[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B0019GJ3ZM][/pullquote] The Orphanage (El Orfanato to give it its Spanish title) is a horror film presented by horror aficionado and all-round fantasy legend Guillermo Del Toro. As part of his plan to seemingly force through a horror film revolution in Spanish-speaking countries, Del Toro added his name, and the financial clout that comes with it behind first-time director JA Bayona. His creation, The Orphanage proved to be a monster critical success at Cannes Film Festival in 2007 and went on to do some good business at the box office, despite being hampered by notoriously off-putting subtitles.
Laura (Belen Rueda) is a middle-aged woman who, accompanied by her husband Carlos (Fernando Cayo) and ill son Simon (Roger Princep), returns to the orphanage where she spent time as a child with a view to converting it into a home for disabled children. A series of strange events begins to unfold after the visit of a strange old lady combined with Simon’s announcement that he has a new ˜invisible friend.’
The actors used in The Orphanage are not the biggest household names, but this works perfectly in helping to create an atmosphere of realism in the film. Rueda is superb as the distraught mother who may or may not be slowly going mad, with Princep also excellent as the fiery son who discovers the truth about his own past in one of the films more moving scenes. Alongside these great performances is the appearance of the antagonist, a small child with a sack over his head, who may or may not be a ghost haunting the area around the orphanage. Like the film itself, the character is simple and terrifying.
Del Toro and Bayona combined have produced a truly scary horror film (an increasing rarity in this day and age) and have continued to push the Spanish film industry forward toward success. Del Toro especially has had his name splashed across many films in recent years and his system of making one Hollywood film and one personal film has created the kind of success that has allowed him to drive other people’s careers forward. The Orphanage was one of the first to be ˜Presented’ by the Del Toro, but it isn’t the last and his expert decision-making appears to be paying dividends for this future legend of cinema.
This film does it all and unlike a lot of mainstream Hollywood horror films it never brags or takes the audience for granted, with the cinematography, score and naturalistic style of acting all combing to create one of the most memorable, breath-taking, terrifying horror films of all time.