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The Orphanage

Posted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 10:36 am
by Remo D
Well, the last time you heard from me, I was suggesting that I was going to take the month of January off--at least as far as attending movies went. And it's still true that I have no intention of seeing ONE MISSED CALL, THE EYE or the Uwe Boll movie. Perhaps RAMBO for my wife's sake (I'm not joking), perhaps CLOVERFIELD if enough of you tell me it's actually worth the insufferable hype (the last time someone played "hide the monster" for so long we got the American Godzilla, okay?).

But wouldn't you know it--they sprung THE ORPHANAGE (EL ORFANATO) on us this week.

What an irresistible combination. Spanish horror on the big screen (so I'm already there). On one side, it's brought to us with "Guillermo del Toro Presents" and "...this year's PAN'S LABYRINTH." And on the OTHER side? They took a TIME Magazine review quote and actually took a stab at reviving the "Keep repeating... it's only a movie" grindhouse campaign!!!!

Unfortunately, I was going to have to take a significant trip to see this one. Our local arthouse? The six-screener? The one that was supposed to be reserved for foreign and independent films?

For some reason, they're not showing THE ORPHANAGE. And yet they DID manage to find a screen for the Uwe Boll film.

Insert obscene comment of your choice here.

So... was the trip worth it?

Well, let's dissect the drawing cards one at a time.

"Spanish horror on the big screen." No contest. THE ORPHANAGE is loaded with the kind of rich detail and atmosphere that's had a hold on me ever since I saw my first Paul Naschy film.

"Guillermo del Toro Presents." Okay--take your grain of salt (but only a small one). It used to infuriate me when people casually referred to "Steven Spielberg's GREMLINS" when I knew damn well it was a JOE DANTE film. Guillermo del Toro neither wrote nor directed THE ORPHANAGE--it's the debut film of Juan Antonio Bayona, who worked from a screenplay by Sergio G. Sanchez. Nevertheless, one can easily see why del Toro would back such a project.

"This year's PAN'S LABYRINTH." No. Absolutely NOT. Children may feature prominently in the film, but this is a tale told through the eyes of adults. This is not a "coming of age" story in which children make monsters out of adult reality. The story involves a woman named Laura (Belen Rueda) who, with her husband, wishes to open a "special education" facility on the grounds of the very orphanage from which she herself was adopted. The trouble is that some very disturbing events transpired shortly after her youthful departure--and only now are they catching up with her and her adopted son Simon (Roger Princep)--who has problems (not to mention invisible friends) of his own. Enough said about the storyline--but I must stress again that this is neither CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE nor PAN'S LABYRINTH--this is adult horror as seen through the eyes of an adult. Nor is it firmly rooted in Spanish history and/or politics--this story could quite easily be remade in an American (or other) setting (hell, it probably WILL be by the time I finish typing this).

"Keep repeating--it's only a movie." Is the film scary? Absolutely. The atmosphere is brooding and intense, the recurring motif of a burlap "scarecrow" mask delivers the intended creeps, and there are several "burst from your chair" shocks that work all too well (there's one scene you're not going to forget for a LONG time and I'm not even going to drop a hint here because I don't want you to see it coming). And there's truly heartbreaking material on hand, as well... the sort of thing that "it's only a movie" will never soothe. Be warned.

The film isn't perfection on a platter--there's a detour when Geraldine Chaplin shows up as a medium, and the psychic investigators set up their monitors... there's some great material here, but it takes place AFTER the expected histrionics. Perhaps that whole setup is just a bit too familiar for me--it didn't seem to bother the audience I saw the film with (they screamed, jumped and laughed nervously throughout). But young Bayona has definitely got the right stuff and I eagerly await his next offering.

THE ORPHANAGE is Spain's official submission to the Academy Awards. Yeah, I know--good luck with THAT. But I know I made the right choice by going out of my way to see it.

Posted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 11:11 am
by DylanDog
This is playing in Boston this week so maybe I'll make the drive up to check it out. I wouldn't have even thought to look had you not posted this review. Thanks... ;)

Posted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 9:27 am
by Kimberly
I was going to see it this past weekend but ate something bad and was sick... meh! Gonna try and shoot to see it this weekend, if it's still palying :(

Posted: Sat Jan 19, 2008 6:11 pm
by Kimberly
Well just got back...

While I found it a bit slow, it was a good matinee... I just thought it could of been so much more.

Posted: Sat Jan 19, 2008 9:16 pm
by DylanDog
I ended up skipping it. Such a pain in the ass to go into town to see a movie, especially when no one else around wants to go... :(