Laura, a former orphan, raises her adopted son Simón together with her husband Carlos in an old house and former orphanage where she was raised. While at the orphanage Simón tells Laura that he has five invisible friends which she believes are a product of his active imagination. Laura decides to reopen the orphanage to cater for disabled children and throws a party. During the party Simón tries to persuade Laura to go and take a look at his friends cabin but she's too busy. Later on she sees a mysterious masked boy and realizes that Simón has also disappeared. Laura feels the presence of other people in the house and months later Laura invites a team of parapsychologists to try to unravel the mystery. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The Orphanage is a slick and quietly chilling piece of work based around (what else?) an orphanage. A woman named Laura returns to the orphanage she grew up in as a child, with the intention of opening it up again as a home for children with disabilities. Together with her husband and adopted son Simon, Laura tries to make the huge old building ready to receive it's first new residents, but all is not quiet in the dusty rooms and grounds, and gradually she starts to feel sinister presences from the past making themselves known.
The film strings out quite a good story, blending traditional scares (bumping noises heard through walls and doors, silently appearing children in masks) with modern touches (Simon is HIV positive). Although most of the actual frights are on the soft side, the film does have quite away with sudden shocks, especially one great sequence involving the death of a sinister secondary character...you'll know when you see it! But mostly, things stay pretty calm, and there were times when I was wishing for something more visceral to actually happen, as many of the very well built tension sequences fade away without any cinematic pay-off, such as a very tense séance sequence, and in most of the (many) scenes of Laura alone in the orphanage, she being almost too subtly menaced for things to get really scary, which I think is a shame. However there are certain moments when you WILL jump!
However, The Orphanage still stands up as a strong piece of work. The backbone of the film is undoubtedly the strong performance by Belén Rueda as Laura, who carries the entire film admirably. The film looks great, with stunning photography and very elegant sets and a gorgeous building standing in for the orphanage itself. Sound and music work very well too, and the film succeeds in working many small elements together (such as a playground hiding game and some very clever revelations towards the end), so all in all, the film is an accomplished piece of cinema and well worth seeing, although don't expect too much real terror as most of the chills in this film are poetic rather than gruesome.
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