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The Orphanage (Orfanato, El)
7 reviews

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Movie Details

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Directed By
Juan Antonio Bayona

Written By:
Sergio G. Sánchez

Belén Rueda, Geraldine Chaplin, Mabel Rivera, Andrés Gertrúdix, Edgar Vivar, Fernando Cayo, Fernando Cayo, Roger Príncep, Carla Gordillo Alicia, Georgina Avellaneda, Oscar Guillermo Garretón, Montserrat Carulla

The Orphanage (Orfanato, El) (2007)
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Movie Review by Mitch
January 11th, 2008

A quick review for a movie that really needs to be seen in order to believe just how good it is, The Orphanage is by far the scariest movie I have seen in a long, long time. Director Juan Antonio Bayona takes his cues from producer Guillermo Del Toro using the same dark fantasy storytelling that was prevalent in Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth, making me wonder if Del Toro pulled a Poltergeist and had more to do with the film than we are led to believe, just as Steven Spielberg "lent a helping hand" to Tobe Hooper in directing Poltergeist.

Speaking of Poltergeist, the best way to describe The Orphanage would be to take Poltergeist, The Haunting and Pan's Labyrinth and put them in a blender, mix, and then sprinkle a little bit of The Others on top. Bayona uses suspense like a master, building tension out of nothing at all. I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat for no reason at all. Low angles are used where you would expect to see a hand snake out of the darkness. Or a far away shot where you expect someone to step into frame watching the lead characters. Those are just a few examples of how he creates tension and keeps it up by not using those moments, instead opting to keep the tension tight. The creepy sound design and eerie music add to the overall tone of the film quite nicely.

For once there is a movie where the performances take a backseat to the story itself, which is a good thing, because as with Pan's Labyrinth, it is hard to judge an actors ability when you can't speak their language. You don't get the cadence and tone and inflection that we use to judge the actors ability to project emotion. On the other hand, a performance can also be graded on body language and the ability to express emotion with your eyes, and that is how I judged the actors in The Orphanage. We spend most of the movie with Belén Rueda, who plays Laura. She carries the film well as a distraught mother who knows her son is still alive. Her anguish comes across quite clearly as she knows what to do, but not how to do it. While Fernando Cayo,as Laura's husband, has a few scenes where you can see in his eyes how much he cares for Laura and how helpless he feels because he doesn't know how to help her while in other scenes, it seems he's just going through the motions.

If you liked the Pan's Labyrinth, you will like The Orphanage, trust me. Even if you haven't seen Pan's Labyrinth, like horror films and can handle subtitles, then see The Orphanage. With scares, plot twists, atmosphere and just all around plain creepiness, The Orphanage is what I consider to be a prime example of suspense/horror.

Until Guillermo Del Toro and Clive Barker collaborate,
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Mitch Emerson

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