Director – Juan Antonio Bayona
Cast – Belen Rueda, Fernando Cayo, Roger Princep, Mabel Rivera, Montserrat Carulla, Andres Gertrudix, Edgar Vivar, Oscar Casas
Release Year – 2007
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I remember watching this flick back when it released in 2007, and enjoying it. After viewing it for a second time, I enjoy this one even more. It’s a shame I have passed over re-watching this film over other flicks, because this one tops 90% of everything else I’ve watched. One of the best supernatural ghost stories ever told, The Orphanage is a sincere flick that truly shows great filmmaking.
This flick follows Laura(Belen Rueda), a former orphan who purchases the orphanage she grew up in so that she can house handicapped children. Upon moving into the old orphanage her son begins to exhibit strange behavior. She finds him talking to what appears to be nothing, but tells her he is talking to his “friends”. Her husband, a doctor, believes it is just him adjusting to the new home, and supplementing his boredom with his imagination. Soon enough however, their son disappears without a trace. Convinced that whatever force resides in the house has something to do with their son’s disappearance, the couple distraughtly fights to find out what happened to him. Nine months have passed, and their son still has not been found. The husband has given up his search, as realism tells him he will never find his son. Laura however is ready to take on the “other side” and get her son back.
The Spanish sure have been doing some great horror recently, and nearly all of them have something to do with director Guillermo del Toro. He gave us The Devil’s Backbone in 2001, Pan’s Labyrinth in 2006, and produced this film in 2007. Aside from REC, I can’t think of another huge Spanish horror flick that doesn’t have Guillermo’s name attached to it.
The greatness this film employs lies in it’s story. We’ve seen haunted house films countless times before, but never one that displays creativity like this one. Instead of the usual ghost story we get one of love and the perseverance that accompanies love. How often do we get a ghost story that shows a mother’s extreme love for a child that was not born of her? I can’t think of a single instance. Bravo to screenwriter Sergio G. Sanchez for that. I also liked how the husband was used in a somewhat unorthodox way. Usually in this types of films the spouse whether husband or wife usually does not believe the other spouse’s claims. I used the word “somewhat” because he does not necessarily believe her claims, but has faith in her decisions to investigate further when all seems lost instead of just giving up entirely. It adds a nice touch in my opinion.
Now the biggest reason behind this film being an amazing watch is because it’s great storyline was brought to the screen with amazing direction. Director Juan Antonio Bayona set the perfect atmosphere for this flick, and showed he will soon be a powerhouse in direction. He could not have picked a better setting for this flick.. The large home with it’s long hallways and wide rooms sets the mood for this gloomy flick, and with it’s many hiding spots, keeps the viewer on edge when the tension rises. His camerawork as well as beautiful cinematography engulf the viewer, and kept me glued to the screen. I was so very surprised that this flick paced as well as it did. Usually these ghost stories need a lot of time to develop and therefore pace quite slowly. Now, this flick did take its time with development, but thanks to all the elements I’ve mentioned so far I was never bored and didn’t feel it dragging. Good direction will do that to you.
So how are the scares for this film? Given this flick’s awesome poster, I figured it would have some good scares, and it does for the most part. The scares aren’t over-the-top scary but they are effective and really creepy. I love the look of the boy with the sac over his head. Just plain awesome.
Overall, this is an amazing film that I recommend to all horror fans. If you want to see an expertly told ghost flick then this should be your first stop. You will not be disappointed, but don’t expect the usual Hollywood bullsh*t.
- I ranked this film #14 in my Top 50 Horror Movies of the Decade(11-20) post.