Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Orphanage (2007)

Fear 3/5
Gore 3/5 (for one spectacular scene)
Entertainment 4/5
Creepiness 3/5
Nightmares 1/5

Excellent ghost story from executive producer Guillermo Del Toro. The story is not necessarily a new one - ghost seeks living person to tell their tale - but it is done with such skill and, well, tenderness, that it feels new.

The story is pretty straight forward, though some good twists and turns are tossed in near the end: Main character Laura, along with her husband and small boy, move into the old orphanage she briefly lived in as a child with the intention of renovating the house and starting her own orphanage. Her own son, we learn , is adopted and also HIV positive, though he does not know any of this.

The son has some imaginary friends that showed up around the time that the family moved in, though this is chalked up to his being lonely. Soon, however, he begins to explain to his parents that his friends are telling him things that he could not have known - for example, that he was adopted. Around this time, a strange old woman appears claiming to be a social worker checking in on Laura's son. Laura gets suspicious and sends her home, only to find her hiding in the tool shed later that night trying to break in (she runs off).

When Laura's son goes missing, a long and painful manhunt begins for the child and after 9 months, things begin to look very bleak. Laura, however, is convinced that her child is alive and has come to believe that the imaginary friends her son had were, actually, ghosts inhabiting the old building. Psychics and mediums are called in and in a very tense and spooky scene that could have been pulled from any number of "ghost hunter" type "reality" shows, we come to learn that there may, indeed, be spirits haunting the home. Sadly, Laura is the only person who seems to be buying into this and she makes it her only goal in life to find out what happened to her son.

The Orphanage is spooky and downright creepy at times. There are some great scares and jolts and the special effects are very low key. There are no CGI monsters, no see-through apparitions, no dumbed down boogeymen waiting to spoil the film. It's smart, tasteful, very well executed and, occasionally, very original. The ending is no surprise, but it still manages to touch a nerve and had me close to watery eyes. . . what is this salty discharge? I care Elaine! I CARE!

- Complaint Dept

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