A very impressive and satisfying ghost story.
Puzzle box | Kuwait | 04/17/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"O.K. first of all I have to say that there were plenty of great reviews for this film on other websites, some calling it one of the best horror films of the year and scariest film ever and blah, blah etc. So was this film worth all the hype? I would definitely say yes!. The Orphanage is the latest supernatural thriller/horror film from Spain, its a slick and quietly chilling piece of work blending traditional scares with modern touches. The way this film works is that it manages to get under your skin and makes you think about it for a while after its ended, the ending was quite moving, sad and horrifying at the same time. The film also had a great storyline which tells a great ghost story that was very original and it was beautifully directed by Juan Antonio Bayona which also happens to be his directorial debut and in my honest opinion he did a wonderful job, the film was also produced by Guillermo Del Toro so you can see how influential his films were to The Orphanage so if you liked Pan's Labyrinth or any classic haunted house films like The changeling, Burnt Offerings and The Haunting then your going to love this.
The acting was phenomenal especially from Belen Rueda as Laura who was very distraught but still strong as the mother looking for her missing son and she showed a wide range of emotions its no wonder that she won several awards for her performance in this film. The plot deals with a woman named Laura (Belen Rueda) who purchases her beloved childhood orphanage with dreams of restoring and reopening the long abandoned facility as a place for disabled children. Once there she discovers that the new environment awakens her son's imagination but the ongoing fantasy games he plays with an invisible friend quickly turn into something more disturbing, check out the knock on wood game the kids play during the beginning then the following similar scene that happens during the course of the film that has got to be one of the scariest scenes I've ever seen and once you've seen the film then you'll understand why I'll just leave it at that, I never thought that a kids game could be so damn scary I thought it was very clever. Laura's son Simon also happens to have a fatal illness he seems to be HIV positive and frequently requires some medication, his actions later on begins to worry his mother his erratic behavior and the fact that he seems to have more imaginary friends becomes even more bizarre and at one point during a party with the disabled kids he vanishes and Laura is simultaneously attacked by a mysterious child in a sack mask, she imediately suspects Simon's 'new friends' and to make matters worse Simon needs his medication before its too late. Laura becomes frightened and increasingly more paranoid as it is very hard for her to explain these things to people especially her husband Carlos played by Fernando Cayo and she even brings in a medium to find out where her son disappeared to.
The film had some great drama as well as some nice intense moments and the use of locations in this film was terrific, first of all you have the huge and creepy mansion thats been used many times in these type of films but was still quite effective then theres this cave near the beach as well as others so the film uses different locations utilising some great cinematography. The director has fantastic use of mood and setting as the ghosts are used to creep out the viewer and doesn't have to get messy doing it which is something that Hollywood needs to learn when making a horror film, it doesn't have any gore but there is a horrific car accident and plenty of scares which catches you off guard like the Knock on wood game and it has a very ominous and eerie setting that was very well shot and the characters are very well developed and I'm not going to over analyze the characters cause I've noticed that other reviewers have done that already I'm the type of person who enjoys a film without questioning what the main character's motivations are or why they did this particular thing in the first place unless it was a dumb blockbuster and besides I'm not a snobby critic ;-).Anyway The Orphanage is a very unique Spanish horror film and one of the best I have ever seen, an entertaining and great horror film thats guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat and I highly recommend this so what are you waiting for GO WATCH THIS NOW!."
Sophisticated and Carefully Constructed Ghost Story...
Woopak | Where Dark Asian Knights Dwell | 04/26/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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]
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
A Subtlety-Crafted, Beautifully Atmospheric Ghost Story
Captain Insanity | NY | 07/22/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Before I start I'd like to clear up a wildly popular misconception about this flick.
It was not directed by "Pans Labyrinth" director Guillermo Del Toro.
He only produced this.
That being said.....
This was the best ghost flick I've seen since "The Sixth Sense"
(yes better than "The Others" & "The Ring" too)
and easily one of the most atmospheric to date.
Every facet of this film is beautifully crafted,
Attention is painfully given to each detail
& every angle is expertly covered.
There isn't a single scene that is irrelevant,
regardless of how subtle some might seem.
The most seemingly insignficant of which,
are easily the MOST relevant.
The plot, the characters, the setting, the atmosphere;
everything was Genius, pure genius!!
I damn-near cried at the conclusion,
which in my opinion could have been viewed as either happy, or sad, or both.
All around, it's an excellent flick!!
A worthy addition to any cinephiles collection.
I personally couldnt recommend it enough!
especially for those who loved:
"Tale of Two Sisters",
"Devils Backbone", or
MORAL OF THE STORY:
That which was lost, can always be found, because
That which was loved, can never be forgotten."
Chilling, creepy, heartbreaking and, ultimately, exquisite
wolfgang731 | 04/04/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A true gothic chiller in every sense of the word. From the beginning, the viewer is made aware that there's something very disturbing about "The Orphanage" and its sense of dread and doom prevail through the duration. Laura returns to the orphanage where she once lived with the hopes of establishing a home for children with special needs. In tow are her adorable son and her loving, if, at times, skeptical husband. Life couldn't seem sweeter as they settle into the foreboding structure they now call home. Shortly upon their arrival, the boy (Simon) prone to fits of fancy announces to his mother that he has met a boy that lives inside a seaside cave, which they stumbled upon shortly after their arrival. This friend, Tomas, whom no one but Simon can see, starts revealing things to him; things that he would have otherwise never known, including among them, that he was adopted and that he is ill and will soon die. After several other unsettling incidents, Simon announces that he now has five additional imaginary friends. One afternoon, while Laura is preparing to host a gathering for prospective residents, Simon enrages her and she strikes and scolds him before heading out to attend to the arriving guests. During the party she has an unsettling feeling when she sees a child with a sack mask seemingly staring at her. A child that we later realize no one but she can see and one that bears a striking similarity to one her son drew earlier in a portrait of his new friends. She runs back inside the house to seek out her son but is unable to find him, ending up in the bathroom. As she stands in the doorway she notices the child with the sack mask standing at the end of the hall and who slowly starts moving in her direction. After a brief altercation in which she is knocked inside the bathtub, the masked child closes and locks the door. Simon, we are later informed, is nowhere to be found and the parents are understandably crestfallen. What follows is a series of disturbing events that slowly illuminate all that has transpired, all while the landscape darkens and the sensation of tragedy and doom are heightened and the viewer is left to hold his breath. This is first rate story telling and the director's talents are in full evidence from the word go. This is textbook example of content over bombast. There a no special effects to speak of and gore non-existent. The characters are finely etched and the performances, uniformly excellent. From the imposing architecture of the house, to the rain swept, rocky coastline, solitary lighthouse and shadowy interiors, The Orphanage is a treat for the true lover of gothic horror and suspense. The conclusion is positively heartbreaking, yet equally beautiful and no one that sees it will soon forget it. Exquisite filmmaking, proving, once and for all, that restrain and subtlety pay dividends and when characters and not characterizations propel a story. If you loved The Devil's Backbone, The Others, The Sixth Sense or my personal favorite ghost story, The Changeling, you will more than love this wonderful atmospheric experience."