Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona
Produced by Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Belen Rueda
***** 5 out of 5 stars
Usually I try not to gravitate towards a film solely because it's directed by someone I'm a fan of, or produced by a big name, but in certain cases I just can't help it. Such is the case with Guillermo del Toro. I first watched ten minutes of The Orphanage and I wasn't taken by anything, and I turned it off- something I do not usually do. However, I watched it again and didn't take my eyes off the screen this time. The atmosphere was quite akin to del Toro's works, but it had it's own creepy atmosphere created by Juan Antonio Bayona which was pleasing because as much as Guillermo's name drew me to watch the film I was hoping that Bayona would certainly make it visibly his own. The subject matter of children in the horror genre is something that I, and a lot of others, find very creepy; both Juan Antonio Bayona and Guillermo del Toro (who frequently uses children in his works) seem to have a handle on the subject matter, and that's why this movie works so well as a team effort.
The script and the dialogue itself are all great, something that is a real big deal for me because there's nothing worse than watching a horror/mystery movie that has a terrible script or if the dialogue is poor. I was kept guessing until the very end which is something that rarely happens for me. It wasn't that I did or didn't know what was going to happen that mattered, it was the fact that the story had a lot of weaves that kept me glued to the screen. Along with the script, all the actors and actresses (including the children) did a fine job of portraying their characters. Belen Rueda gave an incredibly moving performance as a grief stricken mother who wants nothing but to discover the truth behind her son's disappearance; a couple scenes in particular with her husband really stood out to me as excellent. Several supporting roles were played nicely, mainly the medium who comes to the couple's house to investigate any ghostly occurrences, played by Geraldine Chaplin. She was creepy but yet in one scene with Simon's mother she displays a gentle, motherlike quality that gives the character a lot of depth in a short time; the scene in which she goes through the house in her 'trance' and sees the ghosts (which we do not see, only hear) is one of the creepier scenes in recent years that I can remember.
There was no blood or anything like that, which is something I love as a horror film fan, but it was perfect that way because this was strictly a ghost story. There are definite opportunities within the story of this movie to have shown some grisly, gruesome scenes, but Bayona chose to just stick with the story's main elements: grief, tragedy, and loss. These three key elements in the story are what makes it a top notch ghost story, and a mystery thriller as well. There are a lot of great things about this movie, and it's got a lot to do with the directing, the producing, and the story. Even if the acting wasn't top notch this movie would have been a great watch, but the fact that the acting was solid as well propels this into the upper echelons of the ghost movie ranks.