The votes are in and it looks like you all still want a horror recommendation! Well, that works out just fine and dandy for me because horror happens to be my favourite. Now, Mickey over at Screenkicker requested a foreign horror movie and I am here to please so the recommendation for this week is the Spanish film, The Orphanage. It’s pretty awesome so you’re welcome in advance for the recommendation.
Produced by none other than the talented Guillermo Del Toro, director of my personal favourite, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Orphanage has a similar story telling atmosphere and is filled with tension and plenty of genuine scares. Director, Juan Antonio Bayona crafts a story about a woman named Laura who returns to the orphanage that she grew up in to reopen it as a home for children with special needs. Once there, her son, Simon, starts acting strangely and makes up six imaginary friends who fuel his increasingly negative behaviour.
There’s something truly frightening about turning an item or a person that is known to be inherently good or innocent into something that is dark and evil. Dolls, clowns, children, toys, games… they all seem safe. That’s why movies like It, Annabelle, Children of the Corn and The Omen are all so popular. This movies tugs at those same fears and, in my opinion, does it more successfully that the above mentioned films.
The Orphanage is another great example that well developed tension and atmosphere go a long way. It doesn’t rely on cheap scares, CGI and gore. Not to say that this movie doesn’t have it’s gory moments, but they are used to the best effect and progress the story.
To that end, the cinematography is perfectly used to enhance the predominantly sinister feeling that underlines the film. Even during the opening scene where the children are playing a game in the front yard and nothing is particularly amiss, the camera angles, with someone just out of sight and the quick cuts tell us that there is more going on during this otherwise picturesque day. I also loved how Bayona chose to show us moments that the characters in the movie don’t see. A closing door, something moving… It an effective way to show us that something more was going on.
Without giving anything away, the movie builds beautifully into it’s climax. We know that Laura is willing to do anything to uncover the truth and we are hopelessly along for the ride. We know that there is little chance that she will succeed, especially when so much time has passed and she is seemingly no closer to achieving her goal, but her determination and perseverance are so admirable that it makes us even more invested in her success. We start to wonder how much of this movie is taking place in real life and how much is coming from Laura’s overwrought mind. It’s a great way to demonstrate that the horrors of the mind can be much more terrifying than those that are real.
Something I find with foreign films (for the most part) is that the acting is wonderful. Belén Rueda is brilliant as Laura. She plays the mother perfectly and we have no doubt of her love for her son, Simon. There are a lot of movies that go into the bond between mother and child but few lead to where this one does.
Overall, this is not one to miss. The Peter Pan themes and the atmospheric cinematography make for some tense moments and scares that you will hold onto after the movie is over. Give it a watch and let me know what you think.
Here’s the trailer. Ignore the horrible voice over, it really doesn’t fit the tone of the movie.
For anyone who has seen Pan’s Labyrinth, did you notice the similarities in the ending between the two movies?