The Orphanage

November 25, 2009
I was actually surprised to find out that The Orphanage was, in fact, NOT directed by Guillermo Del Toro, director of films such as The Devil's Backbone or Pan's Labyrinth, the latter of which is one of my favorite films of all-time. Moving on, though, I say this because the film felt so much like a Del Toro picture, mixing together fantasy and horror into a very creative movie. However, Del Toro actually only prodcued the film while newcomer Juan Bayona directed.

The plot starts with a woman by the name of Laura, who, along with her husband and adopted son, returns to the orphanage she grew up in in as a child. Laura's plan involves restoring the dilapidation orphanage, turning the home into one that cares for children with a variety of disabilities. Things turn on a sour note, however, once Simon - the adopted child - begins seeing and 'playing' with a group of six spirits that haunt the area, all of which may be Laura's old friends from the orphanage.

I've got to admit, the whole concept and start of the movie feels really cliche. I'm a fan of huanted houses if they're done well, but the first twenty minutes of the film never really interested me as it seemed to be just another pop-horror movie. However, after a twist in the plot, the film becomes more and more unconventional, doing things a typical pop-horror movie wouldn't. Fantasy plays a role, as I said before, in that the theme of wishes and everlasting childhood are big parts to the overall movie.

While I enjoyed the unconventionality the film used, whenever it got a part where it couldn't terrify you, it went in for dull and revolting horror cliches. What's that? The grandmother got run over all of a sudden? You can see her nasty jawless face? Gee, how original and not grotesque! There are a few other instances as well, such as the cheesy spooky music that plays when Laura thinks she hears something in the walls. This departure from the fantastical to the more "realistic" brought the film down a lot, which was pretty disappointing. I did, however, liked how long the search for a certain character went, which I thought was much better than the two-minute "omgosh you're deadz!" search one typically finds. Not to mention that for every moment of cliche, there were two moments of interesting originality.

The father, Carlos, was definitely the weakest character in this movie. Everything he did seemed so...pedestrian, if that makes any sense. It's as if they could have scrapped or replaced with another father and it wouldn't have made much of a difference. To be fair, though, the actor portraying him did a good job despite not being given much to work with.

I don't usually discuss endings in reviews, but this one needs to be addressed. The ending is, plain and simple, absolutely dreadful. I won't give away any spoilers, but I'll just say that the Peter Pan metaphors used in this film went completely over the director's head. I don't think he knows the point to the Peter Pan story at all. It's just so lame, cliche, and forced in, trying to make a happy ending out of a film that isn't supposed to be happy. Not to mention any sympathy or liking I had for the main character, Laura, is demolished because of that ending. It's THAT bad.

However, I'll grant the film is very creative. The whole mixture of child-like fantasy was well-portrayed, though I believe Pan's Labyrinth did a much, much better job with it.

I had high hopes for this film, only to be let down by its cliches and uninteresting characters. The film displays an originality not often found in the horror genre anymore. Then again, that's not saying much. If you're a fan of Del Toro, foreign horror or horror in general, this may be worth watching. If you're not, you can go ahead and pass. You won't be missing too much.

5.5/10 - Average

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