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Movie: The Orphanage


In a recent post I once revealed my aversion to movies which deal with viruses. Well, if virus movies are the number one thing on my heeby-jeeby list, then they’re followed extremely closely by movies that feature creepy kids… especially dead ones. They’re bad enough when they’re alive, with their tiny — and more often than not, sticky — hands, but dead… why can’t they just stay that way?

As you can imagine, this aversion has meant I’ve had a real hard time coming to terms with the onslaught of Japanese horror movies over the last few years, as they all seem to have been shopping at the same “dead kid, with black hair, in a white dress” store. Sadly, I don’t hold many of these ‘j-horror’ movies in very high regard. Sure they’re freaky and can make you jump out of your seat on the odd occasion, but in the end they all come undone when you try to make sense of them. Many of them leave you not to ponder the story or discuss the events of the film with others, seeking answers. Instead you’re left only with a racing pulse
and a “what the #$@# did I just see??” look on your face.

The same can not be said for the Juan Antonio Bayona directed. Guillermo Del Toro produced. Spanish horror flick, The Orphanage (El Orfanato).

Laura (Belen Rueda) and her Husband, Carlos (Fernando Cavo) have purchased the now abandoned orphanage in which Laura stayed for a time as a child. With the intention of reopening the home to children with special needs, the couple and their adopted son Simon, move in to the old building. Soon Simon, who already has a few imaginary friends, expands his circle of make-believe pals after exploring a cave on the nearby beach.

Something just isn’t right with the orphanage. One day a strange elderly woman, claiming to be a social worker, appears with information about Simon and is hurriedly sent away by Laura. Later Laura finds the old woman creeping around inside the house in the middle of the night and again chases her off.

What is suppose be the start of a new chapter in the family’s life becomes a nightmare when Simon vanishes after an argument with Laura on the opening day of the orphanage. No trace of Simon can be found and as a last resort Laura turns to the paranormal for answers.

Initially The Orphanage appears to be a fairly cooky-cutter horror movie that’s only deviation from the never-ending stockpile of spooky Japanese films (and their constant US remakes) is that the dialogue is delivered in Spanish. However it is a far superior film in just about every aspect. It’s a beautifully constructed movie which draws you in and puts you at the edge of your seat. You’ll jump, sure, but this isn’t a movie that looks for cheap thrills, instead it shocks you in the way it juxtaposes the supernatural with the gritty, heart-breaking reality of what really transpires in the orphanage.

Bayona’s direction is artistic but not overbearing. It’s a credit to him (and editor Elena Ruiz) that, at the climatic scene of the movie, a complex explanation of events is distilled down to three quick — but fluid — jump shots: The explanation is made so perfectly clear that you can’t help but gasp as the truth hits home.

Not being familiar with Bayona’s other work, it’s hard to know how much (if at all) Del Toro influenced the construction of this film, but it certainly feels like the kind of work he’s done before. A large part of the films success is due to Rueda’s emotionally raw performance as Laura. You feel her loss, the wedge which comes between her and Carlos, and ultimately the weight of her guilt.

The Orphanage will sit in the back of your head and deep in your gut for a long time after you leave the cinema. It’s the sort of film that you’ll want to discuss with others and implore those who appreciate great film-making to see. [source]

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1 Comment

    All I can manage to say is wow. This film was amazing. So many wonderful thrills, horrifying realisations and heart-breaking revelations. The fact that me and my 2 brothers were all struck mute at its most beautiful, celebratory, tragically sad ending…wow. Just fucking wow. I wonder if the fact it was in Spanish lent it some sort of ‘quirkiness’ that made its impact more potent – the language barrier most certainly added to the mystique surrounding the orphanage. Every shot said a thousand words. The ending, as you said, in such quick, concise and efficient time, said volumes of what you just watched. Watched is the wrong word. It was an experience.



    Just wow.