Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring Geraldine Chaplin, Carmen Lopez, Andres Gertrudix, Fernando Cayo, Belén Rueda
Directed by J.A. Bayona
Distributed by New Line Home Video
Ghost stories. I am a total sucker for them. There’s just something about the disembodied spirit of a person or persons walking through our hallways, watching our every move, and invading our space that sends a cold shiver down my spine. Maybe, though, they feel the same way about us. Maybe it’s we who are invading their space. Some may not take kindly to the intrusion, unless of course it’s to finally put an end to some unfinished business. If there is one filmmaker out there who knows how to envelope us in an otherworldly type situation, it is Guillermo del Toro, and while he may not be at the directorial helm in The Orphanage AKA El Orfanato, the man’s filmmaking sensibilities can be easily seen throughout every frame of this modern horror fright-fest.
For Laura (Rueda) life as a little girl in an orphanage really wasn’t that bad. Her time spent there yielded lots of friendships that got her through the rougher times while she was living without her parents. Luckily she was adopted, but the importance of her time spent before her new folks came into her life was one that she would always cherish. So much so that as an adult Laura, along with her husband and child, purchases her former childhood home with aspirations of refurbishing and reopening the now dilapidated facility as a place for handicapped children. Upon moving in, everything seems to be OK. That is, until her son begins playing with some invisible friends. For years Laura wondered what had happened to her former playmates. Were they ever adopted? Unfortunately they are still very much there, but not living and breathing like the rest of us. The worst part? They have an agenda, and it’s not long into the film when the creeps start coming hard and heavy.
The Orphanage isn’t your typical haunted house flick, or your typical horror film for that matter. It has many layers. By the time all is said and done, you’re likely to be as moved as you are frightened. For a full (and damned good) review of the film itself, check out Nomad’s review of The Orphanage here. He nails everything for the most part except for one small thing … the scare factor. Honestly, while it’s quite good and very atmospheric, at no time did I ever find the movie scary. Maybe I’m just jaded. Who knows?!? Different strokes.
New Line has once again delivered a DVD worthy of the film itself as the supplemental material to be found here is both interesting and bountiful. Things kick off with a seventeen-minute making-of called When Laura Grew Up: Constructing The Orphanage. During this featurette we follow the film’s journey with del Toro and director Bayona along with the rest of the cast and crew from script to screen. It’s here that we find out the movie was originally conceived as more of a pure horror film without the dramatic elements that layer things so nicely now. It was decided that more human character should be squeezed from the roles, and the results just feel right. Still, though, the blood-hungry horror fan in me cannot help but wonder how good this could have been if it were played for straight scares! We’ll never know.
From there we enter a section called Tomas’ Secret Room: The Filmmakers. What we have here are basically five mini-features that clock in at about ten minutes combined and cover all the basics from the director to the stellar opening credits sequence. Expect nothing out of the ordinary here, guys. This is just your standard, yet serviceable, stuff. The next featurette, however, is a little sweeter — the nine-minute featurette Horror in the Unknown. Wondering where all the creepy imagery comes from? This briskly paced behind-the-scenes look at the film’s make-up effects should do the trick for you. Good stuff! The extras are then rounded up with a four-minute look at cast auditions and a table read called, appropriately enough, Rehearsal Studio, six still galleries, a poster gallery, and four trailers — two in Spanish, two in English.
May I offer a little advice? When watching the movie, crank up your home theatre system. Your 5.1 setup will get one hell of a work-out. Also, for you folks out there who hate watching films with subtitles, you’re out of luck. There is no dubbed English track to be found here, and I couldn’t be more relieved. The top-notch performances are really what drives The Orphanage, and hearing American actors mimicking the on-screen emotion would have been absolutely pointless.
There are many things out there that go bump in the night, and as long as there are visionary filmmakers like del Toro and Bayona, we’re destined to see them in the most frightening and thought-provoking fashion. Now if only someone would put out the Mexican horror classic Hasta el viento tiene miedo (which del Toro remade as The Devil’s Backbone), then I’d be reeeeeaaaaallllyyyyyy happy!
4 out of 5
4 out of 5
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