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DVD Review: The Orphanage (2007)

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The Orphanage (2007)
(aka El Orfanato)

Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona

DVD Review: The Orphanage (2007)The Orphanage is a Spanish Horror film that compares very well with any number of Hollywood produced horror films. The only thing that might put some viewers off the film is the use of subtitles. 

The central character is a thirty-seven-year-old woman called Laura. She and her husband, Carlos, buy an old house on the Spanish coast and move into it with their adopted son, Simon. The house has been derelict for quite some time, but thirty years ago it was an orphanage, and the place where Laura spent much of her childhood.

The Orphanage (2007)Laura and Carlos seem to be a well matched, and loving couple. They are also good parents and dote on Simon, who is, it has to be said, quite a cute kid. Sadly, however, the viewer learns all too soon that Simon's future is limited because he suffers from congenital HIV. Up until they moved into the orphanage Laura and Carlos have successfully shielded their son from any knowledge of his illness, along with the fact that he is adopted.

belen Rueda stars in The Orphanage (2007)The viewer first learns of Simon's illness when an old woman appears at Laura's door. Her name is Benigna; she claims to be a social worker and even has Simon's case notes with her. Something does not seem right about the old girl though, and it is not long before Laura smells a rat and insists that Benigna leaves.

Later that night Laura is woken by banging coming from one of the outbuildings that appears to have once been a bakery. When Laura goes to investigate the cause of the commotion she discovers Benigna has returned and it is she who is causing all of the noise. The sight of Benigna with a shovel in her hand gives Laura gets quite a fright, but before she can challenge the intruder Beniga runs off into the night.

Belen Rueda and Fernando Cayo in The Orphanage (2007)Not long after this Simon has a confrontation with his mother and tells her that he knows he is going to die. He also informs her that he knows she is not his real mother and accuses her of lying to him. Laura and Carlos presume that Simon must have stumbled across his case notes—which Laura locked in a drawer after Benigna left—but Simon insists his invisible friends provided him with the information.

Laura and Carlos sit down and talk things through with Simon and their words seem to pacify the situation the young man. More trouble lies ahead though, and Simon disappears during a party held at the house. At first it appears that Benigna may have taken him, but Laura soon begins to realize that her son's invisible playmates may not have been as imaginary as she thought, and she begins to suspect they might be playing some sort of game with her, with Simon as the prize.

Over nine months later, Simon is still missing and Laura has given up on the police. She turns instead to a team of psychic investigators.  The scene where the team begin their investigation at the old orphanage is rather chilling and is somewhat reminiscent of Poltergeist. As in Poltergeist, the investigative team comprises of a psychic medium and some scientists who monitor the situation via all their technical paraphernalia.

Geraldine Chaplin as the Medium Aurora in The Orphanage (2007)The medium's name is Aurora and after she enters a trance-like state she succeeds in contacting the spirits of several dead children and her colleague's equipment succeeds in picking up and recording their voices.

Laura accepts the situation at face value, and who can blame her? These guys are obviously the real deal and they know what they are doing. Carlos, on the other hand, remains sceptical and, suspecting trickery, he tells Aurora and her team to leave.

The Orphanage (2007) While continuing her search for her son Laura discovers the remains of several dead children hidden in the outbuilding that Benigna had been banging about in. Simon is not among them, but Carlos has had enough and decides that he and Laura should leave, and when Laura refuses to go with him Carlos leaves without her.

Left to her own devices, Laura does her best to play the children's game, hoping that the trail of clues they have left behind will lead her to Simon.

The Orphanage is a great film. The cast are impeccable and the atmosphere throughout the film is very spooky. Talking about spooky, if you decide to watch the film keep an eye out for the kid whose face is masked by a sack. It looks like something that might have been a hand-me-down from Jason Voorhees, and just the sight of the kid standing there wearing the thing is enough to send a few shivers down anyone's spine.

Benigan has an accident in The Orphanage (2007)The Orphanage relies more on a dark atmosphere for its frights and there is not an awful lot of gore on offer, so if blood and guts are not your thing there is little here that will put you off your lunch. The only possible exception being the scene where Benigna comes off second best in an argument with a moving bus. She would never have won any beauty contests to begin with, but with her jaw hanging off she looks like someone broke an ugly-stick over her head and then just kept on beating.

DVD: The Orphanage (2007)

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As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, subtitles are not everyone's cup of tea, but The Orphanage is such a well-presented and creepy film that even if Hollywood does decide to do a remake of it at some point, I doubt very much that it would ever be able to compare with the original. Director Juan Antonia Bayona has got it right first time around and it never pays to mess with perfection.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Runtime 105 mins
Certificate: 15 (UK), R (USA)


 Belen Rueda  ...  Laura
 Fernando Cayo ...  Carlos
 Roger Princep ...  Simon

 Mabel Rivera ...  Pilar
 Montserrat Carulla ...  Benigna
 Andres Gertrudix ...  Enrique
 Edgar Vivar ...  Prof. Leo Balaban
 Oscar Casas ...  Tomas
 Mireia Renau ...  Laura nina
 Georgina Avellaneda ...  Rita
 Carla Gordillo ...  Martin
 Alejandro Camps ...  Victor
 Carmen Lopez ...  Alicia
 Oscar Lara ...  Guillermo
 Geraldine Chaplin ...  Aurora
 Enric Arquimbau ...  Jefe Grupo Terapia
 Blanca Martinez ...  Mujer Grupo Terapia
 Carol Suarez ...  Benigna joven
 Isabel Friera ...  Antonia cuidadora
 Fernando Marrot ...  Doctor
 Jordi Cardus ...  Nino ciego
 Pedro Morales ...  Padre 2


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