I watched Juan Antonio Bayona’s The Orphanage last night, hoping that Guillermo Del Toro involvement as Producer meant that some of that madness and magic from his own films would be present. And I wasn’t disappointed. Chilling, evocative, rising above the status of a simple horror flic into the realm of tragedy and pathos, The Orphanage was excellent.
This is no doubt due in part to Belen Rueda’s stellar performance as the devoted, passionate mother, a figure who’s descent into obsession and horror we can’t help but empathize with, unsure even after the film ends if she was indeed correct or wrong, mad or terrifyingly sane when all others doubted her.
There’s a basic formula to making an excellent horror movie, and The Orphanage has all the right ingredients: spooky kids, huge houses surrounded by wilderness, ancient mysteries that come to light, and isolation, both physical and emotional. Cut off your heroine from others, separate her not only from her loved ones and friends physically but emotionally, leave her alone and vulnerable to her visions and midnight terrors, and then let the hallucinations roll, and you’ve got yourself a guaranteed spook-fest. Add brilliant camera work and lighting, and you’re guaranteed an excellent two hours worth of chills and jumps, of pathos and tragedy.
Go watch The Orphanage. It’s a rock solid movie.