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Movie Review

The Orphanage a.k.a. “El Orfanato,” “To Orfanotrofeio,” “L' Orphelinat,” “Orpokoti”

MPAA Rating: R for some disturbing content

Reviewed by: Spencer Schumacher
CONTRIBUTOR

Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Horror, Drama, Mystery, Thriller, Foreign
Length:
1 hr. 40 min.
Year of Release:
2007
USA Release:
December 28, 2007 (limited)
Featuring: Belen Rueda, Fernando Cayo, Roger Princep, Geraldine Chaplin, Montserrat Carulla
Director: Juan Antonio Bayona
Producer: Guillermo del Toro, Mar Targarona, Alvaro Augustin
Distributor: Picturehouse

“A tale of love. A story of horror.”

After great international success and acclaim with “Pan’s Labyrinth,” director Guillermo del Toro lends his producing talent to first time director Juan Antonio Bayona for the haunting tale of a missing child and lost childhood in “The Orphanage”.

As a child Laura (Bele’n Rueda, “The Sea Inside”) grows up loved and adored by the staff of Good Shepherd Orphanage, a caring, nurturing environment with a pristine yard, overlooking a majestic ocean. She has many friends at the orphanage and plays childhood games until she is adopted and at seven years old has to leave her friends and the orphanage behind.

Thirty years later, Laura is married but her childhood memories are calling out to her. Her husband, Carlos, and her decide to re-open the now abandoned orphanage as a center for sick and disabled children. She imagines a place, much like the one of her childhood, where children are well nurtured and her own seven-year old son, Simon, can have a place to play and find real friends. Much like Jack Torrance’s son Danny (“The Shining,” 1980) all of Simon’s friends are imaginary.

At first apprehensive about the orphanage, Simon finds a group of new “imaginary” friends to play with. On the day of the orphanage’s opening, Simon disappears, sending Laura on a search for him into the the dark halls and haunted past of the building she spent her childhood.

The film is a ghost story that relies on atmosphere rather than gore and shock. There are no creatures behind the cupboards or in the curtains waiting to jump out on an unsuspecting victim. The film is more in the tradition of “Sixth Sense” and “The Others.” Readers who may have seen del Toro’s earlier film “The Devil’s Backbone” (which takes place in a group home for boys) will find familiar territory in this story.

Don’t be mistaken, the film does have its moments of suspense, and the atmosphere created by the filmmakers dwells in darkness and eeriness. There are scenes and images that are truly frightening. It is these images and overall tone of the film that warrant its R-rating, as there is very little profanity in the film since most of the movie centers around children, and though there are images that are scary and possibly horrific, there is little to no actual on-screen violence. An accident occurs that may be construed as violent by some film goers, but it happens so quickly that it leaves more to the imagination than what is actually seen.

The performances, particularly by Rueda, are very convincing. Watching Laura go down the downward spiral that occurs after her son’s disappearance brings the pain and suffering home to the audience. As she encounters the memories of the past in the facility, the dark sets and honest performances add an authenticity that may induce goose-bumps in some viewers. At the screening I attended, many around me were jumping in their seats on more than one occasion.

For those who are not afraid to venture into dark and brooding territory, “The Orphanage” will definitely provide you with some chills. Others that tend to want to stay away from this type of fare, lest you be haunted by the images of this film, you may want to stay away from “The Orphanage.”

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: None

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive

none

Neutral
Neutral—The movie is very well done. Some offensive scenes include a few cuss words and also a medium whom is shown in a trance. There is very little blood and gore scenes; one when the mother gets her finger smashed by the door and when she breaks her leg, another where an elderly women gets run over and her face is mangled. There aren’t any sex scenes. It was a good movie, but I’d much rather not watch horror movies, as I feel that these type of movies invoke demons and oppressions of the dark spiritual world.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Loraly, age 23
Neutral—Good acting. Great suspense. Awesome story line. But, I thought the ending failed to deliver, and I was very disappointed! There are some frightful scenes (jump out of your seat types), and the movie does a great job of keeping its audience’s attention! It is a spooky movie, and although this is a good movie, the ending really creates a dark cloud over the entire movie. What made this movie unique was that the producers added love and innocent moments (looking for lost treasure) to balance the darkness… Good scary movie, but it doesn’t compare to the classics like “The Omen,” “The Shining,” and “The Ring.”
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Chrissy, age 23
Negative

none

Comments from young people
Positive—“The Orphanage” is an amazing movie! I loved it so much! I typically don’t like horror films but this was well done and well acted throughout! The only problem is the main character, Laura, goes to a medium for help. That part is weird and scary and wouldn’t go with what God says about staying away from them. Besides that this movie is great! I watched it in Spanish class. It’s a great movie about a mother who will do anything for her son.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Josie Lynne, age 17 (USA)
Movie Critics
…its spiritual connotations are misleading and, therefore, counterproductive to a spiritual walk. …
—Phil Boatwright, Preview Family Movie and TV Review
…here is an excellent example of why it is more frightening to await something than to experience it. ‘The Orphanage’ has every opportunity to descend into routine shock and horror, or even into the pits with the slasher pictures, but it only pulls the trigger a couple of times. The rest is all waiting, anticipating, dreading. …
—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
…Director Bayona… has a fine career ahead of him; there are, after all, worse impulses than holding back a little, especially in a genre not known for restraint. …
—Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
…The acting is uniformly superb, the camera work and set design are haunting, and ‘The Orphanage’ delivers well-earned tears at its beautiful conclusion. … The year’s scariest movie.
—Lou Lumenick, New York Post
…begins interestingly and finishes intriguingly… This stylish supernatural thriller suffers from a muddled middle section. …
—Richard James Havis, The Hollywood Reporter