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Let me begin by saying I DON'T like horror movies. I don't enjoy
jumping in my seat. I don't like being afraid of the dark for the next
2 days, and I usually HATE Spanish movies. So usually I only see the
big horror classics, and that is because I've read enough spoilers to
confront the movie in a laid-back way.
Having said this, I was dragged to see this movie against my will. And I was right! I have never, EVER, been more uneasy, uncomfortable on any movie, from the Exorcist to the Prophecy, from Psycho to Halloween. The story seems obvious; the cliché-horror themes are there, and while I saw them coming, I was comfortable enough. But then comes the movie, the script, the score, the acting, all in perfect harmony... and you jump, and you chill and you shout and you wish you had never entered that dammed cinema.
It is good. It is great.It is moving and horrifying. It does not need CGI, sound effects or unreal characters. Its there. Its real. Its haunting. It WILL be a classic.
I saw this at the Frightfest and its AMAZING, did the previous reviewer even see it? No real shocks!!, I've never seen a cinema jump like the audience at Frightfest for this film. I'm kind of tempted to name the shocks but I wont. Its such a stunningly made film, creepy, atmospheric, shocking, great story, beautifully directed, the main woman is incredible. I was never really sure if it was supernatural or psychological, but as it reveals...wow, its excellent. Its so well done I cant write more without giving stuff away, but go and see it. I was expecting a low rent " pan's Labyrinth " but I think it might be even better than PL, though very different. Best film i've seen in ages
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.
Bone chilling terrors with a hint of the fantastic await audiences who
dare to enter The Orphanage. Produced by Guillermo Del Toro, The
Orphanage continues the tradition the filmmaker started with films like
The Devil's Backbone and Pan's Labyrinth, by showing the darker sides
of humanity through frightening fantasies. In many ways Spanish
director Juan Antonio Bayona has applied Del Toro's own winning formula
to The Orphanage and has made the most flawless film of this lineage.
Moving back to the orphanage where she grew up, Laura and her husband Carlos plan to reopen the property as a home for mentally handicapped children. The gorgeous old house seems too good to be true, and it is. Her son Simon starts telling his parents of an "imaginary" friend, Tomas. Ignoring Simon's claims as merely childhood banter, the parents continue in their work, readying the house. Supernatural disturbances and a maniacal old woman start to disturb the family, resulting in the sudden and traumatic disappearance of Simon. Desperate and panicked, both Laura and Carlos must look within themselves, and confront the beings that haunt the orphanage, if they are ever to see their son again.
A commentary on faith and love, Bayona uses the thrills and troubling chills of The Orphanage to create a powerful message. Using the disappearance of Simon as the catalyst for showing the devotion of a mother's love, Laura plays a stark contrast to her husband's practical interpretation of their harrowing situation. While Carlos would rather believe that there is a logical answer to unlocking this mystery, Laura explores more otherworldly options.
Her knowledge of the orphanage and the solitary pain that her missing child must be going through makes her a prime vessel to confront the ghastly creatures from beyond, and answer the dark questions that De Toro and Bayona dare to ask. Like last year's Oscar front runner, Pan's Labyrinth, Bayona mixes a bit of the fantastical into The Orphanage. Allusions to legendary fables, such as the overt Peter Pan reference, combined with the staple fantasy images, help The Orphanage rise above the average horror romp.
With only the faintest bit of gore, The Orphanage accomplishes its scares methodically, using the somber atmosphere to give audiences goosebumps. The creaky old mansion appears far more menacing at night, and Bayona makes use of incredible sound mixing to keep viewers on edge as the protagonist explores the dark unknown.
Pairing the producer's innate knowledge of the cinematic language of horror with the raw and untested talents of a first time director paid off brilliantly. There is a sense of restraint when it comes to the scares in The Orphanage that many veteran filmmakers have failed to approach. Bayona lets the frights build subconsciously, making each one far more effective when unleashed. In fact, few cinematic moments rival The Orphanage for sheer terror as when Laura turns to a group of ghost hunters to help solve their specter problem.
Helping to increase the tense atmosphere is stellar production design and gorgeous cinematography. While there may be no fauns or pale men lurking in The Orphanage, the design of Tomas alone is sure to give off its fair share of shivers. Belen Rueda is equally stunning in her performance as Laura. The actress lends credibility to the phantasmagorical happenings, capturing our sympathy as a fully rounded character. We follow her as a mother and a victim, and we can only pray that her faith will reunite her with Simon.
Heading to American shores nearly one year after the stunning domestic success of Pan's Labyrinth, The Orphanage should appeal to an equally wide audience. While longtime, art house, Del Toro fiends will certainly be please with the dramatic arc of the picture, the strong horror element and shocking ending should make the film easily translatable for all viewers, despite the language barrier. One thing is for sure, with The Orphanage we have adopted another truly talented Spanish filmmaker, and Juan Antonio Bayona is a director to watch.
Attended the first commercial screening of The Orphanage (El Orfanato)
last night at FrightFest, London.
Juan Antonio Bayona and writer Sergio G. Sanchez have delivered something really special for their first feature.
I have never jumped out of my seat like I did last night, nor my partner, nor most of the audience it seemed. Apart from the terrific scares, there are solid performances from the whole cast, stunning cinematography, and the editing is flawless. If I had to criticise one element, it is that the music swells just a little too much a couple of times, but it is a good score nonetheless.
See this one at the cinema.
I went into a screening of this today knowing only that it was about a
woman who buys the home she lived in as an orphaned child, planning to
open it to other orphans, that it mixed fantasy and reality, and that
Guillermo del Toro of 'Pan's Labyrinth' had a hand in it. I didn't have
any expectations. Even if I did, I certainly not have expected what I
got. 'El Orfanato' surprised me first in successfully thrilling me with
its surface, and surprised me again in how deeply it moved me with its
When Laura (the marvelous Belén Rueda) moves back into the house that used to be the orphanage she lived in as a girl, she is thirty-seven, married, and she and her husband have adopted a son - Simón, a little boy with HIV who doesn't know that he's terminally ill or adopted. Simón is wildly creative - he has several imaginary friends and a penchant for treasure hunts, mind games, and the story of Peter Pan. One day shortly after a mysterious visit from a social worker and Simón's revelation that he knows the truth about his adoption and illness, Simón disappears. The rest of the film follows Laura's desperate search for her son as she comes to terms with her loss and her own past as well.
Screenwriter Sergio G. Sánchez does a masterful job of balancing the thriller with the drama. Laura's attempts to connect with everything that haunts her and her home are darkly touching, though slightly psychologically twisted. The acting is strong, and the directing, editing, cinematography, and music all work together well. Some of the sound effects - the constant creaking, wind blowing, etc. - got wearisome as the film went on, and some of the thrills were a little cheap - I won't ruin it for anyone by revealing them - though, admittedly, they were effective all the same. The story dragged a little towards the end and during the scene with the medium - cutting it just a little shorter might have been equally as effective and easier on the viewer.
Bottom line: even if you don't like "scary" movies (like me), you'll probably still appreciate and enjoy the more thrilling aspects. If you're a horror flick buff, you'll probably find some of the thriller elements a little tired and overdone. Either way, it's still worth seeing - the exploration of Laura's heart and mind are both lovely and tragic to behold, and though the film is morbid, it is beautiful as well.
Laura (Belen Rueda) returns to the orphanage she spent time in as a
child with her husband Carlos (Fernando Cayo) and little boy Simon
(Roger Princep) in hopes of re-establishing it as seaside retreat for
children with disabilities only to find there may be some former
residents who never left. In Juan Antonio Bayona's tightly wound "The
Orphanage" nothing is as it seems and child's play takes on sinister
Bayona belongs to this new wave of Spanish-language directors (most notably Del Torro and Amenabar) who excel when it comes to creating moody atmospheric tales of the supernatural with Catholic overtones. Whereas "Pan's Labyrinth" took a dark fantasy approach to a Passion Play, "The Orphanage" is closer to the classic haunted house themes of "The Others" as it attempts to give a sentimental view of life after death. Be warned, "The Orphanage" is often more sad than scary, and those not familiar with Catholic mysticism might find things a bit hard to believe. As goes the film's mantra...Believe, Then You Will See. Those with the patience and the heart will be greatly rewarded as the audience doesn't necessarily have to Believe to relate to the characters who do.
Working from refined "less is more" psychological horror templates, Bayona delivers the formulaic goods. There will be a simplistic but heartfelt exploration of grief. There will be allusions to classic literature (in this case a very nicely done "Peter Pan" as Catholic allegory motif). There will be uncovering dark secrets from the past. There will be precocious children with spooky imaginary friends. There will be creaking set designs and manipulative sound effects to create "gotcha!" moments. There will be a creepy medium (an excellent Geraldine Chaplin) brought in for a séance. And there will be a twist at the end.
Thankfully, there is also a great performance from Belen Rueda as Laura. She gives a compelling portrayal of a woman devoured by her loss and achingly desperate for the truth no matter how horrific that truth might be. One must have a cold heart not to find sympathy with her, and even the most hardened audience member will find it hard not to feel that stray tear form in the corner of their trembling eye when all is revealed. "The Orphanage" offers nothing terribly new, but sometimes the same old ghost story presented in a beautiful way makes for the best type of cold-rainy-day entertainment.
Laura returns with her family to the orphanage she grew up in as a
child, she reopens it for handicapped children and all is going to plan
until her son starts communicating with an invisible friend.......
Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona & produced by Guillermo del Toro, this Spanish picture is a delightful antidote to the ream of gore for gore sake movies flooding the market on a seemingly daily basis. This is not a horror movie as such, this is one of those pictures that oozes old fashioned values as regards telling a grand old ghost story with mysterious undertones. The setting is perfect, the orphanage of the piece is a ghostly monolithic structure that has all those perfectly shadowy rooms that are hiding secrets, expansive gardens perfectly framed in aura by Bayona's willingness to let the setting be an integral part of the story. The story is a creepy one, and there is always an added air of unease when children are the focal point of the piece in question, and sure enough this central concept of troubled children and troubled childhoods gets the maximum amount of emotion from the viewing public.
It's hard to write anymore than I have without delving deeper into the story and it's significant turn of events, suffice to say I feel this is a wonderful creepy, and at times beautiful, film that prospective viewers would be better off going into devoid of any prior knowledge. Belén Rueda plays Laura and it's a marvellous performance from her, full of emotion and guts, she carries the film with skillful ease. Bayona directs carefully, and it's evident that he is benefiting from the guiding hands of his gifted producer, but his marker is here and I'll be keeping an eye out for future efforts from the young Spaniard.
A smashingly engaging film that is in the vein of Robert Wise's The Haunting & Alejandro Amenábar's The Others, so if you like real well told ghost stories that unhinge rather than shock you, get in the queue because El Orfanato is a real pleasure. 9/10
I'm a little bit tired of horror and suspense films. I had to get to the cinema because I could not say no to my girlfriend. Now I do not regret the wonderful evening I spent. This film achieved what others did not- I could not release my girlfriend's hand all over the time, and when the story finished I discovered there was nothing unexplained. A great suspense film I recommend. Belén Rueda, is a completely credible character and the place where the story has been shot helps make it realistic or, at least, the viewer gets into the environment created. The rest of actors are good and Geraldine Chaplin's scene is one of the most creepy I've ever seen
The former orphan Laura (Belén Rueda) raises her adopted son Simón
(Roger Príncep) with her husband Carlos (Fernando Cayo) in an old house
and former orphanage where she was raised. Simón is HIV positive and
tells Laura that he has five invisible friends, and she believes they
are fruit of his imagination. Laura decides to reopen an orphanage for
handicapped children in the location and during the opening party,
Simón calls her to show the little cabin of his friend Tomás. The busy
Laura does not gives much attention to her son; then she sees a
mysterious masked boy and Simón vanishes. Laura feels the presence of
other persons in the house and months later, the desperate Laura
invites a team of parapsychologists to try to unravel the mystery.
"El Orfanato" is a creepy and spooky ghost story with a dark and very sad atmosphere. The screenplay, direction, acting and cinematography are great, disclosing a dramatic and sensitive plot that explores the disappearance of a young boy with touches of supernatural in the despair of his mother. However, the explanation of the mystery in the end makes this sensitive movie actually a drama, and not horror genre, and maybe that is the reason why some viewers have written bad reviews (or maybe they have not understood the plot). My vote is eight.
Title (Brazil): "O Orfanato" ("The Orphanage")
Note: On 25 January 2015 I saw this movie again on Blu-Ray.
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