The Orphanage is a movie featuring a classic ghost story, but with a Spanish twist. First of all, this means that the atmosphere will be intense and, at times, even unsettling. Secondly, the setting is just gorgeous. The abandoned orphanage is located right next to the picturesque Spanish coastline. Fuck, if Laura wasn’t such a good person, she would’ve opened an exclusive resort instead of an orphanage and made a killing. There’s even an old lighthouse in the distance. Thirdly, the cinematography has that cool, European vibe I’ve come to adore recently.
The Orphanage reminds me of Guillermo del Toro’s movies and for a good reason too. He was the man in the shadows, working hard to make Bayona’s vision come true. We will be following Laura, a kindhearted orphan, now all grown up and ready to help others. She wants to reopen her old and now-abandoned orphanage not knowing that the orphanage is hiding a secret. Choosing a suspenseful and chilling atmosphere instead of cheap jump-scares, this is a movie that’s going to slowly lure you into its trap.
A jump-scare horror movie has certain sections you know are going to be “scary”. And then you, the viewer, and the movie are playing this little game of who’s gonna get who. However, other sections of the movie are not that intense or atmospheric. In the movie The Orphanage, the dread is ever-present. It permeates the entire orphanage, the kids who live there, and anyone else who comes to this cursed place. Combine this with well-developed characters and tight storytelling and you’ve got yourself an incredibly effective horror movie.
It has been thirty years since Laura was in this building, her old orphanage. Now abandoned, she plans to open it again and help disabled children have a better chance at a better life. However, she’s not alone in this as her husband Carlos is helping along with their adopted young son Simon. At first, everything seems to be going great but then Simon starts seeing strange things in and around the orphanage. And no one believes him…
So, nothing is out of the ordinary here, as The Orphanage features a familiar haunted house story complete with the family moving in. The basic structure reminds me of one of my favorite haunting movies, Poltergeist. We even have a group of paranormal investigators trying to catch the spirits in the act. The devil is in the details as they say and there are a lot of small little details here. It’s truly fascinating to see how talented writers and directors can make such compelling movies out of concepts we’ve seen in countless other movies.
To help them do that, we have an awesome international cast led by Belén Rueda. She was excellent as Laura along with young Roger Príncep who feels like a future star. And I should also mention Geraldine Chaplin as Aurora giving a rather creepy performance. If you’re looking for movies like The Orphanage start with two of del Toro’s classics The Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone. The latter one even takes place in an orphanage. Then you can move on to Session 9, The Others, and Fragile.
Director: Juan Antonio Bayona
Writer: Sergio G. Sánchez
Cast: Belén Rueda, Fernando Cayo, Roger Príncep, Edgar Vivar, Óscar Casas, Alejandro Camps
Fun Facts: The orphanage was an old colonial house in the town of Llanes.