Film: The Orphanage
Director:Juan Antonio Bayona
The Orphanage came out at the height of Spanish horror but despite its impressive reviews and holding a 87% freshness on Rotten tomatoes it seemed to be a film that isn't talked about or given the kind of love that it deserves. It baffles me that many people even so called "film buffs" will not watch a film with sub titles, and how they are missing out on so many great works of cinema. However I would hope my readers are open and willing to watch any kind of film so with that in mind likes jump right into it.
Laura brings her family to childhood home, which just happens to be..you guessed it an orphanage. Along with her husband Carlos she brings her adopted son Simon. Her goal to re open the place and keep a small number of special needs children, her son being one of them. Soon Simon starts playing with his new "friends" that only he can see. The parents of course just believe that its simply their sons over active imagination and its nothing to worry about. Things get odd when a mysterious woman shows up claiming to be a social worker. Laura being a smart woman sees through the thinly veiled lie and tells her to leave. But the lady again appears this time creeping around the property late at night. Simon is seeing more of his "friends" and while at the opening party thrown at the orphanage he disappears. His mother must do everything in her power to get back her son before its to late. It may mean she needs to play "there" games.
Let me say first off i`m a huge fan of Spanish horror and J.A Bayona's film is simply amazing. It doesn't substitute story telling for blood and guts. Rather its about real people and real problems that get tangled in a web of the supernatural. It also manages to not only be genuinely scary but intriguing and touching. From the first frame to the twist ending its hard not to get totally sucked into the story. Bayona wisely uses the less is more approach and leaves a lot in shadows, allowing us the viewer use dare a say "our imagination" which is a concept which may be hard for some to grasp. I heard a remake is in the works and I highly doubt that this same method will be used, because lets face it Hollywood loves to dumb down its films for mass consumption.
Screenwriter Sergio G Sanchez weaves a tale that is very human and slowly lets the supernatural elements creep into the story. It also has a great mystery aspect which leaves the audience guessing at every strange twist and turn. In my description I left everything very vague because I didn't want to spoil anything. My one minor complaint is how the Father is written. He is never really allowed to show any emotional range unlike his wife. I`m sure he cares but it would have been better had they shown it.
The film is also wonderfully shot. Oscar Faura whose work includes the Oscar winning film "The Imitation Game" and the critically acclaimed "The Machinist" His camera work and angles are well crafted and really give the film a dark and poetic feeling. Even the way he photographs the orphanage is just masterful.
A strong cast of seasoned actors really helps sell this film. Belen Rueda whose credits include numerous films and tv really shines as the mother. I`m sure its not an easy role to really put yourself through the emotional aspects but she really pulls it off beautifully. However its new comer Roger Princep that steals the film, showing a lot of talent at such a young age.
Blood wise there is very little. If your looking for a graphic film, this is not for you- however there is a scene that gives even a jaded horror fan such as myself the chills in the gruesome department. Its also a moment that will make you jump.
I cant say enough great things about this film. It is equal parts scary touching and will leave you thinking about it days after viewing. A standard blu verison is fairly easy to find and cheap to. You seriously will enjoy this ghostly thriller.