The Orphanage

Dir: J.A. Bayona
Star: Belén Rueda, Fernando Cayo, Roger Príncep, Montserrat Carulla

Laura (Rueda) has returned with her husband (Cayo), to the orphanage where she was raised, with the aim of turning it back into a home for children with special needs - such as her son, Simon (Prinvep), who is HIV-positive, and doesn't know he was adopted. Without any playmates, he has invented a whole roster of imaginary friends. However, these start to take on a darker aspect, including a boy whose head is covered in sack-cloth, an image which stirs long-repressed memories in Laura. Then, one day, Simon vanishes: over the ensuing months, despite desperate efforts, his parents fail to find even a clue, until they turn to a medium, who opens up some doors - both literal and metaphorical - that might have been better left closed.

This is one of those old-school horror movies, reliant more on suggestion than explicit gore (despite one shock, lifted wholesale from Final Destination), and like most of its kind, the effectiveness is something of a mixed-bag. Some elements of the story don't really stand up to scrutiny, and the use of a conveniently-omniscient medium is weak. That said, there are certainly moments which certainly do generate the expected level of creepy tension, and Bayona has his share of directorial skill. Rueda is a convincing heroine, but Cayo has very little to do and it feels more like remake of a Japanese film, with the obligatory ghostly child, lurking in the shadows for purposes that are more dramatic than plot-driven. While not without merit, I didn't find enough here that was new or interesting enough to make it particularly memorable.

[August 2008]

Somone's going
to get the sack...
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