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Orphanage, The (BD/DVD)
Academy-Award nominated filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro (director of Pan's Labyrinth) presents The Orphanage, a chilling ghost story about a woman who discovers dark and horrific secrets hidden within her cherished childhood home and her desperate attempt to rescue her family from the nightmare into which she unwittingly led them.]]>
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Those are amazing things for any movie to pull off, much less a movie that is squarely focused on telling a horror story that hinges on malevolent ghosts. Definitely not your standard American horror movie, and very much worth the effort to watch, subtitles and all. I was talking about it and watched it with a large group of teenagers. Several were on the verge of tears, at the end, while the rest couldn't stop talking about how smart and sad the movie was.
Aside from the genuinely unnerving atmosphere created in the film, the performances from the cast were all outstanding. Even the child actor who played Simon did a great job at showing a range of emotions. Still, the film belongs to Laura and her heartbreaking performance is the film's emotional core. There were a number of scenes that reveal information in a subtle way that is never manipulative and only adds to depth of the film. Only in the last act does it really succumb to the usual jump scares and a score that leads you by the hand towards the conclusion it wants you to reach. Even still, the setup was strong enough that this didn't really bother me that much.
Also, even though the horror was mostly of a psychological nature, there were some other elements there that worked and one that I felt was unneeded. There was precious little gore, but what grisly images they did show served the story and were potent enough that they didn't need to linger on them for too long. There's also some haunted house tropes peppered throughout, which is understandable considering the setting. Still, it didn't exclusively rely on these which was admirable. The one thing I thought was unnecessary was a middle sequence in which Laura and Carlos seek out a medium to figure out what might have happened in the house a long time ago. Up until this point, everything was treated in a mostly realistic way, but this paranormal detour just didn't fit to me. It was well-done, but ultimately unneeded, in my opinion.
Overall, THE ORPHANAGE was an excellently done horror film with some good scares and a tragic undercurrent that might make you well up with tears. It certainly had that effect on me. The performances were excellent and the atmosphere is palpable throughout. I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys psychological horror films, although you might want to be careful if you're a parent with children.
Rating 0 to 5
Story = 4
Acting = 4+
Direction = 4+
Mood = 4+
Fear/Chreepy Factor = 3.3
Gore = 2 One scene was gory
Entertainment Value = 4++