Welcome! Log in or Register

The Orphanage (DVD)

  • image
£3.99 Best Offer by: amazon.co.uk See more offers
32 Reviews

Genre: Crime & Thriller - Thriller / To Be Announced / Director: Juan Antonio Bayona / Actors: Belén Rueda, Fernando Cayo, Mabel Rivera ... / Features of the DVD: PAL

  • Sort by:

    * Prices may differ from that shown

  • Write a review >
    How do you rate the product overall? Rate it out of five by clicking on one of the hearts.
    What are the advantages and disadvantages? Use up to 10 bullet points.
    Write your reviews in your own words. 250 to 500 words
    Number of words:
    Write a concise and readable conclusion. The conclusion is also the title of the review.
    Number of words:
    Write your email adress here Write your email adress

    Your dooyooMiles Miles

    32 Reviews
    Sort by:
    • More +
      30.12.2012 17:47
      Very helpful
      (Rating)
      4 Comments

      Advantages

      Disadvantages

      Classic

      'The Orphanage'/'El Orfanato' is a Spanish horror thriller directed by J.A Bayona with Guillermo Del Toro in production (director of amazing fantasy fairytale 'Pan's Labyrinth', horror film 'Julia's Eyes' and the 'Hellboy' movies.) 'The Orphanage' was released in 2007, is given a guidance rating of 15 because of some of its frightening scenes and runs for one hour and 40 minutes. FIlm is in the Spanish language. 'The Orphanage' is rated a massive 7.5 out of 10 on IMDB. At first I couldn't imagine how a horror could be rated so highly, but once I saw it, I realised, this is not like most other horror films.

      Plot
      ------
      A woman named Laura buys the house she was once brought up in as an orphan. This house is a large and secluded orphanage. When Laura, her husband and their son Simon, move into the new home they learn there is more to Simon's 'invisible friends' than just a child's active imagination and a search for attention. When Simon's behaviour becomes stranger and all of a sudden he disappears, not to be found, Laura thinks it is something that it hanging about the house being the cause of all of this. With the help of paranormal investigators, will Laura be able to figure out what is happening in the house and get her son back?

      The film
      ----------
      The beginning: There is nothing directly creepy about the first scene of the film, but it still creates the effect of giving off a chilling feel which makes it a pretty powerful opening to the film. With a shot of the old mansion that is the orphanage and the garden in which the children are playing a game of 'knock on the wall', it opens us up into this orphanage - but this game the children are playing later comes into the film in a more haunting way with a scary story to go with it. The mansion we see in the first shot as the film opens is a gothic styled house and we learn this was once an orphanage. As the opening credits kick in, we get another horror styled theme, as we watch wallpaper being ripped off walls by little hands with credit names revealed underneath, creating a stunning effect. We learn a bit about the lead character's backgrounds and the little girl playing in the garden is an orphan but when we see her again (maybe 10 more minutes into the film) years have gone by, the same girl is now happily married, has adopted a son of her own and bought that same old orphanage she was once the orphan girl at. The opening of this story gives us the things we need to know about the story and has us started right away.

      The story: It is not the usual things like stunning visuals, the special effects or outrageous scares, nor blood, gore and horrifying scenes which makes 'The Orphanage' an entertaining film to watch - it is really just the simplicity of the story and reality of the themes that make up the plot which I thought had everything to do with this film actually being really captivating. The engaging plot keeps you guessing the direction its heading, making twists and turns during certain places in the film and although some areas admittedly felt as though it may have been seen before in other films with a slight over-lap here and there, that seemed too minor to even get in the way of the overall appeal. With a combination and mixture of horror, mystery, drama, psychological thriller and romance, the story really does have a traditional almost classic vibe to it, really far from any modern day horror story, since it is kept as 'true' and gritty as possible along with its uncomplicated and easy-to-recognise, maybe even relate, situations and so once you reach the ending you could see this being the type of film you would want to watch once again because of the convincing energy around the story-telling and going through all the events again just to re-watch the events with a new developed angle.

      Horror/Mystery: Since the film doesn't rely on edge-of-your-seat jumpy scares, it instead brings viewers to find other simple things occurring in this film as dark and sinister, like disappearances, the ghosts, and strange old lady, etc rather than just constantly and anxiously waiting for the thrills like those effective boo scares that are not always so appropriate. That is not to say the film is not scary! There are scary things that are always occurring mostly revolving around giving off a very unsettling tone. There are experiences the characters in the film encounters that are also creepy and there are 'sad spirits' of children wandering and haunting about the house, which is chilling. There are just a couple other shocking scenes in the film that you would have not really expected. The medium that visits the house to investigate and she was the one who suspects that there were these 'sad spirits' or 'crying children' in the house but to be honest, these particular scenes could have been a lot more frightening if they had been more to see as viewers. On the whole though, as much as this film might fall under the horror genre, it actually touches a lot more on mystery and fantasy first and foremost. It only becomes horror when Laura becomes obsessed with her past.

      Theme/Mood: The serious tone dominating the scenes has the effect of bringing out the pure eeriness you would imagine atmospherically within a film like this, with strong themes based around love, loss, death, haunting childhood memories, secrecy/silence, child illnesses, disabilities and imaginary friends. Also, visually to accompany the overall mood, the film looks and feels very grim. If you remember the film 'The Others', it seems to fit under the same kind of area and whilst watching you might think about that film a lot, trying to draw together likenesses, but 'The Orphanage' still manages to take its own road; even then the story is not entirely the same. I think 'The Others' wins though in the scary department by far! Either way, if you liked 'The Others' you will definitely enjoy this one. More thematic visuals includes those general things I would not want my horror film to go without - like a big gothic mansion-like house in which the plot unfolds within, lots of doors and rooms to get lost in and long dark corridors, along with its creaky floorboard and dim lights - a perfect setting for terrifying things to happen in. Other elements include: ghosts/spirits, parapsychologists, the police, grand piano playing (classic horror movie stuff), and (some) investigating!

      Special/visual effects: The actual digital or computer generated effects are minimal and mostly revolving around 'invisible' effects that look subtle and blend into scenes without really being highlights of the film or standing out too much. Clearly it stays away from blood, gore or abnormal things that normally look great in cinema, and focuses instead on the simplicity of presenting the story in an interesting and impressive way. Although this could actually sound a little empty, especially since it is a 'horror' film that contains plenty of supernatural occurrences - the least you would expect is glorified poltergeists (maybe)... But it happens to still works flawlessly and you could in fact appreciate the way it is presented a lot more this way with its 'hidden' and unobvious effects. Although there are a few scenes where CGI effects were used and is done nicely, like the scene where we see that horrific - on verge of hilarious - gruesome dead shot (which you'll know what I mean when you see) along with its shaky camera shots, was very weird and actually turns out to be very unexpected which is a good thing. Others visual effects like the way the children are given the 'appearance' of a ghost, accidents that happen, the effect of 'footsteps' in the sand or the idea of invisible friends are all pretty persuasive and nicely done.

      Audio: Throughout the film, we could notice the audio tones fitting and coordinating with the mood intended with watching the story unfold - the musical background sounds are unnoticeable most of the time as if it is something you might hear from a tense drama, though equally upbeat at other times during more happening moments to accompany those fast-paced scenes - like the 'treasure hunt'. Common sounds effects helped build up suspense like when the lead characters walks cautiously around the house in anticipation of finding something including things like doors creaking or slamming shut, creaky floorboard, the sound of rainfall and the thunderstorms outside. There are no musical sounds to initially open up the film but once it gets started it commences with some music in the background where tones do not sound very important but then the credits kick in, and gets very horror-like with the sounds of chords and that distinctive ripping of the papers off the walls. Again, the film ends very similarly, with sombre music because it suits the sad ending that concludes the film - the musical background would not have been any other way.

      Ending: The conclusion to the film was okay. It might have actually been slightly less promising than I expected, but then I suppose others would say it is this ending which actually makes the film special. Either way, it definitely turns out to suit the tone of the entire film and that 'sweet' and emotional ending was the likely route it was going to take, certainly standing out as different to the usual Hollywood horror story endings. Something this ending did remind me of was one of Guillermo del Toro's other films and it seems to fall under the same sort of style - you will know which I mean but on the whole though, the finale rounds up the mystery we were intrigued by during the main bulk of the film and it all falls into place really nicely. Overall, not exactly a twisted shocker of a horror ending but like I say it is THIS ending which people are going to love. The bittersweet touching finish might just have been the way forward.

      Overall
      ---------
      'The Orphanage' is like an 'old-fashioned' traditional where it never really gets shocking enough nor thrilling enough to have you scared out of your wits (which is what you might have expected if it is a horror film you decided to watch) yet the chills hover over you endlessly throughout the film - you might never really be able to pin-point exactly what were the most 'frightening' parts of the film as the entire film is subtly spooky and this is were the film seems to build up most of its strength. I've seen this film three times now and I always notice there are lots of things which make this film FEEL different to other horror films though it not necessary is and when you look deeper into 'The Orphanage' you might actually notice that it is just like other films - content-wise - minus the much-loved boo-scares, where there is nothing really extraordinary about its plot content. Take the ending of the film for example - this is a reason 'The Orphanage' stands up as bold and distinctive, yet it seems to be borrowed from another of Del Toro's films! So I decided that I think it is the telling of the story that is the most interesting to watch and actually really beautifully done, along with its pace, and the development of character and plot, which horror films seem to disregard most of the times; and so in the end it is really just down to the way the film brings on a connection between the viewer and its characters.

      Every film is going to have its plot holes however, and this film certainly doesn't come without them - but we don't question those as much because it is easy not to when this film brings on so many other brilliant things. Since the scenes and plot are nicely progressing, it will have you absorbed in its events, with occurrences that linger with you long after the film. Overall, this is a clever film (production) and I think quite rare to find, so this is one film definitely worth checking out and enjoying, whilst at the same time maybe being aware it may not be your standard cup of tea - whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, I cant say, but I think the first time I saw it, I could easily have not liked it, as much as I did, it could have gone either way.

      Comments

      Login or register to add comments
      • More +
        16.01.2011 10:23
        Very helpful
        (Rating)
        4 Comments

        Advantages

        Disadvantages

        Subtitled genius.

        I've adopted a new policy when it comes to film; 'If you can't read subtitles, you might be missing out'. I found that, in most cases, the independent film-makers are generally more inventive, more innovative and more interesting than Michael Bay and his cast of explosions, or, for that matter, a fair bit better than boring Hollywood. If you hadn't already guessed, this is a Spanish film, the characters all talk in Spanish, and you get to read the (fairly good) English subtitles. That's a compromise you should be willing to take if you want to see something inventive.

        Story

        Set in an Orphanage in Spain, a couple, one of whom was an orphan themselves and their child, whom is also an orphan are about to start taking in other orphans. It sounds like an orphan bonanza, except, the doors will sometimes slam behind them, sometimes they will open and close, and sometimes, just sometimes, you will see a shadow dancing in the last remaining light of the room just as the door handle starts to rattle. From a child's eyes, these are just his imaginary friends playing with him, but there is much more than that. For more, however, you'll have to watch the film.

        Acting/Character

        The acting in this film was fairly convincing, however, any English dubs that you may find are totally not worth it, seen as the film is already amazing as it is. Some of the acting is so spine-tingling in this film that I checked to see if the hairs on the back of my neck were standing up and I found them hiding in the bathroom. The main three characters; Laura (who is played by Belén Rueda), Carlos, (who is played by Fernando Cayo) and Simon (who is played by Roger Princept). The actors of this movie produced an astonishing performance, which in turn made this one of the few movies that I'd watch several times over. This film had something that not many films before it had done, I was emphasising for the characters. There were times that I found myself chattering on my fingernails, unsure of what was going to happen next. The acting certainly had a part to play in this, and I'd suggest that this is one of the best acted Horror/Drama films that I have ever seen, but hey, at least its' not sixteen teenagers running around in the dark and occasionally screaming.

        Scare Factor

        This is a fairly tense, and at times incredibly jumpy, film. There are moments designed to shock the watcher, but at no point does it decide to resort to extreme gore while still having you on the edge of your seat. When was the last time you saw a horror movie that did that? If I recall correctly, there was a single gory moment, and it barely lasted two seconds. If you want to see gore and pretend that you're scared, really, don't bother with this film, especially as you won't be pretending anymore. This is a tense, nail-biting film, and I challenge you to see it.

        This film deserves nothing less than seven out of ten scare points, where zero is 'Not scary at all', five is 'I paused it' and ten is 'I passed out, terrifying'.

        How did it sound, Chris?

        The sounds are quite frankly the most important part of a non-splatterfest horror. When there's no gore to hold the audiences nerve, immersive sound become an absolute must. The sound of creaking floorboards, the tense background noise of doors opening and closing softly make a definite appearance here, and the effect is nothing short of tension. Some may say that the special effects are what makes the horror film. This film wouldn't nearly have been what it was without the sounds, and it wouldn't have even scratched the line of tension that it did without the visual effects. This film manages the sound perfectly, and in a manner that I have seen no other film manage.

        Was it in 3D?

        No, of course it wasn't in 3D, films like this don't really need many special effects to be extremely creepy. The height of the special effects, although it was all believable, was the scenes that involved several unspeakably creepy children and a scene where a women got hit by a bus. How many die-hard effects there are isn't important. What's important is that you feel for the characters when watching the film, and the effects were immersive enough to do that many times over. Don't go watching this film just for the effects though, this isn't any stunt-splosion fest.

        Perdido en la traducción? (Lost in Translation?)

        The heading above is translated using an internet translator. It is highly unlikely that it actually means 'Lost in Translation', and so I am always wary on if what I am reading in subtitles is actually what they're saying. In this case, however, I didn't really care. The English phrasing was perfect and it still had me understanding the story and kept me going at the pace of the movie. The only thing I can say about the subtitles in a negative light is that some people may not want to read them, and occasionally, especially at the beginning, I found that they were the slightest bit out of time. Essentially, it was the text equivalent of noticing that the lip-sync has gone off half way through the movie. It was irritating, but it fixed itself eventually, it could have just been my laptop, after all.

        Gore everywhere?

        Like I've said, this isn't a film that you watch because you want confetti blood and body parts thrown at you, it's a film you watch if you want to appreciate Spanish Horror. There are, however, a few moments thrown in.

        Violence - This film contains three gory scenes, a scene where a women has here fingers caught in a door, there is a moment where she pulls off the fingernail on the bloodied finger. This is not particularly graphic and it doesn't emphasise it. There is also a scene where a women is running frantically across a beach and breaks her leg. You see the bone poke out of her leg (non-graphic) for a few milliseconds, meaning that you can blink and miss it. There is also a scene where a women is hit by a bus, this is the most graphic scene, but only the aftermath, the moment where the viewer sees the impact is regarded as an accident and there is no particular detail. The women is dead, and her bottom jaw is shattered, there is blood and it's fairly graphic. It doesn't show you the wound for long.

        Language - A single F-Word, some other, milder language and insults are used throughout the film. There is very little cursing throughout.

        Disturbing Themes/Frightening Moments - There are moments designed to make you jump. The sounds used throughout the movie are extremely tense and may make you feel uneasy. The scenes with the children may be classed as disturbing. A child is threatened by death as he is taken from his family, leaving him without the HIV-Prevention drugs that he requires to live. There is a theme of orphans in this movie. This movie uses death as a regular theme.

        Content Conclusion - This isn't a film to be gory, and it is certainly not a bad film. A thirteen or fourteen year old could probably watch this due to the levels of content in it, but even an adult would need nerves of steel. Considerably less content than other 'R-Rated' (American rating system for 17+) horror films, and I'd happily let a thirteen year old see it, should they have the nerve.

        Conclude the Review

        I'd be extremely surprised if you hadn't already grasped that I am very fond of this film, and it should come as no surprise to you that I plan or rating it highly. This film doesn't have many flaws, and when it does, I barely notice them and the difference they make is negligible. This is, in my opinion, better than the horror that Hollywood will churn out several times a month, and it's worth the money that you will pay for it. If you don't want to read subtitles, you're missing out horribly. 'The Orphanage' is a film that excels in many ways, and it is fabulous.

        I rate 'The Orphanage' five out of five stars. It deserves them, too.

        Comments

        Login or register to add comments
        • More +
          06.11.2010 16:46
          Very helpful
          (Rating)
          2 Comments

          Advantages

          Disadvantages

          A spooky Spanish story about a young boy who goes missing

          - Cast/Credits -

          http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0464141/fullcredits


          - Story -

          A mother re-opening an orphanage in an old house notices that her quiet young son apparently has a number of imaginary/'invisible' friends, which alarms her slightly but her husband reassures her that this is perfectly normal and that when there are more kids around in the house, he will totally forget about all of these 'people'. However, things take a sinister turn when he disappears one day after an alarming event whereby he acts out against her while wearing a peculiar mask.

          She finds it hard to cope with the fact that her son is missing as the months go by and leads in the investigation are non existant. The house doesn't seem right being so quiet and she wonders if there isn't more to whats happened than meets the eye, so she turns to a team of parapsychologists who attempt to determine whether there are any ghosts or spirits in the building that may be in contact with or could help her find her son. Is he dead or not though? there are suspicions of a kidnapping being behind the disappearance... whats discovered as they investigate further? you'll have to watch the movie to find out, of course.


          - Thoughts/Opinions -

          This is another movie that isn't in England, this time its a Spanish movie and again that fact didn't put me off it at all, as I found it easy to watch through reading the subtitles. I don't know why but in the past I would have definitely turned over if I saw a movie wasn't in English but if its well made then I'll be alot more open to watching it now, as both of the 'world cinema' movies I've seen in the last week I've enjoyed, which is nice to know.

          This movie is very much written like a traditional ghost story, in terms of it having being quite haunting, with the setting in a rather old and dilapidated looking building and with a few scenes showing things that aren't quite right but which others don't always spot at the time. The scenes featuring the child with the peculiar, somewhat creepy looking mask does add a spooky feel to it, although to be honest I wouldn't say that its a very scary movie, its more a little spooky or chilling at one or two points but overall, I didn't find myself shouting out or screaming at all, even though its known as a moderate horror movie, I believe. In a way, its a bit like the Blair Witch movies, in that the creepy scenes and the main 'scares' focus on what you presume what your seeing means (if you know what I mean(?)), its not got much blood or gore (apart from one scene which is a bit graphic but fairly fleeting) but its likely to put a bit of a chill down your spine once or twice. When the mother is desperately trying to get in touch with her son, I remember the parapsychologist offering the advice that if you believe, you will see, not the other way around, rather than having to see to believe, so she puts all her effort to try to connect with the house and everything that relates to her son in order to somehow get close to him (hence the title 'I've seen it and I believe...'). If this sounds like annoying hokum, then this movie isn't for you - it gives you an idea of what the story is like but of course things aren't necessarily as simple as they appear, I think thats all I can say.

          I found myself feeling quite sorry for the mother, I thought her character was quite well written and acted. Its quite an atmospheric movie and I like the ending in a way, although other people probably won't...its hard to say much without giving away the ending but its different to what people may presume, it encompasses both a happy and a sad ending in different ways. Confused? yes I probably would be too if I read this review before watching it but having seen it, thats what comes to mind.

          I thought that the story was pretty absorbing and the characters are mainly good, although I was a little sceptical perhaps about one character, that being of a frail elderly woman who appears on the doorstep with no prior warning and whom Laura (the mother) is very suspicious about.

          Overall, I thought this was an absorbing movie that was well made.


          - Would I Recommend It? -

          Yes I'd recommend this movie, I found it quite absorbing and I thought the script was pretty good. Don't let the fact that this movie is in Spanish put you off, its still worth a watch if you can put up with the subtitles, I feel.

          I hope you found my review useful, thanks for reading and for all rates and comments, of course. This review was originally posted on Ciao UK.

          Comments

          Login or register to add comments
          • More +
            18.06.2010 13:01
            Very helpful
            (Rating)
            3 Comments

            Advantages

            Disadvantages

            A fantastic Spanish film.

            This is a Film only Review so I cant comment on any extras on the Dvd.

            The Orphanage (El Orfanato) is set in an old orphanage where a family moves to with hopes of re-opening as a safe centre for disabled children. The Orphanage is Spanish speaking and it has been categorized as a horror movie.

            At the moment I'm into looking through love film for some different films to watch, eventually I came across the orphanage which I had not heard of before, I read the basic plotline that love film offers and thought yes this sounds like a good film, but then I realised it was in Spanish and would be using subtitles, I must admit at first I was unsure as to whether to still add this film to my rental list but now I am so glad that I did decide to rent it. I was very pleasantly surprised by this film. I really enjoyed the film, the plotline was good and it was a very intriguing film. The overall acting in this film was very good but I thought Belen Rueda played her part of Laura fantastically, you could really sense what her characters feelings were and how deep her anxiety went. The tension throughout the film was held well and I never once got bored with waiting to find out what happens.

            The Plot.

            Laura and her husband Carlos move with Simon their young adopted son to the orphanage where she grew up. Laura has a dream of opening the old orphanage as a place for disabled children. Laura goes about getting the orphanage ready to open again, during this time she finds out that Simon has a friend called Tomas. When drawing pictures of his new friend Simon always draws a mask shaped like a bag over the head of Tomas. Laura starts to become worried about Simons behavior but Carlos is adamant it is just Simons way of trying to get attention. One night Laura finds Benigna, a social worker who previously visited them for Simon, wandering around outside, she tries to catch her to find out what she wants but is not quite quick enough. During a childrens party where Laura hopes to advertise her new centre for disabled children Simons behavior takes a dive for the worse.
            Will this families life and dreams ever come back from the nightmare to be the same hopeful happy dream again?

            The Orphanage was written by Sergio Sánchez and directed by Juan Antonio Bayona. The main actors in this film are Belén Rueda as Laura, Fernando Cayo as Carlos, Roger Príncep as Simón, Montserrat Carulla as Benigna.

            As I said previously I really enjoyed this film, I felt like I could relate to the state of mind theses characters encounter on the psychological side if you consider how you would feel in similar circumstances. They used typical horror film scenes for example dark gloomy grey weather and high suspense at night time. All round I felt that the film had been written, produced, directed and acted to a high standard.
            I would and have recommended this film to many friends, provided you either speak Spanish or you are happy to have subtitles then The Orphanage is definitely worth a watch. I was in doubt to begin with but my thoughts are the film was well worth reading the subtitles for me.

            Also on Ciao under the same name.

            Comments

            Login or register to add comments
            • More +
              04.06.2010 16:30
              Very helpful
              (Rating)
              17 Comments

              Advantages

              Disadvantages

              A wonderful film you're unlikely to forget.

              Film's Title - El Orfanato (The Orphanage)
              Year of Release - 2007
              Producer - Juan Antonio Bayona
              Director - Guillermo Del Toro
              Stars of the Film - Belen Rueda, Fernando Cayo, Roger Princep
              MPAA rating - R, UK rating - 15


              FILM REVIEW

              Wow! This film is amazing! You need to watch it! But, wait. Before you go off to order it, have a quick read of my review to see why it is such an amazing movie...

              After recently watching Pan's Labyrinth and loving it, I decided to see more of producer-director Guillermo Del Toro's films. After a recommendation from a good friend of mine, I bought The Orphanage (El Orfanato) on DVD and watched it shortly after it arrived. After finishing watching it, I went online and ordered another three of Del Toro's movies.

              I have a favourite producer-director at last! I'm not sure I've ever had one before, except maybe Steven Spielberg in the 1980s. Guillermo Del Toro's films really seem to speak to me. I love their fantasy quality, the surreal fairytale feel to them and the way life and death, reality and make-believe don't always have the definitive edges you expect them to.

              The Orphanage is more realistic than Pan's Labyrinth and has no mythical monsters in it, but again, it captivates, charms and compels. I felt I was completely enveloped by the story and felt annoyed when my husband came home from work to break the atmosphere!

              The story begins with scenes from an orphanage and children playing in the grounds of the big house. It then forwards to the present day and we meet Laura (Belen Rueda) who used to be an orphan in this very house, but is now an adult, happily married to Carlos (Fernando Cayo) and mother to a young boy, Simon (Roger Princep). It is Laura's dream to re-open the house for a small group of disabled children.

              Simon is an unusual little boy who enjoys spending time playing with his imaginary friends. When he goes missing one day, Laura begins to wonder if these imaginary friends are somehow involved in his disappearance...

              Hopefully this has whetted your appetite, but hasn't given away too much. It is essentially a ghost story, I suppose, but has elements of several genres in there, including drama and thriller. I wouldn't class it as a horror movie, as it is more spooky and chilling than horrific and frightening. There is very little gore, just one slightly gruesome scene, but it is the kind of film that wraps itself around you and seeps into your mind.

              I found the boy with the sack mask quite a disturbing sight, but I dislike scarecrows and find them rather scary and I think that is what it reminded me of. But this is one of those clever films that create a mood, a tension, with beautiful cinematography - misty corridors, shadowy figures, a glimpse of something in the corner, a silent and invisible threat. I do wish more modern films would realise this and not think two hours of guts being dragged across the screen makes a scary movie! (Stand up, 2010's The Wolfman!)

              Most of the action takes place in the house itself, which gives a claustrophobic feel to it all. The house is situated near to the sea and caves, which are both beautiful and threatening and these locations are well used too.

              The acting is wonderful throughout with not a bad performance in sight. Belen Rueda is completely convincing and as a mother myself, I could really understand the pain she was going through. Restrained and never over the top, she portrayed the stress and worry beautifully, with grief and time etching lines into her face until it seems unable to ever smile again.

              Roger Princep was nine years old when he played Simon and again, his portrayal is perfect. He retains an innocence and vulnerability of a child his age, while somehow adding that extra layer, which makes us watching it really question the existence of his imaginary friends. He also achieves that difficult balance child actors face by being cute, but not sickly sweet.

              Another performance worthy of note is American actress Geraldine Chaplin, who plays Aurora, the medium Laura calls in, to see if she can shed any light on the whereabouts of the missing Simon. This is one of the tensest sequences in The Orphanage and Chaplin is both unnerving and reassuring as Aurora.

              The film is beautiful. It is visually a treat, but also draws you in with the intriguing story and excellent acting. It is painfully sad at times and incredibly moving, but the adjective I would choose to use for the film as a whole is 'haunting'. I have a feeling this will stay in my mind for a long time.

              The ending was really well done too. This genre of movies can so easily be ruined by an ending that seems too idealistic or twee, but The Orphanage hits just the right note. In a similar way to Pan's Labyrinth, it is open to interpretation, but I was satisfied with the way it ended.

              As I haven't yet mentioned it, this is a Spanish film with English subtitles and I know that can put some people off, but don't let it. It only took a few minutes before I was so into the story, I hardly noticed I was reading subtitles. It certainly didn't detract from the experience at all.

              I can't wait to watch more of Del Toro's films. He's a genius.
              The Orphanage is outstanding. Watch it. Remember it.


              DVD INFORMATION
              I purchased the single-disc DVD of The Orphanage from Amazon UK for £3.99, which has no extras.

              Comments

              Login or register to add comments
                More Comments
              • More +
                23.12.2009 19:23
                Very helpful
                (Rating)
                5 Comments

                Advantages

                Disadvantages

                Watch it - but not just before bed.

                I borrowed this DVD from a friend on his recommendation, and watched it last night.

                The movie was released in 2007,however I had not heard of it before my friends recommendation. It is a Spanish subtitled film so it may not have been on in cinemas over here - although I'm not too sure about that. The script was written by Sergio G Sanchez - again he is Spanish so not known well in England - and it was directed by Guillermo Del Toro. I was already aware of Guillermo as the director of Pans Labrynth - another great film - so was keen to watch some more of his work.

                The cast is made up of Spanish actors and actresses, mostly unknown in England so I won't list them.

                The story is about a family, Laura and Carlos - husband and wife - and their young son Simon.
                The family move into an old house, formerly an orphanage where Laura lived until she was seven. She had happy memories of her time there and dreamed of restoring it to a home to look after special needs children - however after moving in, Simon begins to act strange and talks about imaginary friends constantly.
                On the opening day of the home, Simon disappears without a trace.
                Laura and Carlos try desperately to trace him and feel the strange presences in the house may have something to do with his disappearance.
                As the story progresses, Laura discovers some gruesome details about events that took place in the orphanage, and is even more convinced that her son has been taken by ghosts.
                She eventually sees her son again,but the mystery surrounding his disappearance was not what she thought.

                I would not say that I enjoyed this film as it is quite creepy for the main part, and the ending, when you discover what happened to Simon, was very very sad. However, it was a good story with surprises and twists as the story unfolds. I found the ending quite disturbing and it certainly brought a tear to my eye - however that makes it memorable and shows that the director can bring the story to life.

                I enjoyed the acting throughout, Belen Rueda who played Laura was particularly good, you really believe the emotion in her acting. Throughout the film you really feel her desperation to get her son back, and her frustration as people begin to think she is going a bit mad.
                The little boy who played Simon was cute as a button and a joy to watch. I really couldn't fault any of the acting.


                This is not the sort of film that I would watch again - definitely not a feel good film- but I will highly recommend to others as an example of a brilliantly written and emotional story. I would class it as a horror, but not a jump out of your skin sort of horror - more a psychological thriller really. There are ghosts involved but not really scary ones.
                I don't want to give away the ending, but it is not what you expect. In a way I would've preferred a happier ending but who knows, maybe that would ruin the film as a whole and it certainly wouldn't have been as memorable.

                Verdict - excellent but disturbing movie.

                Comments

                Login or register to add comments
                • More +
                  23.09.2009 00:56
                  Very helpful
                  (Rating)
                  16 Comments

                  Advantages

                  Disadvantages

                  One of the best and more unconventional horrors I've seen in a long while!

                  In 2006, director Guillermo del Toro blew audiences and critics away with Pan's Labyrinth, his gritty 'fairy tale for adults'. A year later, and he produced this intriguing, extremely tense horror, in which a couples' adopted son mysteriously disappears. The protagonist is Laura, a 37 year old woman who lived in the orphanage as a child before she was adopted. However, as the years passed the orphanage was closed down, and the story opens as she returns with her husband and adopted son, Simón, in order to reopen the building.

                  Del Toro is a master of combining fairy tale elements and heart wrenching realism, and The Orphanage is no disappointment. Despite the very apparent themes of horror, grief and psychological distress, the strongest theme is that of a mother's love for her child. Director Juan Antonio Bayona sets the tone of the film expertly, giving us glimpses of the supernatural and macabre, using the (now sadly clichéd) vision of a young child communicating with 'imaginary friends' and drawing strange pictures of a little boy wearing a sack mask. Not long after this, when hosting a party in their garden, Simón disappears without a trace, leaving no clues as to his whereabouts.

                  What follows is Laura's desperate search for her son, firstly working with the authorities and her husband, then later turning to more unconventional methods of searching, including conducting a medium after several supernatural encounters. Along the way she uncovers the background of her old home, and the distressing events that occurred there. Belen Rueda is fantastic as Laura, conveying perfectly a mother's unconditional love, as well as desperation, hope and paranoia. As a protagonist, Laura is likeable and distinctly human - regret and guilt are major elements of her character as well as the usual strength and determination.

                  The horror elements of the film are more reliant on psychological fears and subtle paranoia than out and out scares. Remember though, that this is a ghost film, so of course there are a few jumpy moments. Said moments are conducted with an obscene amount of flair, thanks to stunning cinematography and a truly haunting soundtrack. It should also be noted that there are a couple of gory scenes, but the gore doesn't play a major role, thankfully, keeping in with the more solemn tone.

                  Bayona is an expert at creating a superb amount of tension before revealing a scare. Sometimes even, he creates a superb amount of tension before revealing nothing. Nevertheless, we're kept on our toes, never knowing what to expect when the telltale signs occur. The colour palette of the film also helps with potential menace - a sombre combination of rusty browns and dark shadow at night, contrasting with white and golds during daytime scenes. But the best factor during these scenes is the location itself - the old, imposing building of the title. During the day, you'll wonder at the majesty of such a beautiful building. But at night, it becomes terrifying, and you wonder how on earth the protagonist can stand living in such an eerie house. It creaks, as old houses do, but this is The Orphanage, and the creaking echoes and becomes a moan of despair and warning as Laura explores the house for her son.


                  What really makes The Orphanage rise above many other horror films is the ending. Although I'm reluctant to call it a twist, it is certainly a revelation, and no doubt original and unexpected. As per usual, Bayona handles the conclusion stylishly and artistically, scenes washed in sepia and heightened sounds creating amazing suspense and intrigue. In my opinion, the last few scenes are the best in the film.

                  As I touched on earlier, Del Toro's influence is obvious within the story, as two different worlds mix together. In Pan's Labyrinth, a young girl was the bridge between wartime Spain and a fantasy land of fauns and fairies. In The Orphanage, a young boy is the bridge between a pleasant family life and the spirit world. The film also references other fairy tale stories such as Peter Pan, giving the plot some extra juice. Such methods and thoughts are fairly unconventional within the average horror, so really, The Orphanage is a breath of fresh air. This is certainly an accomplished piece of cinema from a new director, and definitely worth a watch if you don't depend on brutal gore and screaming adolescents for a prime horror experience.

                  Comments

                  Login or register to add comments
                    More Comments
                  • More +
                    07.08.2009 10:31
                    3 Comments

                    Advantages

                    Disadvantages

                    Highly worth it if you like classic Ghost Story Horror

                    The Orphanage has to be one of the best horror films I have seen in a long time; focusing on the classic spine-tingling effects of haunting and psychological complexities, rather than the usual blood and guts gore of modern horror, this film goes back to the tried and tested techniques perfected in the golden age of horror - the Victorian era.

                    It is so refreshing to see a horror film which does not rely on fear of crude physical pain to achieve its effect. It has you at the edge of your seat right until the very end, and the fact that it is in Spanish with subtitles adds to rather than detracts from the enjoyment. The direction is excellent, as is the acting, and the special effects were good enough that I had to get up several times, switch of the film and turn on the lights to get my breath back.

                    The best part for me was the plot which, thanks to the psychological edge to the horror, assumes an intellegent participation on the part of the viewer. This is as much a detective story as it is a ghost story, and the twists and turns of the plot kept me hooked as much as the horror. The ending is a heart-rending surprise, uplifting and terrribly sad at the same time.

                    If you liked Pan's Labyrinth, you will surely enjoy this too. It has the same hard-hitting creepiness as Devil's Backbone, but with a lot of the plot difficuties of the earlier film resolved. Highly recommend.

                    Comments

                    Login or register to add comments
                    • More +
                      27.07.2009 00:02
                      Very helpful
                      (Rating)

                      Advantages

                      Disadvantages

                      A solid slice of foreign horror

                      note: also appears on The Student Room in part

                      The Orphanage is a film not only given a huge stamp of approval by Guillermo del Toro, but also produced by him. Del Toro has made a name for himself as a director of many visually stunning and thematically atmospheric, creepy films such as Cronos and The Devil's Backbone. Some of that charm and influence has clearly rubbed off in this effective, albeit somewhat overrated horror film.

                      The Orphanage centers around Laura (Belén Rueda), a woman who returns to visit the orphanage that she inhabited as a child. Laura, along with her husband, Carlos (Fernando Cayo), intends to turn the orphanage into a home for physically and mentally disabled children. However, things become problematic when their adopted son, Simón (Roger Príncep) invents a seemingly make belief friend named Tomás, with whom he plans to run away, and does so following a heated argument with his mother.

                      Whilst by no means a horror classic, it has an effective style that's more creepy than scary, and the film's somewhat admirable for not having an abundance of precitable jump scares like those that have plagued recent American horror films. However, it's ending, whilst dark and uncomfortable, made me angry in a way that I doubt its director intended - to reveal anymore would be to spoil the conceit, but it leaves one very poor character left in the lurch, and somewhat advocates the horrifically selfish behaviour of another character. It's clever, but very frustrating.

                      A well-executed exercise in style over substance, with beautiful cinematography and fine performances. The narrative is rather dry and not always coherent, but the film's ending will remain with you for a while.

                      Comments

                      Login or register to add comments
                    • More +
                      14.07.2009 12:23
                      Very helpful
                      (Rating)
                      1 Comment

                      Advantages

                      Disadvantages

                      A good film to watch on a random evening

                      The orphanage is a crime/thriller/horror about the dissapearance of a young boy who was brought home from an orphanage by a couple and looked after in their mansion, until one day he meets a 'friend' in a cave whilst playing one day on the beach...

                      The film is a foreigh, Spanish to be exact, film which has been seeing great reviews over the past year which made me purchase this film, the cast is unknown to me at least, perhaps in Spain they are fairly well known although I doubt that also, the acting is pretty good and some of the suspense is well directed, Tomas the friend of Simon, the couples son, is also very creepy with his mask, although I believe it would have been much scarier/creepier had they not revealed his true face early on in the film. The ending was actually very well played out I thought and the games the little kids played with the woman was clever, the ending was both heartbreaking and happy at the same time as we realiase what the woman herself did.

                      Overall The Orphanage is a fairly good film, it's not going to go down as a classic horror but it certainly has appeal, there are some very good scenes such as the rather scary scene where a medium tries to contact and see around the house from the past and the ending is rather creepy with the mother playing the same game with the children that we see at the beginning of the film.

                      One good thing is that the story plays on the suspense and thriller aspect of horror rather than the gore, which for me isn't very scary at all...

                      Good film, not a lot more but certainly worth a watch.

                      Comments

                      Login or register to add comments
                      • More +
                        28.06.2009 16:17
                        Very helpful
                        (Rating)
                        5 Comments

                        Advantages

                        Disadvantages

                        Another great Spanish film

                        Right well seeing as im in a bit of a film mood today i thought id do this one after Pan's Labyrinth. It's also a Spanish film with English subtitles.

                        The Orphanage is produced by Guillermo Del Toro which is the main reason i watched it. After watching Pan's Labyrinth, im willing to give anything a go that has his name on it. It was released in 2007 and has won 31 awards out of the 32 it was nominated for.

                        The plot:
                        Set in Spain, Laura, Carlos and their adopted son Simon have bought an old orphanage and plan to set it up as a place for disabled children. It is also the same orphanage where Laura grew up. Once they get settled in, Simon claims to have made friends with a boy named Tomas who he draws pictures of wearing a sack mask. Laura just puts it down to having an imaginary friend.

                        One day a very strange looking social worker called Benigna visits the house and tells Laura she has Simon's adoption papers and claims to know all sorts of things about him. Laura soon sends her away but Benigna comes back later on and starts snooping around.

                        The family throw a party for the orphanage but this only leads to Laura and Simon arguing because she wont play with him. As the aprty gets going, Laura is trapped in the bathroom by a boy with a sack mask on with Tomas printed on his T-shirt. When she finally gets out, she searches frantically for Simon but he's no where to be found and the police think it may have been Benigna who kidnapped him.

                        After Simon goes missing all sorts of strange things start happening around the house like banging on the walls. Laura refuses to believe that Simon is dead no matter what anyone says and contacts a medium to come to the house to try and find out whats going on. Aurora, the medium tells Laura that she's close to death so also has the ability to see the dead. After perfoming tests at the house, Aurora explains that something terrible had happened to the children and they had all died because of it. It's Laura's job to find out what happened to them so she can find her son. It turns out Benigna worked at the orphanage a long time ago and had something to do with the childrens' deaths. At the same time, Carlos can't handle the situation so he leaves Laura at the house to figure everything out.

                        My opinion:
                        The story was great and kept me hooked the whole way throughout. There wasnt one boring moment in the whole film for me. Although it is supposed to be a horror i didnt really think it was that scary. There was a couple of parts that made me jump but it was more dark and creepy than anything else.

                        Normally im pretty good at figuring out the end of films but i didnt see this one coming at all. There's so much going on in the film that makes you think that it takes away from trying to figure the end out. Laura's character was so believable and her emotion for her mission child felt so real and ended up making me cry at the end.

                        Great job done all round by the actors and i think the film was fantastically cast. I kind of like the fact that i dont know any Spanish actors because sometimes it means high expectations to start with. I wonder if anyone could have done it better?

                        Comments

                        Login or register to add comments
                        • More +
                          17.06.2009 17:33
                          1 Comment

                          Advantages

                          Disadvantages

                          You can pick this up online for a fiver. Well worth a punt.

                          A directorial debut made under the watchful eye of Guillermo del Toro will always entice me to the cinema and the fact that it is another horror in a similar vein to Pan's Labyrinth made this film a must see.

                          The story revolves around a woman, Laura, who spent her childhood in an orphanage which, years later, she has the chance to buy and reopen. However, things take a sinister turn when her son, Simon, starts to talk of his apparently imaginary friend, Tomas.

                          When Simon disappears, the chase is on to find him. However, as time runs on and it becomes apparent that Simon will not be found, Laura starts to investigate possible paranormal activity at the orphanage...

                          This film is a glorious piece of Spanish storytelling and, for fans of del Toro, you can certainly see his influence. However, it is the ending of the film that will take your breath away. Typically for a del Toro project, it is all about the highly original way in which the fantasy and reality are resolved.

                          Brilliant.

                          Comments

                          Login or register to add comments
                          • More +
                            03.04.2009 18:22
                            Very helpful
                            (Rating)
                            8 Comments

                            Advantages

                            Disadvantages

                            A young child goes missing, and long-buried secrets begin to surface.

                            With Guillermo del Toro's name attached to it as producer, but under the debut direction of Juan Antonio Bayona, The Orphanage (El Orfanato) is a classy, chilling horror that produces escalating scares without resorting to cheap shocks, spinning an engrossing story while it tingles the nerves. The film opens thirty or so years prior to the main events of the tale, as one of the children playing in the grounds of their orphanage is about to learn that she is to be adopted and leave the home. This is Laura, around which the events of the story turn, who returns in the modern day to re-open the neglected orphanage, intending to once more welcome children into her former home.

                            Immediately, there's plenty of scope for horror here; the lonely, empty corridors of the isolated orphanage, the dusty remnants left behind when the last residents left, the dark caves beneath the gardens. It is to the film's great credit, though, that it chooses to resist exploiting these environments too greatly for jumps and shocks; instead, they are far more effective as an omnipresent backdrop to the unfolding story, heavy with looming menace, ever-ready to overload the imagination.

                            Laura and Carlos return with their own adopted son, Simon, who is unaware of his origins. The child is a lonely figure, with no peers to play with, but has an extremely active imagination. His parents are used to his imaginary friends, and so take little notice when he begins to talk about his new-found playmate, Tomas. However, events take a turn for the sinister as Simon disappears, and Laura starts to believe that Tomas may not be as imaginary as they had assumed; indeed the masked child who has begun to appear around the orphanage may be leading her to uncover what happened to the children left behind after she was adopted.

                            Belen Rueda's performance as Laura slots perfectly into the Orphanage; she displays a wide-eyed resilience that both holds attention and allows the sinister background to come through. She is always a strong presence on screen, but is never overly dominant, conveying her emotion without descending into melodrama - as such, she reflects the inherent fears and threats of the plot and setting, the film allowing most of the scares to form in our minds.

                            Rueda is ably assisted by fellow performers young and old, amongst them her stoic husband who doesn't share her suspicions of supernatural intervention, and her son, who brings across a sense of innocence touched by an elusive disquiet just below the surface.

                            Holding a good pace from the off, The Orphanage moves swiftly through its two hours and rarely drags or dwells on lesser details; the director Bayona chose to cut out much of the sub-plots in favour of bringing the central story to the fore. As well as the plot develops, however, the pay-off isn't quite what the build-up deserves. It's neat, relatively logical in the context of what has gone before, and there's nothing inherently wrong with it - however, it's something of a muted ending that doesn't really conclusively tie up the various loose ends. In some ways, this is a positive; the film again steers clear of melodrama in favour of a more ambiguous, contemplative tone which asks the viewer to put some of the pieces together. This is certainly a refreshing approach, although the open-ended nature doesn't quite add up to a satisfying conclusion, and fades out a little uncertainly.

                            As a whole, however, The Orphanage works, and is a cut above standard creepy-children shockers. A wholly unnecessary Hollywood reworking is in the pipeline, which is at least testament to the power and quality of this film, although it's hard to see why it needs to be re-made. The performances are top-notch and the plot is intelligent and challenging, with a visual direction that maximises returns on both. Del Toro's influence is hard to quantify; this is a fraction more gritty and less fantastical than most of his efforts, although there are elements which are strongly reminiscent of The Devil's Backbone (El Espinozo del Diablo), and the film features a leading actor playing a role somewhat different to that she usually fills; something the producer did to great success in Pan's Labyrinth. In any case, while Del Toro's name may attract some viewers, the film is more than capable of excelling on its own merits, as one of the better horrors of recent years.

                            Comments

                            Login or register to add comments
                            • More +
                              22.03.2009 09:45
                              Very helpful
                              (Rating)
                              4 Comments

                              Advantages

                              Disadvantages

                              A sad story with a heart.

                              The Orphanage has Guillermo Del Toro's name all over it, however when you look closer you'll see it is produced by the great man and not actually one of his films, nonetheless, the Orphanage is a wonderfully elegant and consistently nerve-wracking film.

                              Set in modern day spain a woman, Laura and her husband Carlos, with their adopted son Simon buy the disused orphanage in which she grew up their plan is to adopt a number of children and give them a better life, it is clear this is Laura's ideal from the start. Laura and Simon walk around the local area and stop in a cave where Simon on his own claims to have found a boy called Tomas, Laura checks but sees nothing. Laura holds a party for local children and during the party Simon (a child who constantly talks about his make believe friends) mentions Tomas, a young boy he claims to have met in a cave and wants to show Laura his house, Laura is upset with him whilst rushing about and slaps him, sometime later she is unable to find Simon and searches the house endlessly for him, at one point she sees a young boy in the old fashioned orphanage uniform she herself once wore and a hessian sack over his head, he locks her in a bathroom and when released she fails to find Simon. The rest of the film is based around the orphanage, Laura's attempts to find Simon and the disturbing presence of Tomas.

                              The Orphanage is central to the entire story as Laura tries to unravel the events that occurred there in the past which may prove relevant to finding Simon. The film is directed by Juan Antonio Bayona, who shows a masterful touch in directing this film. He creates suspense in a way many modern films can't, this has more in common with the films of Hitchcock than recent horror films, the suspense builds through atmospherics and sounds rather than scarily ridiculous psychopath murderers. The film is subtle but also gives you clues throughout as to what might be happening. In an age of spoonfeeding, you really need to watch, listen and get involved to fully enjoy this story.
                              The film is filled with atmosphere, it is wonderfully tense and the music is used masterfully to add to the suspense and intrigue.
                              Belen Rueda is compelling and powerful as Laura the woman who wants to return to her old home and loses the thing she loves most there. She is dynamic and gives the impression of vulnerability whilst also being the only person prepared to confront this deformed spectre in a hessian mask and deal with the situation. She is ably supported by Fernando Cayo as Carlos, her husband who seems to be coasting along with her wish and at no point shows the backbone to help his wife escape the nightmare that is enveloping her. Roger Princep is suitably sweet and slightly creepy at the same time as the young boy who see's people and knows his own mortality is short due to his HIV. The supporting cast are superb from the creepy Benigna to the calm disbelieving Pilar.
                              I would definitely recommend this film to anyone, it is subtitled but for anyone who enjoys film and is willing to read a little the film draws you in until you are utterly heartbroken at the end by the harrowing story revolving around the old house. It is a sad story and is really well told, you will have no idea how it ends or how it builds up to end and its all the better for this, its a modern film with old fashioned aesthetics and story telling, it is as good as the hype and will live long in my memory as a film with class style a real heart and an overwhelming sense of sadness.

                              Cast:
                              Belén Rueda ... Laura

                              Fernando Cayo ... Carlos
                              Roger Príncep ... Simón
                              Mabel Rivera ... Pilar
                              Montserrat Carulla ... Benigna
                              Andrés Gertrúdix ... Enrique

                              Edgar Vivar ... Prof. Leo Bálaban
                              Óscar Casas ... Tomás
                              Mireia Renau ... Laura niña
                              Georgina Avellaneda ... Rita
                              Carla Gordillo ... Martín
                              Alejandro Camps ... Víctor
                              Carmen López ... Alicia
                              Óscar Lara ... Guillermo
                              Geraldine Chaplin ... Aurora

                              DVD Extras:

                              * Making of Featurette (12 mins)
                              * Deleted scenes
                              * Interview with Bayona and Del Toro in Budapest
                              * UK Exclusive Q&A with Bayona at Curzon Mayfair
                              * Casting & Rehearsals
                              * Designs & Sounds & Lighting & Storyboards

                              Comments

                              Login or register to add comments
                              • More +
                                09.03.2009 10:02
                                Very helpful
                                (Rating)
                                12 Comments

                                Advantages

                                Disadvantages

                                A woman's son disappears in her childhood home

                                With only happy memories of her time at an enormous, sprawling orphanage on the Spanish coast, Laura returns to her childhood home with her husband Carlos and their son Simon. The couple intends to re-open the orphanage to care for children with special needs alongside their son Simon, who, himself, requires very special care for reasons he doesn't yet understand. The family is initially very happy, but Simon's behaviour soon starts to give cause for concern. His insistence that he has made new, invisible friends draws Laura into a disturbing and distressing confrontation and soon after, Simon completely disappears. Who is the curious old woman who purports to be a social worker and, more importantly, who is the strange, rasping child who occasionally appears wearing a sinister-looking mask? Only the orphanage knows the answer to these questions - but what must Laura do to get the walls to give up their secrets?

                                Whereas American film directors consistently take the "same old" and produce the "same old" with it, Spanish director Juan Antonia Bayona somehow manages to take what is essentially the "same old" and do something quite new with it. El Orfanato (or The Orphanage, as it was titled in the US and the UK) is a beautiful and moving tale of ghosts and grief that remembers that less is more often than not so much more. Produced (not directed) by Guillermo del Toro, there are strong similarities to elements of the Pan's Labyrinth, an equally successful Spanish horror-fantasy, but The Orphanage takes a less fantastical approach to the subject matter and focuses, instead, on being an atmospheric and old-fashioned ghost story.

                                The writer never really spoon feeds the audience. This is a narrative built on hints and suggestions rather than obvious, dramatic clues and incidents and plays instead on the gut feelings of audience members. As much as Laura suspects that something is not quite right, the audience knows this to be the case, no more so than through the occasional glance of a strange little child, dressed in old-fashioned uniform, with a battered old hessian sack as a face-mask. This is one of those stories where everything that is apparently innocent seems to have a darker meaning. There is, evidently, danger in the house. But where is it, and what is it - and who is most at risk?

                                The Orphanage is an overwhelmingly sad story. Laura and Carlos, initially full of nervous hope for their new home, must confront one tragedy after another as the building's mysterious past is revealed. Inevitably, it is Laura who suffers most when Simon disappears, devoting her entire life to finding him and as the on-screen subtitles indicate that many months have passed, it's not difficult understand her anguish. It's comforting that the writer, Sergio Sanchez, doesn't utilise this as an opportunity to turn our attention on the relationship between Laura and Carlos and opts to continue to put Simon at the heart of everything that happens. Doubt is frequently introduced, through the police, through the police and through Carlos's husband, but there is never really any question of Laura's sanity in the mind of the audience. The conclusion, potentially the saddest part of the whole tale is ultimately somehow rather uplifting, which seems to have been the writer's ultimate intention. Indeed, whilst often labelled as a horror film, there is no intention here to horrify or disturb anyone.

                                As such, the director opts to unsettle more than anything else. There are one or two jumpy moments, but the overall effect is achieved more through a continuously creepy feeling rather than particular moments. Whilst this may threaten to make the finished product a little dull, Bayona pretty much avoids this entirely by keeping the pace and tone at a level that keeps the audience hooked. There's a wonderfully spooky sequence involving a strange medium investigating the house, but again Bayona keeps it simple, more often than not suggesting something rather than obviously pointing it out. The location is stunning, a huge, period mansion in a beautiful rural location, and a largely faultless, sandy beach, both of which are used to great effect, if only to contrast the beauty of the surroundings against the tragedy taking place. Curiously, the isolation of the orphanage and the complete lack of technology within it give the whole thing a strange timelessness and this, in itself, adds to the mystery and intrigue. There are strong elements of Catholicism running throughout the film too, probably more so than this reviewer was able to grasp, but the overall mantra of "believe then you will see" plays strongly to this religious perspective.

                                Belen Rueda's commanding performance pretty much dominates the film from start to finish. It's hard not to feel a strong empathy for the character, who demonstrates such tenderness towards her son. The narrative's eventual reveal is pretty heart-wrenching stuff, and Rueda manages this far more capably than most would have been able to. Fernando Cayo is nicely understated as her husband and child actor Roger Princep is very convincing as little Simon. There are some other outstanding supporting performances too, notably from Geraldine Chaplin as the spooky medium Aurora and Montserrat Carulla's enigmatic Benigna, who could so easily have strayed into comical territory.

                                The Orphanage isn't perfect. In spite of the fact that it feels very different to anything produced in the US, it still bears similarities to other recent films such as The Others and The Sixth Sense that can potentially lead the audience to draw some conclusions that may or may not be the case. The plotline relies on the audience accepting certain events that may in normal circumstances prove to be unacceptable and the way in which the orphanage's secrets are revealed is, at time, slightly confusing. It should also be noted that this is a Spanish language film, with subtitles in English. Although this never really distracts from the narrative (indeed, it seems to add a more realistic resonance) this isn't going to be favoured by every potential viewer.

                                But these are minor criticisms of what is otherwise a competent, absorbing and consistently atmospheric chiller that has a profound effect. Frightened, saddened and emotionally a little exhausted, the audience will, at the very least, have a definite reaction to this film, a feeling with which modern filmgoers are not always so familiar these days.

                                Recommended

                                Comments

                                Login or register to add comments
                                  More Comments