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The Orphanage

A movie directed by Juan Antonio Bayona

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A Sophisticated and Carefully Crafted Ghost Story....

  • Jan 23, 2009
Rating:
+4

THE ORPHANAGE is the latest supernatural film from Spain which definitely has the feel of Guillermo del Toro's influence. Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona, based on the screenplay by Sergio Sanchez; the film is an enchanting, creative gothic horror film that follows the footsteps of "The Devil's Backbone", "Pan's Labyrinth" and "The Others". Much like the aforementioned films, "The Orphanage" has a theme to it, it is not a fast-paced horror thriller with the usual clichés. The film is a clever, inspired production that gives a "nudge" towards our imagination. After all, our imagination and innocence gets lost when we grow up, corrupted by our own personal experiences.

Returning to her childhood home; a mysterious seaside orphanage, Laura (Belen Ruede) and her husband Carlos (Fernando Cayo) has plans to reopen the orphanage to help underprivileged children as well as those children with special handicap. They have an adopted son named Simon (Roger Pincep), who is also suffering from HIV and has quite a "posse" of imaginary friends. When strange incidents happen in their home, and Simon mysteriously disappears, Laura must confront the secrets of her past and the otherworldly secrets of the orphanage before it destroys everything that she cares for…



The Orphanage's plot is complex and intelligent, with a powerful script that grabs the viewer that may even give the feeling of a fable. The film has multiple themes as to what it is trying to say; such as listen to what children are telling you, interpretations of childhood and adulthood fears, and the danger of being stationary as time passes you by. The film is more of a mother's point of view of a certain fairy tale that takes a stab at our imagination and the things we take for granted. The film's execution is full of intrigue that is a welcome break from all the Asian horror remakes that Hollywood has bombarded us with. The proceedings have a creepy and eerie feel at times, dare I say also seductive?

The film is also emotionally driven and it does take its time for us to get to know the characters. Laura played by Belen Ruede is a mother bent on helping children, the actress definitely expresses the needed emotions in supporting its carefully constructed story. While the film may support a slight pacing issue, I can excuse this minor fault since this film is Juan Antonio Bayona's full length directorial debut. Laura is a mother very much in tuned to her emotions while her husband Carlos is more of the rational kind. Once Simon disappears, the film takes off into a more intense but curiously enchanting pace; as Laura searches and obsesses in finding her son. The introduction of resident psychic Aurora and the policewoman, Pilar adds more controversy on the plate, since they were obviously set to confuse Laura and the viewer's opinions. Just who is Aurora? Is she a real medium or is she a con artist?

It is very difficult to review "The Orphanage" without spoiling a lot of its effect. I believe I should stop here, before I say anything else. Suffice it to say that if you are expecting something scary on a very graphic scale or if you are expecting an experience that will give you non-stop visual chills, this film may not be for you. Don't get me wrong, the film does have its share of credible chills and shock value but it's the kind that stabs in your imagination. This type of feature will entangle you into its web and the more you're entangled, the better you'll enjoy it. The film is a genuine attempt in creeping you out more than scaring the pants out of you. It is a perfect execution of spirit world storytelling that leaves you an emotionally driven climax with a sensation of terror and disturbing comfort.

Highly Recommended! [4 Stars]

HYEP LEVEL: High. With Del Toro's name associated with the film, expectations would be extremely high. Thankfully the film fulfills such expectations.

Video/Audio: 2.35 anamorphic widescreen. Clean and impressive transfer with accurate colors. The 5.1 Dolby Digital Spanish Language track is very powerful and clear. Subtitles are excellent.

Features: Making of/Make up effects/interviews/auditions/marketing spots

movie poster Spanish promo poster Spanish promo poster 2 U.S. Dvd cover

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December 28, 2010
Another great review on another great film WP, I was actually thinking of re-watching this the other day.
 
January 23, 2009
Being a Guillermo del Toro fan, I really have to see this film. Great review.
 
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More The Orphanage reviews
review by . May 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
**** out of ****     We ask a lot out of the horror genre and the filmmakers involved, and often get nothing in return. Remakes are not what we want, and neither are meaningless exercises in violence and sadism. What we need more of is real fear; the kind that sends shivers up your spine. The kind that makes you think. The kind that makes you wait. The kind that people seem to have forgotten.    Well, perhaps it is not right for me to say that EVERYONE has …
review by . April 21, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
The old stone mansion that once was an orphanage sits isolated within its ill-kempt gardens and grounds. The abandoned lighthouse on the cliff not far away no longer shines a beacon. The cave below and the sandy beach still receive the incoming tide. Be wary.       Laura Sanchez grew up in the orphanage. When she was about seven she was adopted and left. Now she is 37, married to Carlos, and they are parents to a little boy, Simon, about seven. They adopted Simon, who doesn't …
review by . May 08, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
The Orphanage (El Orphanato) - the feature film debut from Spanish director J.A. Bayona - is, in essence, an old-fashioned haunted house movie, dripping with atmosphere and wonderfully unsettling.   The film tells the story of a woman who purchases and moves into an old orphanage where she was raised. Soon, secrets of the past begin to surface and a mystery unfolds that threatens the safety of her own son.  This superbly crafted film kept me gripped right up until its disturbing …
review by . January 09, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Guillermo del Toro got behind this movie for good reason. It witfully dances around the unknown, then leads you down a gnarly path twist by twist. Very well done, and look forward to watching it again.
review by . December 03, 2008
Pros: Acting, plot, pacing, art direction, cinematography      Cons: Some of the imagery is heavy handed and only a little heavy handed      The Bottom Line: The Orphanage takes the tools of a scary movie and makes it something exciting and beautiful to watch.  I can't think of someone I would advise against seeing it.       Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. How do you make …
review by . October 07, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
The Orphanage, does bring sophistication in ghost stories which is rarely heard of, but Guillermo Del Toro manages to pull it off time and time again, and somehow he even managed to inject his magic into this one, which he only produced - as this very much plays out like one of his own films. Not to discredit Mr. Bayona, though, for he has done a fine job. This is a dark, powerful, and moving masterpiece that both adheres to convention and brings some new, more artistic elements to the table in …
review by . May 10, 2008
Excellent Spanish gothic film by first time director Juan Antonia Bayona that feels like and Edgar Allan Poe poem. Along the lines of "The Devil's Backbone (Special Edition), and The Others (Two-Disc Collector's Edition) this Spanish film proves to be a great haunting movie. Creepy in all the right places. Suspense builds throughout the movie at a perfect pace; this is basically the perfect formula film. First off, the acting is phenomenal. Every single actor, especially Belén Rueda, delivers an …
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William ()
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Wiki

It's only his first film, but Spain’s Juan Antonio Bayona has already figured out the secret to a successful supernatural thriller: emphasize character over special effects. Like Walter Salles'sDark Waterand Alejandro Amenábar'sThe Others,The Orphanagepivots on a pretty woman and an unusual child. When her old orphanage goes on the market, Laura (Belén Rueda, Amenábar'sThe Sea Inside) and Carlos (Fernando Cayo) settle in with their son, Simón (Roger Príncep). Once acclimated to the remote seaside surroundings, they plan to re-open it as a home for special-needs children. Meanwhile, their seven-year-old doesn't know he's adopted or that he has a life-threatening illness. He does, however, have a lot of imaginary playmates. When Simón disappears without a trace, his parents contact the police, but to no avail. Because Laura has been hearing odd noises and having strange visions, they proceed to consult a medium. Aurora (Geraldine Chaplin, speaking perfect Spanish) is convinced they aren't alone. Carlos has his doubts, but Laura makes like a detective and revisits her childhood--through photographs, home movies, and exploration of the spooky stone manor--to determine who or what abducted her son. Produced and presented by Guillermo Del Toro,The Orphanageis less fanciful than his works, though it does bear a vague resemblance to the ghostlyDevil's Backbone. There are a few gory make-up effects, but ...
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