Released: 4th October 2007
Directed by: J.A Bayona
Starring: Belén Rueda, Fernando Cayo, Roger Príncep
change from the gore filled modern horror offerings of recent years. Screenwriter Sergio G. Sánchez delivers a perfectly balanced return to classic ghost stories with a modern, dramatic twist that will shock and tug at your heart strings in equal measure. The Orphanage is the story of Laura (the beautiful Belén Rueda), a woman who returns, years later, to the orphanage where she spent some of her childhood with her husband and adopted son, Simon, to run a retreat for mentally disabled children. After making imaginary friends and discovering some dark family secrets, young Simon suddenly goes missing and Laura’s quest to find her son begins.
A modern day fairy tale, The Orphanage is melancholic and menacing, effective not because of in-your-face gore or cheap CGI tricks but because it leaves a lot to your imagination. As the mystery unravels, the tension is built beautifully through the use of an atmospheric soundtrack and a wholly believable portrayal of a mother’s descent into grief.
The orphanage of the title is vast and sinister and seems to come alive at night with a symphony of creaking floorboards and shadows that creep menacingly across the screen. It’s the perfect and fitting setting for the unsettling (and sometimes genuinely disturbing) events that unfold and build up to the gut wrenching climax.
This fantastical horror is, essentially, a tale of loss and grief which is beautifully portrayed by the wonderful Belén Rueda who plays Simons heartbroken mother. Her performance, filled with raw and believable emotion, is in stark contrast to the surreal and otherworldly events of the story. Its often genuinely harrowing and certainly the only horror which has given me sweaty palms and then full on tears in the space of fifteen minutes!
If you’re expecting lashings of blood or gratuitous shocks and scares, you’ll be disappointed. This is an old fashioned ghost story with lots of heart and beautifully macabre twist. Open your mind, embrace the subtitles (and bask in the hypnotic Spanish language!) and prepare to have your expectations of modern horror challenged.
And this where The Orphanage succeeds without doubt. You’ll go away unsettled, shocked, upset AND hungry for more. It confuses your senses, scares you witless then rips out your heart. Wonderful.
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