The Orphanage (2007) Poster

(2007)

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9/10
Yikes...I think I'd just move to another house...
MartinHafer16 June 2009
This is a Spanish horror film that manages to transcend the genre. I generally hate horror films, but this one is much deeper and well made than a typical film. And, on top of that, it's more intelligently made and doesn't insult the audience with cheap thrills or manipulation.

The film begins at an orphanage back in the 1970s. Then, after the credits roll, it's the present day. A couple and their young adopted son have just moved in to the same building that used to be the orphanage. The little boy is an odd kid and talks about having invisible friends. The problem is that after a while, it looks like he might be right.

During a party, the mother sees an odd child wearing a bag over his head--looking a lot like a little scarecrow. This is the same invisible friend her son had talked about and drawn in his pictures. However, when she tries to talk to the bag boy, he attacks her with extraordinary force. She is injured and upon getting up, looks for her son--who has vanished. Months pass and there is still no trace of the kid.

The rest of the story is told through odd clues--coming in bits and pieces. As a result, there are LOTS of creepy little images and scenes--that all eventually fill in the pieces to the puzzle. And, it seems that some of these puzzle pieces are being provided by the missing boy, as it's like a game he and his invisible friends used to play together! I could easily say more about the film's plot, but frankly this would ruin the suspense--and with this sort of film, that would be a big mistake. However, rest assured that the film's ending is both satisfying and touching.

The film was masterfully directed by Juan Antonio Bayona, but you can also see some of the influence of executive-producer Guillermo del Toro, as the story has many similarities to del Toro's earlier film, THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE. Both are set at orphanages and both involve unresolved murders and the undying spirits of the victims. In fact, if you've seen one of these films, you should definitely see the other. Both, by the way, are pretty intense and are probably NOT good films for younger audience members.

Also, in a small role in the about the middle of the film is a segment with Geraldine Chaplin (daughter of Charlie). I was surprised at her fluency in Spanish--not realizing she was in real life married to a Spanish man.
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9/10
Understated and stylish Spanish ghost story
Leofwine_draca22 September 2016
Warning: Spoilers
THE ORPHANAGE is an excellent little modern-day ghost story and another example of Spanish genre cinema outclassing foreign competition. This flick has more imagination than a dozen US torture porn offerings or half a dozen Japanese female ghost jaunts. Although it clearly owes much to THE INNOCENTS and THE OTHERS, it stands in its own right as an effective ghost-story-cum-mystery as a couple move into an abandoned orphanage with their adopted son and soon find themselves menaced by sinister forces. The plot sounds familiar, but THE ORPHANAGE succeeds thanks to subtlety, originality, and the refusal to pander to the audience.

Those looking for CGI effects, action, or gore effects should go elsewhere because this film has none of them. There are a few jump shocks but even these are limited in favour of creepy atmosphere – this is without doubt a mood piece. It's not the most horrifying film I've seen and I wouldn't even class it as a 'horror' film per se – okay, yes, it is a ghost story but not a frightening one. Instead it's moving, poignant, nostalgic, and come the twist ending I don't mind admitting that I was crying my eyes out at the mixture of happiness and sadness it brought.

The film has an excellent location – a creepy old coastal orphanage, complete with secret rooms and passages – that would have been effective in the hands of an amateur, let alone the intelligent, mature director Juan Antonio Bayona. Guillermo del Toro was kind enough to put his name to it as producer to secure a wider audience and it was a good choice, as many people have discovered just how great a movie this is. Special mention goes to the entire cast for their performances, with obvious mention to Belen Rueda who has to act in a very difficult central role and comes away completely wonderful because of it.
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8/10
nice moody ghost story
SnoopyStyle12 August 2016
Laura returns to live in her former home, a closed orphanage. She brings her husband Carlos, and adopted son Simón. Simón claims to have a new friend Tomás. He's angry telling Laura that his friend told him that he's adopted. She is attacked by a mysterious boy in a mask and Simón goes missing. Suspicion falls on social worker Benigna Escobedo. Six months later, Laura sees her getting killed run over by a car. Medium Aurora helps Laura discover the truth.

This is a murkier ghost story. It's got a nice creepy mood. The lead is compelling. It doesn't always have the action to drive the horror. It relies more on the mystery. There is a great masked kid. It has a nice payoff but it could use a flashback sequence to tie it back better. There are times when the connective tissue is missing.
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8/10
The House, The Beach and The Lost Child - A Creepy Ghost Story
claudio_carvalho11 May 2008
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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Effective chiller that builds the scares on the base of a strong story
bob the moo29 May 2008
As a child Laura was in an orphanage until she was adopted young. Years later she has returned to the building with her husband and adopted child Simón with the aim of making it both their home and also a place for the care of special children.. Simón has his own challenges, one of which is his reliance on imaginary friends, but when he claims to have met one in particular, Tomás, things take a very dark turn for the worse.

After a few weeks of listening to mark Kermode praising this film, I got myself along to a cinema to see it. What I found was not the amazing, earth-shattering film that some had claimed – but this is a common thing for good foreign films, they tend to be extra praised because they are foreign. Don't let my sentences put you off though because this is a very effective and enjoyable ghost story. Director Bayona uses the devices that you'll have seen other films of the same ilk using but the thing is he does it really well. The creeping camera is used several times without a related payoff, producing a constant air of tension that is almost a relief (in a perverse way) when a proper scare does come. As many others have said it is very unnerving rather than gory, with slow movement replacing jump scares and so on, all to good effect.

The story is no slouch either and it is built on the desperation of Laura and the loss of her treasure. This puts a very human heart to the ghost story, engaging the viewer and making it easier for scepticism to be put to one side, even if only for a few hours. The narrative carries a satisfying arch that is ultimately as tragic as it is "happy" and as relatable as it fantastic. To put it another way, when a specific scare was not happening/about to happen, I was still interested in what was happening and boredom never occurred. The cast deliver well too. Rueda is the heart of the film and she is convincing throughout. Cayo's Carlos is a lot less important but he plays his character well. Príncep's Simón is the right kid for the job as his matter-of-fact lack of fear adds to the story. The rest of the child cast are weaker but mostly their creepy silent presence is all that is required.

The Orphanage is not anything new or brilliant then but it is very efficient and effective. The story is a strong base for a consistently creepy air that is expertly delivered by Bayona, who makes it all look easy.
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9/10
Geraldine Chaplin's father grew up in one
lee_eisenberg21 July 2008
I didn't figure that any movie could equal "Pan's Labyrinth", but "El orfanato" - "The Orphanage" in English - comes close. When a family moves into a former orphanage in which the mother (Belen Rueda) grew up, the adopted son starts making imaginary friends and feeling very detached from his parents. And then, he just disappears. But that's not all...

A major surprise as the movie progresses is the appearance of Geraldine Chaplin as a woman hired to try to help find the son. Ms. Chaplin certainly has a connection to orphanages, as her father spent part of his childhood in one. Although in reality, I don't know whether or not that influenced her decision to star in this.

All in all, a really good one. Also starring Fernando Cayo.
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5/10
The Orphanage
jboothmillard17 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Produced by Guillermo Del Toro, director of Blade II and Pan's Labyrinth, I was keen to at least try it. Basically former orphan Laura (Belén Rueda) with husband Carlos (Fernando Cayo) and their adopted son Simón (Roger Príncep) move into an old house, an abandoned orphanage where Laura herself was raised. Simón is HIV positive, and only has five invisible friends to comfort him, obviously Laura just sees them as a figment of her son's imagination. Laura decides to reopen the house as an orphanage for handicapped children, not paying much attention to Simón, until she sees a mysterious masked boy, and her son vanishes. Laura has been feeling an invisible presence in the house, and after months invites ghost experts to investigate, in hope to get her son back. When they and husband Carlos are out the way though, she realises the ghosts of the children are playing some sort of game, so she plays along, and it seems to work, she gets Simón back, only to die and have their names put on a memorial. Also starring Montserrat Carulla as Benigna, Geraldine Chaplin as Aurora, Mabel Rivera as Pilar, Andrés Gertrúdix as Enrique, Edgar Vivar as Prof. Leo Bálaban and Óscar Casas as Tomás. Even if this film was in English not Spanish, I don't think it would really jump out at me, it wasn't all that scary or thrilling, but I guess it an alright supernatural mystery. Worth watching!
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9/10
A lovely, moving, and subtle Spanish horror winner
Woodyanders29 March 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Laura (a fine and affecting performance by Belen Rueda) and her family movie into a mysterious seaside orphanage that Laura grew up in as a child. Said orphanage harbors a deep dark secret that threatens to destroy both Laura and everything she has ever loved.

Director J.A. Bayona eschews graphic gore and cheap scares in favor of delicately crafting a quietly spooky atmosphere that gets under the viewer's skin in an understated, yet still unsettling way. Moreover, the absorbing story that's set up with utmost care and precision by Sergio G. Sanchez has a tragic element to it that in turn gives this film a considerable amount of depth and poignancy. Rueda's distraught, yet determined Laura makes for a strong and sympathetic protagonist whose need to make peace with her troubled past and desire to be reunited with her missing son Simon (well played with tremendous charm and vitality by Roger Princep) ensures that this movie packs a potent emotional punch. The ending manages to be both sad and uplifting in equal measure. Fernando Cayo lends sturdy support as Laura's concerned husband Carlos. Geraldine Chaplin likewise excels as helpful medium Aurora. Kudos are also in order for Oscar Faura's sumptuous widescreen cinematography and Fernando Velaz's spare shivery score. A very touching and haunting gem.
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9/10
Superior haunted house chiller
Tweekums10 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Having enjoyed Guillermo Del Toro's Spanish language films Pan's Labyrinth and The Devil's Backbone I looked forward to this even though he only produced it. I was not disappointed although it is fairly different in tone to those two films.

Set in present day Spain; Laura, her husband and their young son Simon move into the abandoned orphanage that Laura lived in as a child. They are a little concerned that Simon's only friends are imaginary but hope that will change when they reopen the orphanage as home for disabled children. Things don't go according to plan though when Laura is attacked by a strange masked child on the day the children arrive, at the same time her son disappears and the remainder of the film covers her desperate search for him.

If you are looking for gore and violence in a horror film this might not be for you, however if you want something that is genuinely creepy and has a few good scares then I'd strongly recommend this. The acting seemed good although I had to rely on the subtitles as I don't speak Spanish. Throughout the film there is a very creepy atmosphere that kept me on edge the whole time. There is also an interesting subplot concerning an ex-employee of the orphanage and sinister things that happened there in the past.
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7/10
Spanish terror movie that explores the psychological disintegration of a woman well played by Belen Rueda
ma-cortes8 July 2012
Melodramatic ghost story about a woman named Laura (Belen Rueda of Alejandro Amenábar's The Sea Inside , she was the first choice for the lead from the start) with tortured soul who brings her family formed by her husband (Fernando Cayo) and adopted seven-year-old son named Simon (Roger Princep, over 400 children auditioned for the role) back to her childhood home, where she opens an orphanage for physically handicapped children . Laura is celebrating the opening of her new home when happen strange events . Before long, her son starts to communicate with an invisible new friend and chime with recollections from Laura's own childhood .

Spanish horror film full of thrills , suspense , chills , intrigue and plot twists . It gives a terrifying and disturbingly adult view of childhood fears in which posses an element of melancholy . Influenced by Polanski's Repulsion , Amenabar's The others and Del Toro's Pan labyrinth , Bayona has a forensic eye for the eerie atmosphere which wreathes itself around everyday objects and domestic settings . Interesting screenplay by Sergio Sanchez revolving the mental disintegration of a woman overwhelmed by her child's disappearance . Good performance from main protagonist Belen Rueda as a possessed mature woman , along with Fernando Cayo as husband and good film debut for the little boy Roger Princep . Although uncredited, the exec producer Guillermo del Toro plays the doctor at the Emergency Ward who tends to Laura after she injures her leg. Juan Antonio Bayona wanted the film to hark back in tone to 1970s Spanish cinema , hence the casting of Geraldine Chaplin who had starred in two successful films from that period, Ana and the wolves and Cria Cuervos. The orphanage was an old colonial house in the town of Llanes , Asturias , as a lot of Juan Antonio Bayona's cinematic plans were impossible to achieve on location, several parts of the house had to be recreated on a soundstage , in fact , over 80% of the film was shot in a studio . Colorful and evocative cinematography by Oscar Faura . Thrilling as well sensible musical score by Fernando Velazquez .

Juan Antonio Bayona's affecting debut feature and was premiered at the Cannes Film Festival where it received a 10 minute standing ovation. Bayona offers an emotionally overwrought story about ghosts in unashamedly melodramatic style . This scored the biggest box office opening for a film in its native Spain, outgrossing the similarly successful Pan's Labyrinth and was the Spain's official Submission to the Best Foreign Language Film Category of the 80th Annual Academy Awards . Bayona is now filming his second movie titled ¨The impossible¨ with international stars as Ewan McGregor , Naomi Watts and again Geraldine Chaplin . Rating : Better than average , worthwhile watching .
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10/10
Move over, Asia. Europe is back!
BA_Harrison11 April 2008
From it's impressive title sequence, in which children's' hands tear away layers of wallpaper to reveal the credits, to the amazingly haunting finalé which manages to be sad, happy, and thoroughly disturbing all at the same time, The Orphanage is another brilliant film that, along with recent unmissable efforts such as The Descent and À l'intérieur, suggests that Europe is finally attempting to reclaim its title as the reigning continent for original horror.

Busty Belén Rueda plays Laura, a woman who brings her family (husband Carlos and adopted son Simón) to live in her childhood home, 'The Orphanage' of the title, where they hope to set up a refuge for handicapped and needy orphaned children.

After a visit to a cave system at a nearby cove, Simón begins to communicate with a group of imaginary friends: six children who just might be the ghosts of Laura's old childhood playmates. When Simón mysteriously disappears, and a weird old woman comes calling at the house, Laura is plunged into a supernatural nightmare that forces her to consider the impossible as possible, and pushes her to the limits of her sanity.

Loaded with bags of atmosphere, and tons of good old fashioned 'scares' (but very little gore—although there is one standout 'yuck!' moment!), The Orphanage is a classic ghostly yarn which, thanks to excellent direction from Juan Antonio Bayona and a great central performance from Rueda, manages to be a breath of fresh air in a genre that, lately, seems to have been rather clogged up with remakes and 'torture porn'.

And then there is the ending: so unexpected, so tragic, so effing brilliant, that it'll have you thinking about the film for days, poring over plot details and constantly re-evaluating what you have seen.

There are those who believe that The Orphanage is not a ghost story at all, with the seemingly supernatural events being a figment of Laura's imagination; then there are those who, like me, take the film at face value. Whatever your interpretation of the events portrayed, I can guarantee that The Orphanage will scare, shock, and surprise you like no other film has done for quite a while.

Now how long will it be before the inevitable Hollywood remake?
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5/10
Admirable atmosphere & setting.
Coventry12 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I pretty much knew with relative certainty and from beforehand that "The Orphanage" wasn't going to be my cup of tea. Slow-brooding ghost stories almost never appeal to me and I didn't even care for producer Guillermo Del Toro's own and critically acclaimed "The Devil's Backbone". But, considering the hugely positive internet buzz as well as the endless amount of praising reviews on this website, I - being a devoted horror fanatic - simply couldn't afford to ignore this Spanish instant classic entirely. Well, the only thing I can conclude after seeing the film is that "The Orphanage" is exactly what you expect from a relatively soft, mainstream and overall ethically correct modern day horror production; whether it's made in Spain, Japan or elsewhere in the world. Obviously it's an extremely professionally made film, with a handful of memorable style elements and effective jump moments, but in the end it really isn't much more than just another derivative and predictable 'ghosts from the past coming back to haunt us' tale that lack the courage to go very far. Undoubtedly the qualitatively greatest aspect about "The Orphanage" is the naturally sinister setting. The events take place in an old and remote orphanage - duh - located near a quiet beach with an inactive lighthouse and a wide network of sinister caves. Laura, who spend her childhood here, returns with her husband and 7-year-old son and intends to re-open the orphanage specifically for orphans with a mental and/or physical handicap. On the day of the opening, however, Laura's own son Simon - who's also adopted and chronically ill - mysteriously disappears without a trace. Months go by without a sign of life and Laura understandably starts to get desperate. Was Simon kidnapped by the uncanny lady who arrived at the orphanage and posed as a social assistant shortly before his disappearance? Or perhaps Laura should have listened more to her son's stories about the invisible friends he made, as they seem to know an awful lot of accurate details about the orphanage's dark past. Somewhat to my anticipated frustration, "The Orphanage" contains all the clichés and stereotypes the sub genre of ghost stories has to offer. There's the overly fanatic mother versus the rational father, the eccentric and somewhat flamboyant spiritual medium, the morbid old lady that may or may not be real and of course a wide collection of pity-evoking long dead children whose souls are restless. The young and relatively inexperienced director J.A. Bayona does an impressive job maintaining the macabre ambiance all the way from start to finish, but sadly it isn't enough to qualify as a masterpiece in the genre. There's only just ONE that really made me jump towards the edge for my seat for a little while, namely the second confrontation with the elderly lady in the middle of a busy street. Although this is unquestionably a truly masterful sequence, it's nearly not enough as far as I'm concerned. Many fans glorify the finale, but the whole third act actually just confirmed to me that "The Orphanage" rather wanted to be a sentimental melodrama about the true values of family and motherly love. When it comes to (Spanish) ghost stories of the past 10 to 20 years, Amenábar's unique and already classic "The Others" is still the norm and "The Orphanage" is not likely to change that.
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9/10
Wonderfully crafted ghost story.
hitchcockthelegend14 April 2008
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
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8/10
The Orphanage
Scarecrow-8826 May 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Laura's(Belén Rueda) beloved HIV positive adopted son, Simón(Roger Príncep) disappears and if she wishes to find him, will have to play a game with the ghosts of children she once knew as a little orphan girl, the victims of a secret tragedy. While those around her consider Laura's quest for the location of her son, through some idea that ghost children know where he's located, a lost cause, she will do whatever it takes to find him. Carlos(Fernando Cayo), a doctor, tries, to no avail, convincing his wife Laura to abandon a foolhardy search that so often yields few answers. Yet, as she pursues Simón's whereabouts, horrifying truths about those children she once knew surface. This film follows Laura through the clues the children leave behind. The setting is at an orphanage, the very one Laura once lived as a child, for which she hoped to raise mentally handicapped kids.

I guess the R-rating is for a minor few displays of disturbing images(..such as a key character's facial damage after being hit by a truck, a fingernail removal, & a broken bone protruding from the skin of Laura's leg)which is a shame because this is actually a rather harmless ghost story regarding a woman's endless search for the son she adores. Dogged and determined, despite how others try to convince her that the mission was fleeting, Laura's pursuit brings such an emotional depth to this, and kudos goes to the performance of Rueda as the mother. I think Rueda brings that key mixture of motherly paternal love and warmth definitely needed and it's important that we care about this search..the film hinges on our desire for her being rewarded. Although, the reward she receives may not be the way we would intend it to be, in the traditional sense, but it certainly packs an emotional wallop thanks in part to Rueda. Cayo, as the suffering husband who wishes to find their son, yet soon loses faith of ever finding him, while trying to heal, I think does a good job at pointing out how most of us, looking at the situation from a more grounded realistic view, would probably react to Laura's demand to continue. The film shows the influence of Guillermo del Toro as director Bayona obviously received a few pointers in the style because he has a visual command that beautifully swept me off my feet in how he photographs the film. This will try more impatient viewers because Bayona's film is a slow-burner, building the mystery, as layers are unpeeled. There's a creepy sequence with a medium, trying to find what is plaguing the orphanage, that I thought works really well, summoning the spirit of "The Changeling". Other than the orphanage itself, the director makes good use of a lighthouse and beach-front as well.
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8/10
One of those horror films that genuinely moves you.
Hey_Sweden13 October 2013
As scripted by Sergio G. Sanchez and directed by J.A. Bayona, "El Orfanato" a.k.a. "The Orphanage" is a haunting, beautiful, and poetic horror tale. It derives its impact from being so utterly rich in emotion and for drenching it in genuine atmosphere rather going for the purely visceral impact - or relying too heavily on the jump scare. The performances, the writing, and the directing are very sensitive and you can completely get on the side of the lead character. And you're discovering things with her rather than being one step ahead the entire time. This is one film that could very well be described as a journey. And when it's all over, it will definitely stay with you.

Gorgeous Belen Rueda stars as Laura, a young woman who lives with her husband Carlos (Fernando Cayo) in what used to be the orphanage where she dwelled as a child. They seem to have a happy life with adopted son Simon (adorable Roger Princep), but haven't actually told the truth to the kid, either that he's sick (he's HIV positive) or that they're his adoptive parents and not his biological ones. She's concerned because of his association with imaginary friends, but things take an even darker one when the boy disappears from a costume party. It's up to Laura to find Simon and to probe the mysteries of this orphanage.

Enhanced by a lovely score by Fernando Velazquez, "El Orfanato" is deliberately paced but rewarding for patient viewers. It entirely hinges on the acting and the mood and in fact doesn't feature that much in the way of visual effects. There is a real sense of sadness throughout, and despair, and one can completely sympathize with Laura and Simon. The film is reasonably spooky, especially when paranormal experts and a medium (played by guest star Geraldine Chaplin) try to get in contact with the restless spirits of the piece; instead of making us see with our eyes what she is describing, it forces us to use our imagination. The final act is all about Laura as she isolates herself and attempts to recreate the past in order to unlock its secrets.

Ultimately a satisfying experience, "El Orfanato" would come highly recommended to those genre fans wishing for films more in the mold of "The Haunting" (1963) and "The Others".

Eight out of 10.
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8/10
Scary and creepy story over comes a couple lapses of internal logic to be a winning film
dbborroughs18 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Guillermo del Torro presents The Orphanage. he had nothing really to do with the film, but its appropriate considering that many have tagged this as a sibling to his Pan's Labyrinth (which I think for plot points rather than it being an updated fairy tale- I don't see Peter Pan as a fairy tale) The story has Laura, her son and husband returning to the orphanage where she grew up in order to turn it into a home for special needs kids. Her son has two invisible friends, a number that increases once they move in. It rapidly unfolds that they are not alone in the house and that strange things are going on.

There is much more to the story, which pretty much everyone has been closed mouth about so I will do the same as well. Actually I won't do it out of deference to the lack of discussion, rather because this is a film that is best discovered on its own. The plot turns, which often resemble other films, do propel the film in its own way.(Its like comparing cars they all have similar things but that doesn't mean they are the same car). At times the film is rather deliberately constructed, hitting certain plot points as if on a check list (at least for Spanish or Euro-horror), however there are other times when the film bends what you think is going to happen into something else (the medium's walk through the house is chilling). Actually the film gets better as it goes on with a moment about half way into the film when you suddenly realize that the film has really cranked you up.

I really liked the film a great deal. Its so nice to have many people tell me I need to see a movie and then have it turn around and have them be right. Friends and reviewers were right to say that this is a solid little horror film. Its nice to have a film hold you and keep you interested from start to finish. Its even nicer to have a horror film crank up the tension is such away that you never saw it coming, and then keep it tight until the very end.

If there are any real problems with the film its that there are a couple of times when the film struggles to have you believe its own internal logic. A couple of things happened that made me wonder why no one noticed them before, or if people (husband) behaved a certain way to keep the plot moving. The film wins out in the end but its the difference between a mostly satisfying film and a completely satisfying film.

Highly recommended. about 8 out of 10.
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7/10
THE ORPHANAGE (Juan Antonio Bayona, 2007) ***
Bunuel197611 September 2008
I’d heard a lot of good things about this Spanish ghost story produced by Guillermo del Toro; having finally caught up with it, I can say that its reputation is well deserved – since the generally subtle approach to the genre here puts to shame Hollywood’s current trend in visceral horror! The only real quibble I have with the film is that plotwise it offers relatively little that’s new – though the ending does obfuscate matters a bit by suggesting it may all have occurred merely in the protagonist’s mind! As ever with this type of effort, we have a restless soul from the beyond (usually, it’s a child – which is why they’re so unsettling, and the film’s most haunting image certainly involves the creepy kid with a sack over his head) who, by making contact with a living being, is able to unearth a concealed past crime – even if this came upon following his own ill-fated demise!

The film does get the eerie atmosphere centering around a vast, darkened and remote building absolutely right – with cinematography, score and sound being, as expected, carefully deployed; even so, the leading performance from Belen Rueda is notable and, as an added treat, we have a wizened Geraldine Chaplin playing a traditionally eccentric medium (more than the obvious POLTERGEIST [1982] or THE HAUNTING [1963], these scenes reminded of the classic British made-for-TV chiller THE STONE TAPE [1972] by Nigel Kneale). With respect to twists, we have the heroine being unwittingly responsible for her own child’s ghastly death as well as – equally coincidentally – that of the culprit of the old murders (complete with an unnecessarily weird shot of the woman’s dislocated jaw!). Still, the game which Rueda and her kid play – wherein a series of clues will lead to the discovery of some object – is cleverly developed into a motif, thus paving the way for the climactic revelation.

For the record, Del Toro had himself earlier delivered two notable efforts revolving around kids – the somewhat similar THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE (2001) and the more elaborate PAN’S LABYRINTH (2006). Incidentally, THE SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE (1973) and CRIA CUERVOS (1975; also with Chaplin) are two other famous Spanish films about childhood – watching her here and Ana Torrent (who actually appears in both of them) in THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL (2008) recently has made me yearn to pick up their Criterion 2-Disc editions which, until now, weren’t that much a priority for me…
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8/10
A work of art
lastliberal14 May 2008
Horror movies are horror movies. They can be good and bad. There are certain things that make them well worth watching.

First, there is the cinematography of Óscar Faura, who did The Abandoned and The Machinist. The camera work in this film was nothing short of spectacular.

Then, for a good horror movie, you have to have great sound. Xavier Mas, Marc Orts, and Oriol Tarragó took care to make sure the sound was fantastic.

It helps to have a great director, and this film had a new one, Juan Antonio Bayona, who definitely is one to watch in the future. He transformed Sergio G. Sánchez's screenplay into an entertaining piece of horror.

Belén Rueda (The Sea Inside) is not only a pleasure to look at, but she is a fantastic actress and was superb here. She got a lot a help from three-time Golden Globe nominee Geraldine Chaplin.

A really spooky movie with a sweet ending.
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7/10
A really well made genre film.
Boba_Fett113826 October 2011
This is one greatly directed and wonderful looking movie but I really wouldn't go as far to call this movie a great one as well.

It's a movie that builds- and relies heavily on its atmosphere. And with its build-up and atmosphere this movie surely doesn't disappoint. It's a wonderful looking movie, with wonderful cinematography and use of light, to help build up the movie its tension, mystery and atmosphere. Credit for this of course also needs to go to director Juan Antonio Bayona, who did a great job with it all and provided the movie with some great moments.

So what's the problem you might wonder. Well, unfortunately once you start analyzing it- and thinking back about it, the story just isn't really all that great or special. To be honest, it really isn't all that original and something I have seen done a lot before, in the recent past. Of course it's not like the story is bad all together but it's just that the movie didn't really offered anything new or surprising to me, no matter how creatively it all got told and shot at times.

You also need to know what to expect when watching this movie. It's often being advertised as an horror but is it an horror really? I guess you could classify it as one, though supernatural thriller would perhaps be a better way to describe it. It has some scare moments in it and some other typical horror ingredients, as well as style but overall story-wise the movie has way more thriller, mystery and drama elements in it. This movie in fact definitely works better as a mystery than an horror really, so know what to expect when watching this movie.

Producer's Guillermo del Toro touch is definitely notable throughout the movie. Like lots of other movies he was involved with, this one feels and can be seen as a dark fairytale, for adults. This is something I often really love about del Toro's movies and the one element that for me really stood out about it and made it still an original enough one, within its genre.

I guess that those who aren't really into these sort of dark mystery thrillers, told in an horror style, will still end up really loving this movie and might end up being surprised by all of its twists and developments as well. For me personally it however was offering far too little new story-wise but I obviously still could really appreciate this movie, for the way it got made and looked.

7/10

http://bobafett1138.blogspot.com/
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8/10
Born of inspiration
TBJCSKCNRRQTreviews28 December 2009
South American literature has a tradition for 'magical realism'... in which supernatural occurrences mesh with day-to-day life in a way we aren't otherwise used to. This is one of the examples of such. You can either believe that everything you see actually happens, or that the most fantastic are products of the imagination; like in works of Edgar Allen Poe. At its core, this is something as relatable as a mother losing her son. It is also one of the best ghost stories I've ever seen. The plot is excellent and compelling from start to finish. Every acting performance is spot-on... the main kid is incredible, completely convincing. All of the characters are well-developed and credible, and Laura is a strong female lead, which is always nice to see in something like this. This is psychological horror, based upon build-up of atmosphere and creepiness. While there are jump-scares, every single one is a "proper" one, no cats jumping out of closets, etc. There are unforgettable sequences in this, and the mystery is genuinely intriguing. The editing and cinematography are amazing. A lot of what makes this terrifying is also the astonishing sound design. The lighting is subtle. There is gore and blood(but not excessive, and they are used effectively), as well as an abundance of disturbing content in this. The DVD holds several featurettes, a couple of deleted scenes(including alternate ending and opening) with director's commentary, an audition tape of Príncep(the boy), animatics, storyboards, a trailer and a teaser. I recommend this to every fan of unsettling films. 8/10
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8/10
Decent enough ghost story; the ethereal Rueda excels
george.schmidt16 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
THE ORPHANAGE (2007) *** Belen Rueda, Fernando Cayo, Roger Princep, Mabel Rivera, Montserrat Carulla, Andres Gertrudix Oscar Casas, Edgar Vivar, Geraldine Chaplin. Decent enough ghost story thriller from Spanish novice filmmaker Juan Antonio Bayona with a good amount of fear, suspense and overall well-developed production involving a mother (the ethereal Rueda) trying to come to grips and maintain her sanity when her young son disappears shortly after purchasing her titular upbringing edifice, and his 'invisible friends' proving to be more than imaginary. Presented and co-produced by fellow countryman filmmaker wunderkind Guillermo del Toro.
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7/10
Paradise by the Lighthouse Light
ferguson-612 January 2008
Greetings again from the darkness. We are blessed with so few horror movies for grown-ups because it is a nearly impossible genre to succeed in. There is such a fine line between suspense and stupidity, and to succeed there must be an air of believability. This film manages to walk the high wire and maintain the balance ... to the point of a few good scares and more than enough suspense!

Produced by the great Guillermo del Toro and directed by Spain's new hot shot director, Juan Antonio Bayona, the film has some very basic, even cliché, story lines and premises. Still the quality is so high and the acting so strong that it does suck the viewer right into this world. The simplistic approach is what makes it work. The house creaks, clanks and other noises are extraordinarily creepy and not over the top. The best moments are the "little" things and I really enjoyed Geraldine Chaplin's time as the medium.

OK, it is a horror movie, but this is a very good performance from Bolen Rueda, who was so memorable in "The Sea Inside". Ms. Rueda is Laura, who wants to set up a house for a few needy kids in the same house in which she lived as an orphan when she was a kid. Guess what? There is more to the story than that! Laura's own adopted son is played by the extraordinarily cute Roger Princep as Simon. Big eyes and bushy hair, he is like a living (or maybe not) doll.

It is so difficult for these films to find an audience, especially when released in the U.S. with sub-titles, but this one deserves attention to anyone who enjoys a little suspense and a few good darkened theatre jumps in the seat!
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5/10
Runs short on ideas and lacks atmosphere and suspense.
The_Void12 October 2008
To say I'm disappointed with this film would be putting it lightly. For the last few months I've heard nothing but praise for The Orphanage and thus went into expecting to see something special, but what I got instead was just another slow burning ghost story without much in the way of interest. Guillermo del Toro has a production credit on this film; and it's a real shame that some of his creativity didn't rub off on director Juan Antonio Bayona, because The Orphanage has nothing on 2001's orphanage-set ghost story 'The Devil's Backbone'. As the title suggests, the bulk of this film takes place in an orphanage. Laura was raised there as an orphan, and has taken her husband and adopted son Simón to live in the orphanage where she grew up. The boy is HIV positive and has found himself five imaginary friends. Laura has decided to reopen the orphanage specifically for disabled children; but the opening day turns sour when her son begs his adopted mother to see something, but ends up being ignored…

On the technical side, there's really nothing wrong with this film. It's very well shot and the directing is sound; it also features a capable (if slightly clichéd) lead performance from Belén Rueda. The problems are in the plot and execution as the simple fact is that it's just not interesting enough. Similar stories to this one have been told many times and anyone with even a passing interest in the horror genre is liable to have seen at least one comparable film. The film has practically no atmosphere either; the central house is too drab to be a horror location and we are never given the idea that any of the lead characters are in any sort of danger, which ensures that the film lacks suspense also. The Orphanage is not very visceral; although that shouldn't be a problem as it's to be expected in a ghost story; but that's not made up for in any way. The ghosts themselves bring a little atmosphere when they appear, but they're not 'horrific' and the film can hardly even be considered horror. Overall, The Orphanage is a big disappointment and anyone thinking of seeing it should think about not wasting their time and seeing The Devil's Backbone instead.
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7/10
Good, but not that good
zetes25 May 2008
Good, but I was expecting better given the reviews. It's about at the same level as, say, The Others. Belén Rueda plays an adult orphan who now lives in her former orphanage with her husband and adopted son. Her son speaks of imaginary friends, which she and her husband find normal. But these imaginary friends, it starts to seem, may really be ghosts. One day, the son vanishes, and Rueda thinks the ghosts may have something to do with it. The film is quite spooky, but I think the eeriness is pretty much ruined by an overzealous musical score. This really needed to be more subtle. The script has a couple of great twists, but, in general, it's fairly poor. It contains scenes where characters sit around and spout out endless exposition. Home movies are discovered which provide endless clues to the mystery. The most annoying flaw is that police and detectives are brought in to solve the case, and they find nothing. Later on, Rueda discovers all kinds of obvious clues that police searching for a missing child wouldn't have left uncovered. The final twist, I think, is particularly brilliant, but the movie lost me again with a lousy, sentimental ending.
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7/10
A Nutshell Review: The Orphanage
DICK STEEL15 March 2008
I thought that the Orphanage had employed just about every clichéd premise out there in horrorland, where the first 5 minutes probably set up an inevitable series of events that you could have seen from 10 miles out. A creepy looking mansion which functions as an orphanage, children (who are popular characters in many horror movies), and the return to a place called home. To make things worse, the story took its time to unfold, with what I perceived as a nod toward Poltergeist and Dark Water combined.

However, you can't deny that The Orphanage was somewhat of a fresh breeze amongst recent horror releases. Sure I did not like the snail's pace, but I appreciate the technical details employed to craft mood and tension, without relying on the usual bag of tricks. So what you have are extremely atmospheric pieces, but don't go waiting out for cheap sound effects or sudden quick jumps to send thrills down your spine, or laughable attempts at that.

Belen Rueda plays Laura, an orphan from the Orphanage who returns to the same house many years later with husband Carlos (Fernando Cayo) and son Simon (Roger Princep) in tow. Standard horror movie rule #1 will say that things are expected to go bump in the night, and soon enough Simon starts to interact with what is brushed aside by his parents as imaginary friends borne out of his loneliness. Laura, during her childhood, got adopted and off she goes from her friends, and rule #2 will state that she'll soon find out what had happened to the rest, weaved together quite nicely when Simon starts to disappear.

I've come to casually notice that with horror movies, female protagonist are now standard fare. They will find inner strength to confront demons, believe the extraordinary and just never give up hope, whereas their male counterparts always seem whiny, disbelieving, and unsupportive. And that continues here as well. There are some nice touches here which I felt held up the plot development when it was going downhill, and that scene involving "ghostbusters" was certainly one of the best I've seen in a long while, where everything worked perfectly in providing crucial clues to further the story.

But don't go to The Orphanage expecting a lot. The story's rather cliché though cleverly multi-layered in its presentation. It has its moments in key scenes, and for a horror movie, it possesses technical merits in not wanting to be just another run off the mill production, but ultimately felt quite empty despite its very glossy veneer and its headline of having Guillermo del Toro's name attached to the project.
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