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The Orphanage

A Sophisticated Horror Movie From Spain

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating

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The Orphanage

Belén Rueda in The Orphanage

(Picturehouse)
From Spain comes an incredibly spooky ghost story by first-time director Juan Antonio Bayona. The film was just selected as the country's entry for the foreign film Oscar and it is being produced and "presented" by Guillermo Del Toro.

All this pedigree had no doubt inflated expectations when the film was screened for critics at the New York Film Festival -- everybody seemed to agree that The Orphanage fell short of the genre-bending brilliance that made Pan's Labyrinth an instant classic.

But what's wrong with genre? There may not be Spanish Fascists or political allegories in The Orphanage, but as a sophisticated horror movie, the film succeeds beautifully.

Belén Rueda and Fernando Cayo play Laura and Carlos, a couple who just bought the old mansion by the sea that once used to be the site of the orphanage where Laura grew up. Their sick, adopted son Simon (Roger Príncep) has a vivid imagination and scores of imaginary friends -- except that some of them may be real....

You know the drill: creaking staircases, ominous caves, the voices of innocent children interrupted by sudden shocks of violence, Geraldine Chaplin. There's an old-fashioned sense of suspense to The Orphanage; Bayona's slick direction gets by without fancy special effects or otherworldly sights.

I won't say much more for fear of needlessly ruining the carefully arranged revelations of the script by Sergio G. Sánchez. It must have been years since I last screamed at the movies, but The Orphanage had me screaming not once but twice. So what if the film doesn't bust horror conventions or seems less than surprising in retrospect? The Orphanage had me by the throat for 100 minutes, and that's more than you can say for a lot of movies.

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  7. The Orphanage - Juan Antonio Bayona - Guillermo Del Toro - Movie Review

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