The Orphanage (2007)
Written By: AR
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Director(s): J.A. Bayona
Writers(s): Sergio G. Sanchez
Producer(s): Guillermo del Toro, Mar Targarona, et. al.
Date Released: September 10, 2007
Belen Rueda – Laura
Fernando Cayo – Carlos
Roger Princep – Simon
Mabel Rivera – Pilar
Montserrat Carulla – Benigna Escobeda
Geraldine Chaplin – Aurora
Andres Gertrudix – Enrique
Edgar Vivar – Prof. Leo Balaban
Oscar Casas – Tomas
Rating = 3.5/5 Graves
***May contain some spoilers***
Laura (Belen Rueda) used to live at an orphanage. She was adopted and had to leave her childhood friends behind. Now all grown-up, Laura goes back to the orphanage with her husband and adopted son, to restore the place to its former glory and open their home to children with special needs. Their days of bliss in the idyllic countryside are disturbed when Simon (Roger Princep) starts seeing imaginary friends. These children communicate that they want to play a game where they take a person’s most beloved possession and the only way to recover it is to follow the clues and go on a treasure hunt. Once the treasure is found, the person’s wish could be granted. At the orphanage’s re-opening celebration, Laura is distracted by the presence of a child dressed in the old orphanage’s uniform. Amidst the chaos and partygoers, she loses track of Simon who turned up missing. Nine months later, Laura is starting to lose hope of ever finding Simon again and seeks the help of a paranormal expert. Laura realizes that the children have taken her most beloved possession and she must decide whether she should play the children’s game in order to locate her son or else risk losing him forever.
The movie elicits fear from the audience by utilizing mystery and suspense rather than gore. A few gory scenes include the one where Laura is locked inside a bathroom by the masked child. Her hand gets caught in the door and the following shot shows her bloody nail getting detached. Later, Laura and her husband encounters Simon’s suspected kidnapper. They spot her across the street where she eventually got run over by a bus. Her bloody corpse is revealed along with her disengaged mouth and jaw.
The Grave Review
A masterclass in storytelling, The Orphanage (2007) has the potential of being a classic horror movie. Fear, surprise, suspense, and mystery work hand in hand to create a compelling tale that would make you sad, scared, happy, worried, and terrified all at the same time.
The director has carefully designed the foreshadowing details to be hidden in plain sight. With no further emphasis given on what turned out to be significant occurrences, the subtlety and nuances create a cohesive story that amazes and shock the viewer at every mystery reveal. Cinematography is beautiful and adds another layer to the narrative. The gorgeous shots of the Spanish countryside and coastline enhances the horror feel rather than detracts from it. It feels like nothing bad could happen in a place as peaceful as that yet it does, jarring the audience’s emotions.
The movie builds on the characters and their relationship with one another. Belen Rueda’s phenomenal portrayal of Laura along with the rest of the stellar cast perfects the characters’ actions and motivations, making it credibly authentic. You cannot help but root for them when they start encountering their troubles. The added emotional investment makes the story more intense and compels you to identify with the ever-present threat the family is facing.
There is nothing creepier and more spine-chilling than a bunch of children who ask you to play with them. However, this movie does not exploit that fact or rely on cheap jump scares to terrify the audience. The monster is something more terrifying, the real matter of innocent lives lost with no one to blame, and the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness that is so pervasive and evident in tragedy.
What you believe is what you see. It is up to the audience to decide what is Laura and Simon’s fate. Poignant and tragic, that the terror is real and possible is what leaves a mark on the viewer. The way the director handled that narrative is beautiful and unsettling at the same time. The Orphanage (2007) takes you on an emotional journey, scary and heartbreaking, it is something you would not be able to forget for a long time.
For those reasons, Grave Reviews gives The Orphanage (2007) three and half graves out of five graves.
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