Comments on watching and making films.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Orphanage

The Orphanage is a Spanish language horror film, helmed by Juan Antonio Bayona, and produced by Guillermo Del Torro, who everyone is fawning over since the success of Pan's Labyrinth. In fact, the film is being advertised as, literally, as "This year's Pan's Labyrinth". Before we get into anything else, I'd first like to say that that tag line is completely false, and will probably be a blatant slap in the face to anyone who is expecting a film like Pan's. The Orphanage is a straight up thriller. It knows exactly what it is, from start to finish, unlike  Pan's, which, in my opinion, never could seem to decide what it was. Was it a historical drama? Was it a fantasy thriller? Why couldn't it pick one or the other, and just be that thing.

But I digress. As you can tell, I was not impressed by Pan's Labyrinth, but The Orphanage does impress. And yes, all of those comparisons to Del Torro's earlier film, The Devil's Backbone, are absolutely right. I will say, though, that I enjoyed Orphanage a heck of a lot more than I enjoyed Backbone. Maybe I'm Del Torro hater, and I don't even know it...

Anyway, the story concerns Laura and her husband Carlos, and son Simon, who move into the house that was once Laura's orphanage. Laura was adopted as a little girl, and has now come back to revive the orphanage after it has been closed for decades. She hopes to open the house to children with mental and physical handicaps, and wants to fill her house with the same kind of love she felt while she was at the orphanage. Her son, though, is having problems adjusting, and his roster of invisible friends suddenly spikes, leaving Laura and Carlos worried about his mental condition.

On opening day of the orphanage, Simon disappears, causing Laura to freak out trying to find him, and causing the parents of the new attendees to pull them out. While trying to find Simon, she comes across the apparition of a child wearing a strange sack-cloth mask, who becomes all too real, when she is attacked by him. Days, weeks, and months go by, with no sign of Simon, when, suddenly Laura realizes that Simon's new invisible friends are ready to play a game with her. The prize? Simon.

The Orphanage offers a lot of atmosphere, something that is often times either lacking, or is poured on WAY to thick in American films. Although there are times in the film that I found myself saying "I get the point! It's spooky!", there were other times that, by the creak of a floor, or the sound of the wind, I found myself genuinely tensing up. Bayona delivers a well thought out thriller, one that could be compared to Amenabar's The Others, though, I think that Bayona was able to pull of the creepiness of the house and grounds considerably better than Amenabar was.

I can't really comment on the acting, because, often times, I found myself paying so much attention to the subtitles, that I wasn't paying full attention to the acting. It did keep me engrossed, though, and speaking of gross, if you are not a fan of blood and gore, I will tell you that there will be a few parts that might make you feel a little sick to your stomach. There is also at least one part that had me jumping out of my chair, and I haven't done that in quite some time.

The Orphanage was a surprise. It was lean, to the point, and unrelenting. It also would swing between horror and sentimentality in a way that was not bad, but would always knock you off guard. A great film for all you horror/thriller fans.

If that ain't creepy, I don't know what is...

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