Director, Juan Antonio Bayona, proves old-school storytelling is a lost art in our modern horror age. Relying on emotional payout, subdued presentation, and traditional ghost stories, The Orphanage is a poignant tale of loss. Set on the shores of the beautiful Spanish islands, Laura (Belen Ruede) and her husband Carlos (Fernando Cayo), return to Laura’s childhood home with plans to open it once again to physically and mentally damaged children in need of care. The couple’s son, Simon (Roger Pincep), is a lively adopted boy with a slightly creepy collection of imaginary friends. Despite his daily medicine, the young boy has no idea how sick he is. Simon mysteriously vanishes, sending his mother into a tailspin before she becomes resolute in her search. Emotionally layered and complex, the film utilizes the creepy Gothic mansion location to its maximum benefit.
Del Toro’s influence is felt from the opening scenes. Much like The Devil’s Backbone and Chronos, the child and guardian relationship serves as the foundation for the films’ many twists and turns, never leaving the emotional connection out of view. Camera direction, cinematography, and classic horror film passion paint a beautiful picture pain, loss, and hope, leaving obviously CGI out of the equation. The scare factor lurking within The Orphanage is a testament to fine acting, writing, directing, and clever storytelling. Nothing feels forced and the slow burn unravels at a natural pace. The shadow-filled Spanish mansion is the perfect location with its winding hallways, secret rooms, and hidden past. If you ever feel at home in this building, you’re less paranoid than me.
It pains me that I waited this long to the film, but it was a great way to spend my lazy morning, Fans of traditional ghost stories, haunted houses, and mysteries should rent The Orphanage immediately. I don’t have a single complaint, and that is a rarity.