Plot – A woman brings her family back to her childhood home, which used to be an orphanage for handicapped children. Before long, her son starts to communicate with an invisible new friend – The Orphanage.
Director – J.A. Bayona
Released – 2007
Although del Toro was just the executive producer, it was his name rather than director J. A Bayona’s that was plastered all over the posters for The Orphanage, but this is undeniably Bayona’s film, his haunting photography and confident direction helps makes this a fantastically gripping and moving movie that most importantly for a horror film was filled with scary sequences that stay with you long after the movies ended.
For a long time, horror felt stale, stuck making the same found-footage or Saw knock-off movies packed full of jump scares and bad acting, luckily, however, Bayona on his feature debut didn’t go down this route, instead opting to craft a film that values style just as much as substance.
From the very first shot, you can tell this is going to be a movie filled with stunning visuals and clever tricks designed to manipulate a viewer. This is a film where building tension is more important than cheap jump scares, The Orphanage felt almost Hitchcockian in places, gripping you early and as Bayona builds up a tense and claustrophobic atmosphere, you find yourself unable to look away.
Another breath of fresh air was the excellent performances led by the remarkable Belén Rueda. She feels entirely believable as a mother desperate to find her missing son, with the emotions of fear, sadness and guilt all to clear to see. In much the same way as Toni Collette in Hereditary, Rueda carries this story and gives it a level of emotional believability you don’t expect in a genre flick.
The supporting actors, too, are portrayed nicely. Fernando Cayo as the worried husband watching his wife slowly deteriorate is a delight, while Geraldine Chaplin is magnificent as the psychic medium. I couldn’t help but wonder if James Wan used this character as inspiration for Lin Shaye’s character Elise Rainier in Insidious.
The Orphanage is more than just another nuts and bolts ghost story, this is a movie where the plot is fully fleshed out and ends with a brutal yet moving twist that’s both heart-breaking yet uplifting at the same time.