Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Orphanage

The Orphanage (El Orfanato) is the newest edition in a series of a great foreign horror films soon to be bastardised and remade into a second-rate Hollywood movie.

It is co-produced and presented by Guillermo del Toro who is responsible for the fantastic Pan's Labyrinth and I'm sure had some sage advice and creative input for first-time feature film debutante Juan Antonio Bayona.

It stars Belén Rueda (The Sea Inside) as a mother who sets up a new home with her husband and adopted son in an old orphanage that she grew up in that is now empty and where they seek to start an orphanage of their own.

As the couple throw themselves into renovating the old building, their son finds solace in making invisible friends for company which the parents see as odd behaviour but normal considering the circumstances as they live in an isolated area and they have been too busy with the house to spend quality time with their son.

Needless to say the basis for this kind of story has been covered before but there is significant depth to the characters and contextual plotlines that develop that raise it above previous efforts that sink into trite scare flicks with no substance.

You wont find a barrage of sudden switch-screen/noise effects thrown in to make you jump or over-the-top gore to 'scare' you. What you will find is a continual build-up of underlying creepiness and an original take on the genre that makes you hide behind the couch in expectations of what may or may not happen.

The direction is first-rate and the pace is excellent with the plot slowly unfolding allowing you to connect with the premise rather than be disassociated through one-dimensional characters and flimsy screen-writing.

Foreign cinema should not be looked on as a resource to make a quick buck in re-hashing and knocking-out mediocre remakes, but as an inspiration to make better movies but sadly I cannot see this changing for the foreseeable future.

Nevertheless, if you are looking for a great horror movie of 2008, look no further.

I would give The Orphanage 7.2 children out of 10.

If you enjoy this film, look out for 3993 next year which is being produced by del Toro and written by the screen-writer for The Orphanage.



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