← Back to Reviews

The Orphanage

The Orphanage

Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona
Written by Sergio G. Sanchez
Starring Belen Rueda, Fernando Cayo, Roger Princep

After being pulled from the orphanage and away from her friends, Laura (Belen Rueda) returns thirty years later to her childhood home with her husband and son to start a home for kids with special needs. She really couldn't have picked a worse place to set up a place for mentally handicapped people to live. Take a look at the screenshot for evidence. Very soon after arriving the creepiness begins. Mysterious bumps in the night. Creaking floor boards. Big wooden doors swinging inexplicably by themselves. Things of that nature. Sounds like no big thang, but Juan Antonio Bayona has got a real knack for setting up genuinely chilling scenes. Him and these scary ass kids had me half covering my face in dreadful anticipation through a lot of this movie.

What sets this movie back is a standard script that compares poorly to the film's excellent direction and some lame supporting characters desperately needed to be fleshed out so we could spend a little time away from the female lead, Laura, who I didn't find to be an astoundingly interesting character. All she really does is look scared and mope around, but I guess that goes for almost all female leads in horror movies. Sorry if that seems sexist. This is not to say that Belen Rueda did a bad job. On the contrary she did an excellent job and she deserves a gold star for really playing this role straight and not milking any of the dramatic or suspenseful scenes beyond necessity.

As I was leaving the theater I could hear people comparing this film to Pan's Labyrinth and it's not just because both films are Spanish and have Guillermo Del Toro's name all over them. The two films have similar looks, but that's to be expected in this genre. The very definite parallels that jump out are--ahh! Fuggetaboutit! This is a film worth watching and I suggest you do it in a dark theater with your friends at your side so you can later ridicule them for jumping two feet in the air at the slightest thing.