it - the strongest parallel being The Innocents (1961) - it plays heavily with ideas of madness and ambiguity. The archetype of the nanny is a well-used trope in gothic horror; the solitary figure who is neither staff nor family often moves between life and death, sanity and insanity. There’s also the question of identity, something that comes up a lot in Voice from the Stone. As someone with a job to do, Verena suppresses her own identity, keeping all details about herself secret. By making herself a blank canvas, both audience and spirits are free to project onto her, and her eventual identity is moulded by fear until she fits perfectly within the haunted house - or dies from the stress.
There’s nothing original about it, but if it ain’t broke, why fix it? Voice from the Stone is enjoyable in the best way; you’re able to laugh at the recognisable tropes, but it won’t stop you from internally screaming when shit starts to hit the fan. It perfectly walks the line between melodrama and genuine fear, ending up as a beautiful, crazy roller-coaster of terror and grim delight.
Voice from the Stone is out now on DVD and Blu ray. The Blu ray special features include three short interviews with Emilia Clarke discussing the making of the film, and a music video for the title track, which is written by Evanescence's Amy Lee.