Tuesday, 1 June 2010


Now, we all know that I'm chicken-shit, so it should come as no surprise that 2007s El Orfanato (or The Orphanage in this ol' English-speaking country) scared the crap out of me. Like, really. Thanks Guillermo del Toro, you did it again. Pan's Labyrinth did similar things to me, though I think El Orfanato was definitely scarier, probably due to it being more of a straight-down-the-line horror film. (I should note that El Orfanato was directed by Juan Antonio Bayona, but still produced by del Toro.)

This is totally terrifying, just on its own...

Laura (Belén Rueda) grew up in an orphanage somewhere in Spain, and as an adult, with husband Carlos (Fernando Cayo) and adopted son Simón (Roger Príncep), returns to the now-dilapidated orphanage with the intention of reopening it and running it as a facility for disabled children. Now, in the interest of not really giving much away, I think that's about all I'll really describe in terms of what goes on, but suffice it to say that shenanigans go down, Simón disappears for a bit, and Laura is at one point alone in a house with nought but her memories, fears and perhaps a few ghosts.

Now, I'm not good with pretty much any type of horror. Or tension. I don't like surprises, because they scare the crap out of me. But I will note what many have noted, and that is that El Orfanato doesn't go for cheap thrills. There are none of the normal scare tactics employed in horror films, with things jumping out of things, or sudden illogical cuts or noises. And when there are (that sounds like a hypocritical segue, but bear with me) they have logic behind them - noises are explained, scary looking things are not there just to be scary, but for a purpose integral to the story. This makes the fear factor primarily derived from that excruciating tension factor, and the psychological torment within Laura, especially after her son goes missing.

The film looks beautiful, really beautiful. A lot of pretty, pretty shots and scenes, so props to Óscar Faura for shooting it and Josep Rosell and Iñigo Navarro for their production design and art direction respectively. Of course, in any film like this one must marvel at the incredible work of the editor, who has somehow managed to maintain the kind of fear that made me get up, turn on all of my lights, and close all of my ajar cupboard drawers and closet doors part-way through the film - Elena Ruiz, I love you and hate you at the same time.

Lesson learned: don't watch films with Guillermo del Toro's name attached on your own. 4.5 stars.

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