Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Orphanage

The phrase "the scariest movie you'll see this year" seems to be misused quite a lot these days. Often films quoting that rely on a smattering of gore to get the scares so when you see the phrase being used you often switch off and ignore it.

However seeing what Guillermo del Toro had done with Pans Labyrinth I was prepared to give this movie a chance. Although not directed by him, it clearly has his influence running all through it.

The story is around a woman, who as a child was brought up in a small orphanage on the coast. Having grown up she decides to return there to reopen it and offer the same solace she received as a child to a fresh bunch of kids. Accompanied by her HIV-positive adopted son and husband she prepares to get the orphanage ready for its new arrivals but when her son begins talking to invisible friends the horror starts up as the orphanage's history is revealed.

There are only a few films that have mastered perfect horror timing. Think the head passing the porthole in Jaws or the grave bursting hand in Carrie. There is a scene in this film that ranks up there with them. When it happened the entire cinema jumped; women screamed and men laughed. It was great and I'd not seen a crowd-wide reaction like that in a long long time.

The story itself is great, there are a few unanswered questions and the ending although sad is beautiful. There are plenty of scares but the mastery in this film is in the cranking up of tension throughout it.

Highly recommended, it's just a shame its so hard to find, even in London. I hope that's not because it's subtitled and I hope we don't see a Hollywood remake any time soon.
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