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HomeMovie Reviews

The Orphanage

  | March 07, 2014 09:48 IST
The Orphanage
  • Genre:
    Horror
  • Cast:
    Bel
  • Director:
    Juan Antonio Bayona
The Orphanage, which opened the Critics Week at Cannes last year and was Spain's official entry at the Oscars, is that rare thing - an intelligent and nuanced horror film. When I say horror, I don't mean the lazy, repetitive gore of films like Saw and Hostel. There is hardly any blood in The Orphanage. But it's the scariest movie I've seen in years. It gets under your skin and stays there. Hours later, I was retracing the scenes and trying to unravel the puzzle: were there really ghosts or was it a mother losing her mind after she has lost her child. The Orphanage is set in an orphanage. A woman who grew up there comes back with her husband and adopted son. She plans to look after children with special needs. Her own son is HIV positive. But things start to go off track very quickly. One day, her son, who has imaginary playmates, throws a tantrum and simply disappears. Wracked by grief, she searches for him. When the police come up with nothing, she goes to a medium. Debutant director Juan Antonio Bayona pulls out all the usual scary movie tropes. Lots of doors creak and things go bump in the night. But he layers the cliches with an emotional richness and melancholy that echo Henry James' The Turn of the Screw rather than Hollywood horror movies. The lead actress Belen Rueda is outstanding. Her heart-breaking grief and her need to know what has happened to her son is palpable. At one point in the film, the medium tells her: Seeing is not believing. It's the other way around. Believe and you will see. I strongly recommend that you see The Orphanage. It will make you examine your own beliefs and it will make you scream out loud. Which is always a superbly satisfying experience.
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