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First Look Review - THE WHISPERING MAN

the whispering man review
A vlogger inherits a mysterious painting from his late grandmother.

Review by Sue Finn

Directed by: József Gallai

Starring: András Korcsmáros, Ágota Dunai, Dávid Fecske, Rob Oldfield,  Dávid Kiss

the whispering man poster

Starting, as most found-footage films do, with stark white text on a black background, we are informed that the following was compiled from footage filmed by Mark H and other materials that were leaked online. The footage was partially edited and archived by the police in June 6, 2019, this Hungarian effort continues, before launching into the film proper.

Mark (Daid Fecske) has an episodic blog show called ‘Chasing Fear’ that exists, he claims, to explain the unexplainable. He offers that he has researched different spooky things in the past but the next investigation will be personal. His grandmother recently died and left behind her belongings including, apparently, a weird scary painting of “a man with a contorted face”, Mark says. It's called The Whispering Man.

the whispering man review

So, off to grandmother's house he goes, accompanied by brother Tommy (Andras Kocsmaros), ostensibly to pack up her things but ultimately just to get the painting. On the way, he continues filming his show, explaining his family history direct to camera. Their dad is English, he says, which is why they are all bilingual, including his talented sister Anna, currently living in Russia.

After his parents' marriage ended, dad took the painting with him back to the UK; he returned from time to time, aggressive and ‘changed’, until finally he disappeared altogether.

After this, Mark says, the painting was returned to the family in Hungary and his grandmother took to hiding the painting in the attic, covered with a blanket. After locating it in the attic as mythologised, they take it back home, along with many of grandma's other belongings. This is the end of chapter one of Chasing Fear.

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Later, on the launch of the next episode, Mark invites friend Abel to his home and starts to interview him on camera. It transpires that Abel (David Kiss) has had many occult experiences and therefore is somewhat of an ‘expert’ in these things; he even participated in an exorcist, though “Only as an observer”, he qualifies.

They talk about the history of the painting. It was obtained from a hotel auction where Mark’s grandfather worked, but after taking it home his grandmother said the house felt haunted and his grandfather was sick for a long time before eventually dying of a heart attack in front of the painting.

the whispering man review

When girlfriend Dora (Agota Duna) arrives, the painting and its place above their bed immediately horrify her, but she tries to be supportive, and against her better judgement, it stays there.

Things start going bump in the night, and they find themselves haunted by a song that sister Anna explains while on a Skype call with the brothers, is their parents' song, the one they first danced to.

After a dream in which he is trapped in a burning asylum, Mark decides to visit the local abandoned asylum from his dream. There he’s chased out by various ghosts and ghoulies, but not before he picks up a degraded videotape that he hopes is the key to what’s going on.

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But the family observes he’s not the same after that late night jaunt. Something seems to have possessed Mark and he is now a danger to his family. Will they be able to get him help before it’s too late?

As directed by Jozsef Gallai, the film itself is shot competently and follows the rules of found footage well. For a film on a tight budget, it achieves a professional look that obviously relied on a talented film maker, though it displays a rather odd light-hearted tone, particularly in the delivery of dialogue from some of the supporting cast and some musical choices. This undermines the film's ability to plunge you into dread, at least in the first half of this 74 minute movie.

the whispering man review

I found the script by Balint Szanto problematic. Unfortunately there is just way too much exposition here, and the way it’s conveyed to the audience is via the unimaginative talking heads route. This script needed an injection of freshness to draw the audience in and not just actors delivering large slabs of backstory direct to camera. It just didn’t hold my attention. The woodenness of some of the performers didn’t help, though they do all try their best to energise some of the more clichéd occurrences.

The ending also stretches credibility too far, what with a glaring lack of blood after one particularly violent exchange, and a survivor failing to escape or call the police when there was time for both.

Found footage, more than almost any other sub-genre, relies on reality and believability to fully pull an audience in to what should be an immersive experience, and when a film gives an audience a chance to question things, all is lost.

A good effort and not a total fail, but this one just didn’t come together satisfactorily.

The Whispering Man is on US Digital now. A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.




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