The Orphanage

Once again I find myself watching a horror movie; this one was much more about atmosphere than frights (though there was one annoying “Surprise!” moment).

The Orphanage is a Spanish movie that Hollywood is looking to remake. It concerns a couple and a child moving into the mother’s old Orphanage, where they are going to take in and care for intellectually disabled kids. The son makes imaginary friends and plays games with them, until one day he disappears and the mother is attacked by a boy wearing a sackcloth mask.

The movie was very well made, with lots of setup-payoff elements (the shells, the clue game, the knocking game, the lighthouse), beautiful scenery, interlocking plot elements, and lots of mystery. The pacing is on the slow side, something I didn’t mind as I enjoyed the atmosphere, but is not for the shock-horror types. Despite the genre, there weren’t that many supernatural elements, and there was more than a little psychological ambiguity. As a result of the above, the movie felt tangible and realistic.

The mother was very well acted and depicted; you get to see her playing with her son, and actively solving problems – when she becomes upset, the audience is on her side. In many other movies, audience sympathy is taken for granted, or expected as a Pavlovian response to a mother-child dynamic. The other characters didn’t have anywhere near as major a role in the story; the father in particular not being very helpful at all.

The ending was both creepy and happy; I wasn’t really sure what to make of it, so I’m a bit dissatisfied.

However it’s a very solid spooky movie, recommended if that’s your genre.


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