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(2007)

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A satisfying thriller on one hand; an equally rich emotional journey on the other
nonsequitur2478 December 2007
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 core.

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.
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10/10
And I don't like horror movies...
fmagnet15 October 2007
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.

Chapeau!
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10/10
absolutely incredible
jmsnjms29 August 2007
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
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10/10
The Orphanage Movie Review
GoneWithTheTwins28 November 2007
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.

-Joe Russo
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8/10
Pretty good
adriangr27 August 2007
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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8/10
Beautifully Sad Catholic Fairy Tale
WriterDave14 January 2008
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 overtones.

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.
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9/10
Intelligent, scary, thrilling. moving
jds104028 August 2007
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.
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9/10
Wonderfully crafted ghost story.
Spikeopath14 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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9/10
One, two, three, knock on the wall…El Orfanato
jaredmobarak12 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
There is something to the marketing of foreign films and the way Hollywood tries its hardest to fool the public into thinking it is an English language movie. By not allowing any characters to speak in the trailers, giving away their secret with subtitles, someone like me, knowing it's foreign, is able to get a glimpse at the style and tone without really learning anything about the plot to ruin my surprise upon sitting in the theatre. This aspect worked perfectly for Guillermo Del Toro's production of El Orfanato. I had very little idea of what I was getting into and this film ended up being the best atmospheric horror I have seen since Alejandro Amenábar's The Others, (I don't count Del Toro's own El Laberinto del fauno because that was more fantasy than anything else). I now ask what it is that all three of these films have in common? With this—J.A. Bayona's feature debut—each is helmed by a Spanish director. I can't think of a better nation making movies right now; the Spanish are doing everything right and this film just adds to bolstering that argument.

Bayona creates a mood and tone that keeps the viewer on the edge of their seats, anticipating the scares that they know will shortly be coming. I was actually surprised how slow the introduction was and how carefully laid out all the story pieces were. We are led into this world, discovering the relationships between our lead roles and the vague past of the orphanage that once housed our heroine and now is about to become her home for special needs children. Like The Others, the spirits involved here are not necessarily violent or demonic. They have an agenda, for sure, but what may at first glance seem malevolent could be nothing of the kind. The orphans now haunting the establishment are only trying to play a game. By taking something you love, a scavenger hunt is begun. Following the clues is the only way the game can end and if successful, the children will grant you one wish. The rules are simple, except the circumstances are far from easily accessible. One must believe that the game can happen before he/she can truly take part. Without the belief that the spirits are in control, success can never be achieved.

The cast is led by a remarkable performance from Belén Rueda—who, as it turns out, had a wonderful turn in Amenábar's latest Mar adentro. Her composure and beauty is shattered as she finds her son has been lost. Trying to keep herself together, taking in what the police, her husband, and the mediums enlisted to help on the paranormal aspect tell her, she is given the task to figure out for herself how far she is willing to go to find her son. Always captivating and never out of her element, Rueda carries the story and never looks back. The supporting players around her are all portrayed nicely as well. Fernando Cayo plays the husband watching his wife deteriorate before him while unable to open his mind to the possibility that what she says could be true; Geraldine Chaplin is magnificent as the psychic medium whose trance brings out a puzzle piece necessary to continue the game; and young Roger Príncep plays the child Simón with the right amount of innocence mixed with the knowledge and comprehension of his fate to help keep the bond between he and his mother strong.

Bayona never goes for the cheap thrills either as he builds up the tension with sounds and visuals. His use of the closing doors and the moving merry-go-round add a sense of foreboding that ends up being more important than you may initially guess. Stylistically too, the transition between the house's current state of duress with the way it shone by the glow of the adjacent lighthouse from the past is expertly handled. There were numerous instances where the film could have gone off the rails to tragic effect, but he holds it steady throughout. More psychological than visceral, the scares are few, but effective. Even when the grotesque rears its head, it is to enhance the story, not to shock for shock alone. The sound work is utilized to the fullest too. What seems to be jarring and loud for the purpose to scare our lead and us is actually very important to the tale at hand. Nothing is shown or heard here that doesn't have absolute relevance to the film as a whole.

The final third of the film comes quick and fully envelopes you into the proceedings. You are right there with Rueda's character as she slowly uncovers the secrets hidden behind the years that have past since she last lived in the orphanage. Whereas a film from Hollywood—of late usually being a remake from a better horror film in Japan—would use this tension in order to hide the flimsy and lackluster conclusion it tacks on so as not to alienate those viewers who enjoy leaving the theatre with a smile, Bayona knows how to effectively end his tale the way it should. I was blown away by the handling of the final scene and the way he used the rules of the game to transition us from one reality to another. It is truly a remarkable feat that hits home hard emotionally, but I will actually say also succeeded in me leaving with a smile on my face. Whether you exit the theatre with your eyes moistened or not, you will not forget the beauty and perfection for which it concludes. The tagline is correct, for while it is a story of horror, it is above all else a tale of love.
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9/10
An exciting directorial debut
blackburnj-14 April 2008
18 months back, or so, the world was astonished as three Mexican directors produced three exceptional and successful films. One of those three, Alfonso Cuáron, said in an interview last year that the trio (himself, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu & Guillermo del Toro) considered themselves to be nothing in comparison to "what is to come".

With "The Orphanage", executive produced by del Toro, we get to see some work from the first of the new Hispanic wave, namely the Spaniard Juan Antonio Bayona. Although del Toro's name is plastered all over the posters, this is undeniably Bayona's film who, with stylish photography, effective design and confident direction, makes this a fantastically gripping and moving piece of work.

It is a staggeringly bold and extremely exciting feature debut by this director. From the very first shot, the audience can see that this director has style and an eye for striking images. But he also knows how to manipulate an audience. The early scenes grip the audience as Bayona builds up a tense atmosphere, filled with the sort of menace that Hitchcock created in so many films.

Then, when the supernatural plot gets going, he fills the film with enough memorable visual touches and "crash, bang, wallop" moments to keep you on the edge of your seat. A number of scenes excel, especially one where a medium is used in the eponymous orphanage and wanders the apparently empty corridors, viewed in the eerie green of night vision. It is a magnificent, thrilling scene and, although it sounds clichéd, it is fresh, inventive and spine-chilling.

But this film is so much more than a nuts and bolts ghost story. The film ends with a wonderful, moving twist that is at once heart-breaking and utterly uplifting. This is an engrossing and thrilling film and a triumph of superior direction but it is the film's intelligent and philosophical side that stays with you, long after your spine has stopped tingling.
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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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9/10
A great suspense film
jprn5520 October 2007
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
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9/10
Touching Spanish film
WakenPayne4 December 2011
Many people might be thinking "this is a horror film, why is it touching". The movie might contain aspects of the Horror genre but I see it as a Drama film with Horror elements, that might be just as an interpretation.

This film is about a kid that goes missing and his adoptive mother thinks it has something to do with his imaginary friends, of which are ghosts of children at the orphanage that once stood there.

This may sound like a typical cliché pile-up no-brainer Horror film but this is certainly one of the better films of the genre, CARED for the characters and INTERESTED in the plot instead of the American crap like the Halloween remake.

Overall, A very touching film that needs more praise
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8/10
Moody, emotional, intelligent and well acted horror
runamokprods7 December 2011
Well above average haunted house film. As emotional as it is scary.

The same could be said of most of producer Guillermo Del Toro's films.

The story feels a little too familiar for most of it's length to quite make it too classic film status, although the last 10 minutes do elevate it to something more moving and more thoughtful than 95%of the genre pictures currently being made.

Wonderfully acted by Belen Rueda, as a mother whose child mysteriously disappears. Well shot as well.

The kind of film I look forward to re-watching, sure that now that I know its secrets, there's even more to be uncovered.
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8/10
Stunning, heartfelt horror
HorrorQueen172 October 2011
Achingly sad is a term I have never used before to describe a horror movie, but it captures 'El Orfanato' perfectly.

This tale revolves around a young family who move into an orphanage where the mother resided as a child. They intend to re-open it as a home for disabled children, but as we get to know them the realisation dawns that they are not alone in the house.

What starts with the premise of being a classic haunted house tale, including the new vogue for stories of this kind – i.e. creepy children, is actually transformed into something which takes it from a standard horror to something much more powerful. With powerful emotional performances, especially from the lead actress x (as mother Laura), who was sensational in her portrayal of grief, this ghost story transcended its genre and turned into a touching, desperate account of a mother driven mad by the disappearance of her son.

The audience couldn't fail to be moved almost to tears as we follow what essentially becomes Laura's story, and the Spanish language made it somehow more realistic for me. I do hope this film doesn't get an English-language remake. It is so unique for a horror film to move me close to tears, alongside providing a wonderfully built up, tense and creepy atmosphere, and this is where El Orfanato comes into its own. There is a slow-burning build up to the emotionally-wrought finale, and the direction, acting and score (which is quite impressive on its own, especially the end credit music) each add something to this brilliantly atmospheric piece. Indeed, the creation and sustaining of the atmosphere is probably the films highest point, because it build in you a classic horror tension, whilst letting you into the personal grief and sadness of Laura at the same time.

There are some shock moments, and jumps hidden amongst the twists and turns of the plot, but this is not a film to see if you are looking to be scared witless by your horror. More, this is an entirely different film which is seeking to add depth and something more to the horror genre than cheap thrills and moments that make might make you jump but ultimately add nothing to the story.

Each part of the film was well made, acted and directed and all go to making this film one of the most unique horrors I have come across. 8/10
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10/10
Very intriguing
Atreyu_II29 September 2011
The key to this movie's success is on the proverbial simplicity. More than a terror film, it is more of a drama, a sad and devastating story that can impress. The terror is masterfully used here, not only because it really frightens when it's meant to but also because the terror is genuine, avoiding the use of cheap terror and sophisticated digital tricks.

There have been comparisons with "The Changeling" (1980) and "Poltergeist" (1982). This and "The Changeling" have slight similarities in details, but nothing major. As for "Poltergeist", frankly I don't see much where to compare them. Yes, they are both about ghosts, but I can't say they are similar just because they have ghosts.

"El Orfanato" is a great movie on its own. It is clearly one of the best movies of the year 2007 and one of the best from the 2000-2009 decade. Considering that this generation brought some but very few really good movies, I highly doubt the current decade will bring many worthy films, although we can always give the benefit of doubt.

I got to know that Hollywood plans to remake this valuable Spanish piece of cinema. Can't say that I'm surprised. Hollywood stubbornly insists on remaking films. Stealing the others's works must give them pleasure, so that they can claim it as their own when we who know the truth know what the truth is.

This should definitely be on Top 250.
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9/10
Dark, brooding, fantastic!
daryl-subra24 March 2008
I decided to watch this movie after the reviews I had read on IMDb and boy did it not disappoint! The film starts off slowly enough, average everyday story about a close-knit, presumably well-off family who are just in the process of converting an old orphanage into their new home. However after a visit from a ghastly-looking social worker, things start taking a turn for the worse.

The acting by the lead lady (Belén Rueda) is one of the best performances in a film of this sort I have witnessed for a long time. Her natural, everyday look is comforting and her reaction to the situations she finds herself completely understandable. The husband (Fernando Cayo), although only playing a comparatively minor role, draws sympathy as someone who is troubled by his subconscious attempts to normalise what is going on around him.

This is not just a horror/thriller movie but a film about the beauty of family dynamics and what happens when something comes along that tries to disrupt them. Several reviewers claim to have cried at the end and I am not surprised.

There are no flashy special effects, just a good old-fashioned ghost story in The Sixth Sense and The Others mould. There are a few jumps here and there (including one daylight scene which must go down as one of the biggest in cinema history!!) but that is not what the film is about. There are some genuinely nightmarish scenes which will etch long in the memory.

My only quip was a period in the middle of the film when things slow down a bit too much for my own liking. There is also some ambiguity in certain scenes although perhaps this assists in surrounding the film with a certain mysticism.

Overall I can't recommend this film highly enough. Much scarier than a lot of the horror 'classics' out there and very much a slap in the face to those who say horror is dead!

Rating 9/10
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9/10
Loved it -- and I don't like horror films
plkldf7 January 2008
I am not much on horror movies. In fact, I'm known as El Pollo (The Chicken) when it comes to movies. For example, I hate movies which revel in violence: I would no more see "No Country for Old Men" than I would go quail "hunting" with Dick Cheney. Will I see "Sweeney Todd?" Sure I will -- just as soon as pigs fly out my rear end whistling the "Colonel Bogey March."

But I went to see "El Orfanato" because I gathered that it was more of a ghost story than a horror film, and that it was more of a thoughtful reflection on The Unseen World, like "Don't Look Now," or "The Sixth Sense," than a movie whose main purpose was to scare the bejabbers out of the audience.

And so it turned out to be. Which isn't to say that it didn't scare the bejabbers out of the audience! Several times.

The film comes from Spain, and stars Spanish TV star Belen Rueda as Laura. We learn that Laura was an inmate of an orphanage, that she was adopted away from the orphanage, and that she has, at the present time, returned to the old property with her husband and adopted child to create a home for neglected children.

This movie, like "Sixth Sense" (one of my all-time favorite films) is about love and death. In fact, I think they both share the same message, that is, that helping those most in need of help gives life meaning.

I enjoyed "The Orphanage," and I think you will too. If you just plain don't like being frightened in movies, then stay away. But there's no glorified violence and -- you know how the music builds and builds, more and more ominous, and the thing which is about to attack gets closer and closer? There is some of that, but mostly it's used as exposition -- it's when you're not really expecting anything that the director pushes the bejabbers button, leaving the audience chuckling -- like, "whoo -- THAT was a GOOD one!"

I think folks who like a good haunted house story will like this, and people who like a good love story will like it as well.
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7/10
Pretty decent, though not particularly scary, supernatural mystery/drama
refresh_daemon30 December 2007
This film is less like a traditional horror movie and more of a drama/mystery with strong supernatural elements. The setup is that Laura, who once lived at an orphanage, returns to the orphanage with her husband and son to start it up again as a place for special needs children. Of course, it all seems simple, but there are mysteries abound in this story and the revelations trickle in over the course of the tale.

The film isn't particularly frightening, although it has a couple of jumpy moments. Rather than focusing on creating an atmosphere of fear, instead it works on drawing up sympathy for Laura's plight as events transpire against her and her family and the past comes back to haunt her. It's an interesting meditation on loss as well that had a wonderful potential to straddle the line between real-world and supernatural (but don't worry folks, it doesn't--it's firmly supernatural and you know it from early on). Nonetheless, that you could imagine this film working even if the supernatural elements were just in Laura's mind and that's a pretty good thing for the drama.

The technical aspects of the film are all sound (although I noticed a couple of background gaffs, but I think you'd have to look for them), with clear direction, capable lensing and design. The actors all do a good job of rendering their characters (children fare believably enough) and Belen Rueda carries the film well as the central protagonist. The story itself doesn't reach any great depths, but unraveling the mystery with the film is enjoyable.

It's nothing stunning, but in the world of horror films, it easily stands a shoulder above the regular flotsam that the genre tends to churn out. At that, it's no terrible film and could be recommended if you're looking for a relatively intelligent and well composed supernatural horror-type film. Just don't expect bloodbaths and constant shocks. 7/10.
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8/10
"The Orphanage" may be in Spanish, but it scares in all languages
Tombraiderdude21 January 2008
Recent horror films seem more inclined to thrill than to chill. Such hits like "Dawn of Dead" and "I am Legend" are great movies, but their fear comes from intensity rather than dread. However, there have been a few good chillers out there, such as "The Others" and "The Ring." And now, "The Orphanage," from acclaimed Spanish producer Guillermo del Toro, creeps its way into their ranks, while still being a genre-defying film.

The story revolves around Laura, a woman who buys her childhood home in hopes of starting an orphanage for handicapped children with her husband Carlos. But soon their son Simón starts communicating with the orphans who used to live there. Thus, many spooky-doins' begin. And boy are they spooky. "The Orphanage" is certainly not the first film to use the "creepy kids" angle, but screenwriter Sergio Sánchez made the story original and engrossing enough to be wholly enjoyable.

One of the creepiest factors of "The Orphanage" is its sound design. The house contains plentiful creaks and groans, which seem to come standard in all haunted houses, but the real frights come from the music. As well as being ambrosial to the ears, it has the power to induce an assortment of emotions. It can bring a tear to your eye, or make you cramp up in your seat from suspense.

But the real enjoyment comes from the acting. Horror films are known for having some of the campiest acting out of all the film genres, but "The Orphanage" is one of those rare gems where the actors are so great they make you think, "Yeah, maybe they really are experiencing supernatural phenomena." And Kudos to Belén Rueda (Laura) for having the most range and believability in the entire movie. Her performance transcends the language barrier and makes you forget you're reading subtitles.

To round out the film is the cinematography, and if Guillermo del Toro is involved, you know it will be stylish to the max. The manor-like orphanage is not the typical run-down creepy haunted house. It isn't so much haunting as it is hauntingly beautiful. And each of the places around it follow, suit such as the beach and the playground. Each scene is so elegant that it can be incredibly terrifying while still being gorgeously shot at the same time.

Of course, "The Orphanage" isn't perfect. One of its weakest points is that it is a bit cliché. There are a bunch or creepy kids, there is a medium that contacts the dead, and, gosh, does that house ever shut-up? But with all that aside, "The Orphanage" is still a classy and mysterious haunted house movie that will keep you guessing (and screaming) until the end. Do yourself a favor and go see this film despite the subtitles.
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8/10
Masterfully terrifying
teh_mode30 April 2008
This hauntingly brilliant horror film stars Belen Rueda as Laura, a woman who brings her family back to her childhood home in order to re-open it as an orphanage. Once there, her son's imagination is reawakened by the home, but his childhood fantasies and games become sinister when his "imaginary" friends may not be so imaginary after all. Unlike many modern horror films, Juan Antonio Bayona does not wash the cinema screen with explicit torture candy, but rather skilfully weaves cinematic shocks through intrigue and suspense. His movie is all the more terrifying for what it does not show than for what it actually reveals. And there are at least four big moments that will leave you trembling in your seat, if you have not already jumped out of it.
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10/10
A blissful escapade......See what you believe
aadat-dmg20 July 2013
Horror had perhaps never been depicted before with such artistic finesse and melancholic grace , for no more does it stir the primordial instincts of fear but in turn etches the mind with a lingering soprano of solitude and echoes of a bitter-sweet longing to believe.....for "you see what you believe"......the film surpasses the boundaries of genre and the technicalities of form ,as it gradually blends soul and art building a crescendo, an eclectic symphony of love and faith.....one which transcends the torment of time...and then even the deepest scars, profound pangs of pain and abandonment become sheer poetry........

This is perhaps the seventh time I have been astonished by El Orfanato. Belen's performance leaves me speechless through her immense mastery over her craft, acting transcends into realism, story into life and her emotions touch you almost tangibly. On the other hand , subtlety of cinematography,simplicity of storyline but a magically intense message have always been Torro's forte.

In short, I highly recommend this movie highly..........
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10/10
A nearly perfect film
alex_messer13 January 2012
First of all, those of you of say this film isn't scary is way off the mark. Sure it doesn't have the pop out scares of many other horror films but this is probably the most suspenseful film I have seen in my life. The character development is superb in this film as the acting is right on and you feel you can develop a bond with each character. The storyline itself is well written and it keeps you guessing and I particularly enjoyed the conclusion of this film very much. It was very emotional and uplifting even though this is a horror film. The only downside to this film was that it is only available in Spanish so reading the subtitles is required if you're like me and can only read English. But the hardly damaged the overall experience of this movie as it was just as horrifying, emotional, and suspenseful as if this movie was in English. So I give this movie a 9.6 out of 10 because of some hardly noticeable flaws that barely affected the movie experience. See this movie as soon as you can!
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9/10
Authentic, a modern legend.
bts198429 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Even though we look at this movie and can tell it's perfectly recent, at the same it oozes a certain old-fashioned feeling, which is good. Indeed, it is something of a return to the classic horror stories: simple, deep and intense, has soul, atmosphere (it transmits a cold and solitary atmosphere), film-making of quality, gorgeous cinematography, a beautiful musical score by Fernando Velázquez and expertly done and realistic scares instead of cheap terror and special effects.

On a first impression it is a little tricky to understand. It's a great deal of information to "digest" in just once and sometimes it happens very fast. But the fact that it is complex makes it all the more interesting and distinguish. At least it sets apart from others in a time when movies keep getting increasingly similar to each other. Plus, it gets easier to understand the more you watch it.

This is a touching, depressing and tragic story. Certain parts are truly scary. No kidding, they are! Certain events are so sudden, they happen so fast - it's hard to explain, but they catch you by surprise when you less expect. Some of the content is strong and disturbing. I wouldn't recommend this for hyper-sensitive people.

The orphanage is enormous and its architecture is very beautiful. Although "only" an orphanage, it definitely has that creepy, spooky atmosphere perfect for a superior ghost story. It's like a big, sinister shadowy house. The settings too are wonderful.

The actors are generally very competent, both the adults and the children. Among the adults, the beautiful Bélen Rueda steals the show with her acting. Among the children, the best performance belongs to Roger Príncep, although each child is rightfully chosen for their role.

Clearly a very good movie and a breath of fresh air in the recent history of cinema. Although still fairly recent, it's not too soon to consider it what it is: one of the best movies ever.

Of course, Hollywood wasted no time and (already!) in 2007 bought the rights to remake it. What is it with Americans that they have to remake everything? Instead of remaking, why don't they start developing their own ideas and leave the other movies as they are? And if they remake, then they should only remake films that are bad or certain films that are too old and awfully dated (crying for a remake). And I don't think this wicked movie is bad, so I do not approve a remake.

I can understand J. A. Bayona's disappointment, to which he famously said «The Americans have all the money in the world but can't do anything, while we can do whatever we want but don't have the money» and «The American industry doesn't take chances, that's why they make remakes of movies that were already big hits».

Title in Portugal: 'O Orfanato'.
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9/10
"One, two three, knock on the wall"
dave-sturm23 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Mild spoilers ahead.

In these days of J-horror and K-horror and torture porn and zombie comedies, it is wonderful to come across something as classic as this. This is about as artfully made a horror movie you are going to find. Which doesn't mean it skimps on the scares. In fact, there's a scene involving an old lady pushing a baby carriage that made me jump right out of my seat -- twice! The movie opens in what is obviously the most cheerful orphanage in the history of the world. Girls are playing and giggling in bright sunshine. The building is a beautiful manor. That's when we learn that one of the girls, red-headed Laura, is about to be adopted. What unfolds is Laura's story.

After the orphanage scene, we cut straight to Laura at age 37. She's married to a doctor and they have an adopted son, age 7. The three of them are all back at the orphanage, now abandoned. The family has acquired the manor (which still looks pretty good) with the intent of reopening it as a home for disabled children.

Simon, their son, has two imaginary friends, something which his parents tolerate. Suddenly, after moving to the orphanage, he announces he has five additional made-up friends, one of whom seems to live in a cave on the beach (the manor is at the sea shore).

When the disabled children show up for a welcoming lawn party, the kids are given masks to wear (purchased, by the way, at the Deeply Disturbing Mask Store). Inside the house, Laura and her son have a loud argument and she slaps him.

Shortly afterward, Laura is attacked by a masked child wearing one of the old-fashioned orphan dresses. The child runs off. It is then that we learn that Simon has disappeared.

The remainder of the movie is the search for Simon, who Laura is convinced is still in the house. There is a seance in which a horrifying moment in the orphanage's history is revealed. Clues are dropped. Strange dolls turn up. Doors slam shut. What does this doorknob laying on the floor open? Laura's husband becomes exasperated by her behavior and insists they leave. Laura begs for more time. He says two days, then he leaves.

With Laura now alone in the house, the movie kicks into overdrive.

I cannot say enough about Belen Rueda as Laura, who is on screen 90 percent of the movie. She has huge expressive eyes that show love, fear, passion and determination. An incredible performance.

I also want to call attention to the use of foreshadowing in this movie. If any movie cries out to be watched twice, this is one. Little things happen early that you could miss, but which pay off huge later on.

Finally, the ending. It took a while to dawn on me what was actually happening, but once it did my heart was in my throat and I was on the verge of tears. The husband has the final scene and it's incredibly elegant and touching.

This is, of course, a Spanish movie and some posts I read here advise that orphanages have a deep resonance in Spanish culture. They were filled up with the children of parents that had been imprisoned or shot for being opposed to Dictator Franco. They were not, as you might imagine, nurturing places for children.

This movie is for all time.
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