El Orfanato (2007): 4.5/5
This Guillermo del Toro-produced horror/mystery had all the makings of overripe cheese (see US version of ‘The Eye’) but El Orfanato (‘The Orphanage’) sits auspiciously on top of the “not just another ghost story” pile. Rarely are we treated to a film that contains an entire scope of emotions while at the same time, having a decent and creepy story.
The Orphanage tells the story of Laura who returns to the orphanage where she was raised in order to re-open it as a home for children with disabilities. She prepares the orphanage for its new residents but things start to go awry when her HIV positive son Simon starts making imaginary friends, which includes retarded ghost boy Tomas.
Although the ‘ghost-boy’ subgenre in the horror phenomenon may be a tad cliché, del Toro protegé Juan Antonio Bayona intelligently delivers this bone-chilling thriller with a hint of fantasy. It’s gorgeously photographed to create that eerie Gothic feel- but how very wrong are we when we realize (in a very Shyamalan way) the movie’s twist.
I love how the film manages to shock viewers without looking like cheap Hollywood scares (wait for the 1-2-3 knocking game) though I must admit I’m a sucker for even the faintest bit of gore (sadly, this film has just that). ‘The Orphanage’ succeeds in drawing out the horror methodically, utilizing the drab atmosphere to its full potential. But the most more horrifying bit is of course, the upcoming English language remake . ¡Que horror!