Tuesday, October 15, 2019

THE ORPHANAGE (2007) Blu-ray Review

Scare-A-Thon Totals to Date:

Total Movies Watched: 13
Total First Time Views: 4
Amount raised for AMAZON WATCH: $989.95

The Orphanage (2007) d. J.A. Bayona (Spain) (101 min) (3rd viewing)

“Uno… Dos… Tres… Toca La Pared.”

Laura (Belén Rueda) and her husband Carlos (Fernando Cayo) return to the seaside property where she spent part of her youth, hoping to restore and resurrect Good Shepherd Orphanage as a home for special-needs children. Her young (adopted and HIV-positive) son Simón (Roger Princep) has an active inner life, trading stories of his imaginary friends Watson and Pepe with her bedtime readings of Peter Pan. One day, visiting the cave under a long-dormant lighthouse, Simón reports having encountered a new friend, Tomás, who wears a sack over his head. During a fundraising event a few days later, Simón disappears without a trace, although Laura is positive she saw him at the mouth of the cave, just as the tide was rolling in….

Inconsolable with grief, Laura explores every avenue to recover her son (or his remains, in a worst case scenario), dealing with the police, county officials, and even parapsychologists and mediums. Following a chance encounter with a mysterious social worker Benigna (Montserrat Carulla) who used to work at the orphanage, she begins to unravel the tragic backstory of her childhood residence.

Despite a few bloodcurdling shocks, this handsome and elegant Spanish ghost story follows in the suggestive, richly romantic tradition of Val Lewton’s chillers of the 1940s. In his debut feature, Juan Antonia Bayona, who would go on to enjoy a successful Hollywood directing career (The Impossible, A Monster Calls, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom), and screenwriter Sergio G. Sánchez intuitively tap into the crucial elements of the best cinematic ghost stories: Dread of the other side tempered by deep longing for those who have crossed over, with powerful, emotionally charged revelations propelling the narrative ever forward into the darkness.

Realizing the project’s potential, Bayona reached out to his friend Guillermo del Toro (who had recently landed on Tinseltown’s “hot list” thanks to the one-two commercial/critical successes of Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth), asking him to come on board as executive producer, helping to raise the film’s profile and increase the budgetary resources.

The resulting effort features numerous standout sequences – including the “Find the Treasure” hunt with Simón (and its fateful reprise in the third act) or where the medium Aurora (Geraldine Chaplin) attempts to contact the missing child and instead uncovers myriad horrors – which leave viewers gripping their armrests with the rare, joyful fear that brings genre fans back time and again. The technical elements are extremely well-wrought, with Fernando Velázquez’s elegant and mournful musical compositions highlighting Oscar Faura’s flowing cinematography and Josep Rosell and Iñigo Navarro’s superlative production design and art direction, respectively.

One would be remiss not to mention the sterling performances from the entire cast, especially Rueda’s central turn. Gifted with an extraordinarily expressive face, the Goya-nominated actress is utterly mesmerizing as the distraught mother, increasingly open to paranormal explanations, and she is well-matched by Cayo’s grounded, deeply sympathetic presence as her equally devastated mate, pushing aside his own pain to arrest Laura’s slide into madness. Princep also acquits himself admirably, displaying the exuberance of childhood dappled with the dawning realization that Life is far more complex than simple games of hide-and-seek.

One of the best supernatural yarns of the 2000s, The Orphanage equals and/or surpasses such prominent contemporaries as The Sixth Sense, The Others, The Ring and even del Toro's own The Devil’s Backbone. There’s no denying that much of Sánchez’s narrative and ensuing bump-in-the-night trappings could categorized as derivative and or clichéd, but he and Bayona have realized them in refreshingly old-yet-new fashion. The final product is a nail-biting and emotionally satisfying experience, one that continues to resonate for audiences in any language.


When Laura Grew Up: Constructing the Orphanage (18 min)

Tomás' Secret Room (10 min)

Horror In The Unknown: Make-Up Effects (9 min)

Rehearsal Studio: Cast Auditions And Table Read (3 min)

Still Gallery and Poster art

U.S. and Spanish teaser and theatrical trailers

The Orphanage is available now on Blu-ray from New Line Cinema and can be found on most major retail platforms.


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