Monday, August 11, 2008

The Orphanage

Directed By: Juan Antonia Bayona

Written By: Sergio G. Sanchez

Starring: Belen Rueda, Fernando Caya, Geraldine Chaplin

My Rating: 8/10

When a famous director "presents" a movie it generally means it's a bad b-movie. Wes Craven, Quentin Tarantino and Tobe Hooper deserve a good finger-wagging for the crimes against audiences that they have endorsed. Guillermo Del Toro, however, has proven himself to be a somewhat more trustworthy advocate. The Orphange is a wonderfully eerie and tragic tale about a woman who buys her old orphanage to turn into a home for sick children. After her son goes missing mysteriously, she tries to find him with the help of the ghosts from her past.

As the film starts it has the air of a tragic tale from the outset. Laura's adopted son is very ill, suffering from HIV. Not the start of you typical horror movie. The orphange itself holds many secrets and there is a creepy old lady pretending to be a social worker lurking around. The film is unsettling from the start, if a little standard. As it progresses however, it becomes more apparent that there is a thin line between ghosts and hallucinations. However, the film never really confirms either reality.

Much like Del Toro's Pan's Layrinth and The Devil's Backbone (to which this film owes a tremendous debt), the filmmaker never takes the side of supernatural or craziness. This makes for a nice comfort zone of believability and adds layers to interpretation to every incident in the film. There are a lot of questions left unanswered, but the film has a satisfying, if tragic denoument that really sets it apart from other creepy haunted house movies.

Definitely check this out. It is creepy, but ultimately a delicate human tragedy of madness and guilt.

- Charlene Lydon 11/08/08

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