DARKMATTERS - The Mind of Matt

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Orphanage / El Orfanato - review

The Orphanage / El Orfanato (15)

Dir. Juan Antonio Bayona

Reviewed by Matt Adcock

See the poor orphan children playing, see their happy smiles – they seem content in their childish game, see one of them towards the back with a sack on his head whose making strange grunting noises and picking up a knife… Gird you loins people for this highly charged Spanish chiller that will mess with you head and leave you spouting goose-bumps for days.

Hot new director Bayona has teamed up with the masterful Guillermo ‘Harry Potter and Pan’s Labyrinth’ del Toro to set a new standard in haunted-house spookers. I was blown away by The Orphanage, it is a wonderful, beautiful and wholly haunting experience which packs the best 'jump out of your skin' moment of any film ever... but having said that, this isn’t a hardcore horror film, rather a slow burning exercise in tension that not so much raises the hairs on the back of your neck so much as to pluck them right out and pour ice down your spine for good measure!

"sack facemasks - not very good for a kids' self esteem..."

So the plot sees Laura (Belén Rueda) one of the orphans we see at the beginning who abides in a big mansion in Spain returning many years later to buy house with her husband, Carlos (Fernando Cayo). She wants to raise her adopted child Simón (Roger Príncep) along with some other special needs kids but thanks to malevolent forces lurking within the house – things don’t go according to plan. Before you can say “whatever happened to that nutcase child in the sack mask?” the scary little blighter has turned up and attacked Laura. And to make matters worse HIV positive Simón goes missing (he won’t last more than few weeks without his drugs).

Throw into the mix the freaky lunatic ex-orphanage worker Benigna (Montserrat Carulla), who is seriously heebee jeebee inducing and has a thing for hiding out in your shed!? Things progress in a leisurely pace but the tense atmosphere grips with an iron claw around you heart and does not let go. Many films are referenced, none more so than The Others and The Sixth Sense but The Orphanage brings plenty of new elements too and it’s effect is truly unique.

What more can I say, The Orphanage is near instant classic which should be seen by anyone looking for a serious meditation in loss, longing and regret – mixed in with the creepiest big old house plot for years.

DARKMATTERS RATING SYSTEM (all ratings out of maximum 10):

Endorphin Stimulation: öööööööö (8)
- Your mind will be twisting itself inside out

Tasty Action: öööööö (6)
- Sparingly used serious fight scenes pack the punch of a shotgun to the face

Gratuitous Babeness: ööööö (5)
- Rueda is nice for a 37 year old

Mind Blight / Boredom: öööö (4)
- Slow burning but not dull...

Comedic Value: öööö (4)
- Limited comdey value here

Arbitrary final rating: ööööööööö (9)
- This spicy Spanish chilled dish will get in your head and run rampage!

Liable to make you:
"Run from any odd looking children or nannies you meet!"

DM Poster Quote:
“Nothing can prepare you for a night in the orphanage..."

"the holiday video footage made the children look a bit 'odd'"

Darkmatters: H O M E
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