Plot: Laura (Belen Rueda) returns to the home that used to serve as an orphanage. She now wants to raise her son Simon and other children in need. Simon begins to create six imaginary friends and play games that begin to remind Laura of her past and perhaps a horrific mystery.
Who’s it for: This is a must for horror fans. I really hope teenagers who go see the “Saw” films will pay attention to “The Orphanage” just to see the difference in quality.
Expectations: A couple of fellow critics insisted I needed to see the film. I haven’t liked a horror film for a long time because of the slasher porn trend. That and I scare easily.
Belen Rueda as Laura: Even the occasional bags under her eyes add great depth to her character. It’s rare to see someone from a horror film get attention for an Oscar. Let’s hope Rueda can be the exception.
Roger Princep as Simon: Simon is not only adopted, but HIV positive as well. Princep has the difficult role of being the child actor who can look sweet and innocent yet say something that will quickly make you nervous.
Fernando Cayo as Carlos: Carlos is the logic to Laura’s passion. Unfortunately he comes off as wishy-washy. I needed him to really distance himself emotionally from Laura.
Talking: The film is in Spanish with English subtitles. There are pearls of tense wisdom such as, “Seeing is not believing, it’s the other way around.” And there are some good mother-son moments when Simon asks his mother to create a story from three words.
Sights and sounds: Every night is tense, and there is great care setting up the scary moments throughout the enormous old house. Plus, I never knew a sack over a child’s head could elicit such fear.
“The Orphanage” captures pure terror. It’s horrific. That’s horror plus terrific. It’s almost impossible for a film like this to be lumped into the same category as “Halloween,” “Hostel” and “Saw.” There is more talent in one fingernail from “The Orphanage,” which by the way is picked off the finger of Laura. There is a battle between logic and passion through the film, and a mother’s love for her child. When Simon goes missing, we are left to watch Laura struggle to find a reason. And at the end of the film there is a nice heartfelt twist that has “The Orphanage” turning into more of a fairytale, even though you might be kept up at night from the nightmares this film creates.
Overall Grade: 9 out of 10