Simón hurries down the staircase of the orphanage.
There’s something about the combination of a ghost story, set in the past, and involving children that leads to a downright terrifying movie experience. Recently, Hollywood has made dozens of the films that have utilized this formula in one sense or another. The Conjuring, for example, utilizes all three elements to full, bone-chilling effect. What is shown on screen is a truly unsettling film that leaves you curled up throughout in anticipation and fright. Whether it’s their somewhat plausibility, the terror of an unseen entity, or the reminder of our fears as children, films like The Conjuring are ones that stay with you. Yet before Hollywood over utilized the concept, 2007’s The Orphanage teased the true horrors of such films.
Laura and Carlos must deal with Simón after he discovers that he is adopted.
Set in Spain during 1975, The Orphanage shadows Laura (Belén Rueda), a former orphan who has purchased the orphanage in which she grew up. Her husband, Carlos (Fernando Cayo), and son, Simon (Roger Príncep), join her. Laura remembers the orphanage fondly, yet when she arrives and reopens it as a home for sick or disabled children, she struggles to recall those happy times. As no new children appear, her son Simon develops a friendship with an imaginary boy who’s signature characteristic is a burlap sack on his head. After a visit from a disturbing social worker, it is reveled that Simon is sick. He runs away and what follows is a surreal, and haunting search for the child.
Simón and his mother Laura discover a medallion outside in the rain.
Produced by mastermind Guillermo Del Toro, The Orphanage is atmospheric horror at its finest. The film aptly utilizes space and lighting as terror in place of outright monsters and demons. Shots of the characters walking through the halls are simply unsettling, as an old orphanage serves as chilling enough a character. There is a great deal of tension and suspense in this film, and it is utilized expertly. The scariest scenes are those that are drawn out to an excruciatingly long breaking point, and snap when least expected. This is what horror is meant to be.
Simón discovers the key to a secret room inside a present.
Why more horror films don’t follow this procedure is odd. Where cheap pop ups and gore do scare from time to time, they’re just that, cheap. Watch enough horror films and it’s easy to point where they’re coming. Plays on suspense and the drawing out of something that one does not enjoy watching serve as far more terrifying scares than a zombie popping out of the ground or a person being chopped up by a marauding serial killer. What The Orphanage excels in is keeping the viewer not knowing what’s next, and dragging them along unsettling paths for as long as possible.
Simón tells Laura that his wish was for her to stay and take care of the orphans.
The camera focuses on Simón’s blue high top chucks as he follows his parents on a walk.
Roger Príncep in his role as Simón wears navy blue high top chucks throughout the film. There are only a few closeup shots, one while Simón is walking with his parents on a coastal pathway and later toward the end of the film when a figure Laura is carrying is revealed to be Simón.
The camera provides a closeup of Simón’s chucks as he is gradually revealed in a concluding scene.
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