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The Orphanage (2007)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Juan Antonio Bayona

Starring:
Belén Rueda/Laura
Fernando Cayo/Carlos
Roger Príncep/Simón
7 10
PLOT-CRUNCH
Laura (Rueda) acquires the orphanage she was raised in with her level headed husband (Cavo) and her sickly son (Princep). Shite goes from bad to worse when the brat starts yapping with imagery friends, an oddball old bag looms about the place and ghostly happenings kick in hardcore. What’s going on here???
THE LOWDOWN

A tale of love. A story of horror.

Writer/Director Guillermo del Toro was solely a Producer on this flick but I swear, I wouldn‘t have blinked if del Toro’s name would’ve magically appeared as the “director” of the film during the end credits. Juan Antonio Bayona’s THE ORPHANAGE felt a lot like del Toro’s THE DEVIL’S BACK BONE and PAN’S LABYRINTH in intent but on a smaller scale. Character driven and emotionally charged while paralleling a “fairy tale” (Peter Pan this time) it hit where it counted…right here (points at heart) and right here (points at crotch…that’s a joke…a bad one…but its all I got).

THE ORPHANAGE (aka El Orfanato) was a horror movie made for adults. Its pacing was slow burn, its editing classical and its scares derived off masterfully orchestrated suspense set pieces. Straight up, I was shitting bricks and building a fort many o times during this sit down. Just goes to show that creaking doors and bumps in the night can be much more bone chilling than any special effect... if done right. Last time I felt this scared was when this douche pulled the “I’m pregnant card” on my ass to manipulate me into staying with her. So yeah… it was THAT effective. Another aspect that jacked up the fear quotient was that it took its time to establish its premise, its characters and their credible relationships. I bought it wholesale man, totally imbued in the engaging drama at hand (the mother’s plight being the strongest) hence by the time the ugly got fugly; I was back-handed two fold and sent to the barrows.

Now that I think of it, this was quite the busy movie substance wise. You had the mother son thing, the mother/father thing, the son’s particular condition, the ghosts and the gripping mystery that came with them. Big props to the creative pins behind this one for juggling all of them elements so gracefully and rarely dropping a ball in the process. Yup, I was worked from all sides and worked well at that. Spook on top of all that breath taking locations (the ocean + spooky cave + creepy house = me sold), a calculated and hypnotizing directing style and more bleak atmosphere than you can shake an axe at and you get one solid little horror movie.

What's holding me back from giving this baby a higher rating is that it kept reminding me of other films. I know, I know, everything’s been done, and usually familiarity doesn’t bother me much, here for some reason, it did. Pan’s Labyrinth was one of them in terms of feel, but narrative wise this one screamed out THE DARK and POLTERGEIST way too many times, hence lessening the impact of the whole for me. Furthermore, one special effect took away from what was one heck of a visceral scene. Funnily enough, it was the only gore shot in the flick and if it were up to me, it wouldn’t have existed. An obvious rubber head does not UPSET ME… SORRY.

All in all though I walked out the theatre teary eyed (bitch cried again, hey, the flick was moving man) and feeling swell. This is the perfect horror film to bring your girl, your mom or just peeps that usually don’t dig horror films to. A classy ghost story. Class is always good!
GORE
This one wasn’t about the red-grub and it was all good. The oppressive tension was all I needed! With that said, we get a bloodied finger/nail, a fake looking mangled head and some deformed kid that gave Nicole Richie a run for her money as to being the ugliest human being alive (or dead).
ACTING
Belén Rueda (Laura) carried the film like a head cheerleader! Credible, emotional and totally endearing; I was rooting for this broad through and through. Fernando Cayo (Carlos) lent able support to Rueda, bringing depth to what could’ve been a nothing role. Roger Príncep (Simón) was non annoying and believable. What else do you need from a kid actor? Was that Geraldine Chaplin (Aurora) doing her best Zelda Rubinstein impression? YOU BET IT WAS! Hey, I bought it!
T & A
I was thinking of Jenna Jameson licking clams as the end credits rolled, does that count?
DIRECTING
Juan Antonio Bayona was all up in this one with confident shots, a genius use of classic scare devices (atmosphere, noises in the dark) and a double down on bleak mood.
SOUNDTRACK
Fernando Velázquez put out a brrr inducing and evocative score.
BOTTOM LINE
THE ORPHANAGE was a mature, fleshed out, smarter than the norm and mucho frightening watch. Not only did it work as a horror film and a mystery but it also whooped hard as a poignant drama. Granted, the film felt very “déjà vu” for this jerk with THE DARK and POLTERGEIST haunting my noggin throughout, but hey, at least it echoed good films. See it!
BULL'S EYE
The film was shot in Barcelona, Barcelona, Cataluña, Spain and Llanes, Oviedo, Asturias, Spain.

VISIT THE OFFICIAL ORPHANAGE SITE HERE

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9:29AM on 10/07/2008

Great Movie

Great story, atmosphere, acting.
Great story, atmosphere, acting.
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