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Movie night: The Orphanage

Updated on May 21, 2013

El orfanato movie poster

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Sometimes a movie is so beautiful and wonderful that you forget you’re watching a scary movie. That’s exactly when something happens onscreen to remind you of the terror you signed up for when you purchased your movie ticket or popped in the DVD and pushed play.

Acclaimed filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy) has always managed to bring us amazing films. Story, sets, costumes, and creatures are all fantastically done and takes the viewer into a different world that one can truly believe exists. As the executive producer for The Orphanage (El orfanato), Del Toro did not fail to deliver. The 2007 film was directed by Juan Antonio Bayona, but it seems as if Bayona took his directing cues from the master himself which makes the film all the better.

Laura (played by Belén Rueda) grew up in an orphanage, where she returns after she is married and has adopted a son, Simón. Her plans for the orphanage are to reopen it for handicapped children. As she and her family settle into their new home and prepare to open the doors to needy children, Simón reports that he has made five invisible friends. Laura does not pay much mind to Simón’s tales, and holds a party at the orphanage. While at the party, Simón mysteriously disappears. Laura’s search begins for her beloved son. She also experiences strange occurrences in the orphanage, and even goes to the lengths of having parapsychologists come to investigate.

While the film has all the makings of a cliché horror movie plot, it is so much more than a typical horror flick. In fact, applying the label of horror film at all seems to be a source of some controversy. Calling it just a horror does the film a great disservice. No matter what genre into which you lump the film – horror, thriller, drama or mystery – you would be right. The movie is a bit of all these genres, and therein is where the true beauty and genius of the film resides.

Belén Rueda does an absolutely fantastic job as Laura, a devoted mother who desperately searches for her lost son. She is more than simply believable in the role; she truly is Laura. The supporting cast is also beyond reproach in their performances. Such great acting helps pull the viewer into the world that was created just for them.

The manner in which the scares are delivered in a film can easily cheapen the movie and give viewers a bad taste in their mouths. With elements of horror, The Orphanage thankfully does not fall into that category. The frights are well-delivered. Some are subtle and some make you jump out of your seat, but they are all perfect. The suspense of the film lends to that horror element, keeping the viewer on edge and uneasy for most of the film. That feat alone is difficult to accomplish, and Bayona does a flawless job in this area.

The only drawback for those who would like to watch it might be that the film is subtitled. Some people are so anti-subtitles that they avoid these types of films at all costs. Do not let the subtitles get in your way of watching this great movie. In fact, if you ever wanted to open up your world to a whole new set of movies by trying out subtitles, this is the film to do it with. You won’t be disappointed.

The Orphanage Trailer

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    • Angie Martin profile image
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      Angie Martin 3 years ago from Frazier Park, California

      The Devil's Backbone has been on my list for a long time now. I will move it way up and watch it very soon. I have three Asian horror flicks sitting on the DVD player now, and then I'll make that one right after those. Thanks for reminding me of that recommendation! :)

    • profile image

      hlwar 3 years ago

      This movie was definitely scary, but also quite deep in its subtle twists at the end. I also recommend Del Toro's El Espinazo del Diablo (The Devil's Backbone) if you haven't seen it yet.

    • jonathanshaw profile image

      jonathanshaw 4 years ago from Watford, Hertfordshire, Great Britian

      What an article.