Film Reviews

The Orphanage

Warner Bros (Spain) & Picturehouse

The Orphanage is a ghost story, about an old house on the coast of Spain, which continues to act as a playground for the deceased orphans who used to reside there. When Laura, a housewife who grew up in the orphanage, decides to return to her childhood home, she brings her adopted son and husband back, however her son starts to see more than his fair share of imaginary friends.

Laura decides to set up the old orphanage as a new children’s shelter, for children with disabilities, who need extra care and help. Laura and Carlos (the husband) have brought their young, adopted son Simon with them. Simonhas HIV but doesn’t know about it yet, nor does he know that he is adopted. The new owners throw a welcoming party for some of the children who are planning on staying at the house. When Simon goes missing, frantically Laura searches for him. In a desperate attempt at getting him back, she decides to play a game that he taught her, a game that he played with his imaginary friends. She also encourages a psychic reader to come and see if she can find any clue as to where he might be.

As the film is all in Spanish it obviously has subtitles, but this doesn’t make the film hard to watch, nor does it take anything away from the eerie, but mystical tale. With Guillermo del Toro leading Juan Antonio Bayonawith his feature film, directorial debut,the atmosphere is thick with tension and trepidation, and you can clearly see the links and ties between this and Pans Labyrinth.

The Orphanage could have very easily become yet another “ghost story”, thankfully though, with a keen eye and sharp script it remains a suspenseful, chilling tale of the strongest and purist love between and mother and child,and the lengths at which they are prepared to go. Also, children in horror films are always a bit creepy, check out the original Dark Water. Throughout there are moments of darkness, creepy and disturbing flashes, but they are cut between the fundamental roots of love, loss and guilt. The agonizing remorse and regret is brilliantly conveyed through several indications towards J.M.Barrie’s classic stories of Peter Pan and his group of lost boys. A great film, that works on more than one level of fear.

Emily Paget