When The Orphanage opened in the U.S. in limited release early in the year, genre fans enthusiastically embraced it. Many of us saw it twice, and we recommended it to all our friends — even to those who don't like "scary" movies. In the U.K., it was released with the bulky, yet helpful subtitle: A Tale Of Love, A Story of Horror. The Orphanage is a very spooky, hair-raising supernatural thriller, but above all, it is a tale of love.
Delicately and painstakingly directed by first-timer (and Guillermo del Toro protégé) Juan Antonio Bayona, written beautifully by Sergio G. Sánchez, and filmed with obvious adoration by Óscar Faura, all the elements are in place for a perfect movie night in the comfort (and ideally, comforter-coziness and firelight-darkness) of your own home.
The Orphanage is a mysterious and seductive ghost story, obviously influenced by slow-burn 70s films like Don't Look Now (Nicholas Roeg), The Tenant (Roman Polanski), and Audrey Rose (Robert Wise), and certainly the more recent del Toro masterpiece, Pan's Labyrinth. However, The Orphanage truly stands alone in its mix of horror, heartbreak, and harmony. My only gripe is the very end (I found it too wrapped-up-in-a-bow), but that's a very minor objection indeed in light of all things considered.
Be sure and read Horror.com's theatrical release review, and then watch our exclusive on-camera chat with the director and writer (I found their exploration of scary movie-masks really insightful, because in the era of Jason Vorhees and Michael Myers, how do you make such things frightening to audiences again?).
The DVD has some amazing, and really informative, additional release material. This disc is highly recommended!
• "When Laura Grew Up: Constructing The Orphanage" featurette
• "Horror in the Unknown: Make-Up" featurette
• "Rehearsal Studio" – Director J. A. Bayona with the cast during rehearsals
• Video segments about the filmmakers
= = =Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson