The Orphanage (2008)

Director: Juan Antonio Bayona
Plot: A woman brings her family back to her childhood home, where she opens an orphanage for handicapped children. Before long, her son starts to communicate with an invisible new friend.

Genre: Drama/Horror/Mystery
Awards: -
Runtime: 105min
Rating: PG for some disturbing content.

There are many reasons The Orphanage is one of the most chilling horror films ever made in recen
t years. Firstly, it's Spanish. Unless it’s a Pedro Almodovar picture, films from that country rarely make it here, let alone a horror movie. So what we get are fresh perspectives; no more Asian long-haired white figures that crawl under your bed, and no more Westerners getting their body parts chopped off by psychotic killers.

Secondly, it's produced by Guillermo Del Toro, the guy responsible for the impressive Oscar-winning Pan's Labyrinth two years ago. His creative influences in The Orphanage are not hard to detect, and is a major factor the film is such a hit. Thirdly, it's helmed by first-time director Juan Antonio Bayona who has no track record. This means there's no international pressure to meet standards and moreover, no one knows his filmmaking style, which adds a certain uncertainty to his first film, leaving viewers anticipating and guessing.

The Orphanage is well-crafted and it gives viewers a hell lot of goosebumps through a potent concoction of timely shock moments and long takes of eerie silence. Even a seasoned horror aficionado will find The Orphanage a challenge to sit through. It puts you in a state of high alert throughout the film, giving you genuine creeps here and there, and inflicting nasty shocks when you let your guard down. The Orphanage is more psychological than in-your-face terror; supernatural appearances in the film are kept to a minimal such that sightings become startlingly disturbing.

The ending is ultimately flawed after initially impressing ala The Sixth Sense. I feel that the film is a good five minutes too long. Such films work better with an open ending, one that puzzles viewers but is eventually more satisfying. But there's no doubt that The Orphanage is still one of the top draws of its genre. It's the experience that counts and yes, it haunts you for days. 


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