I’ve been interested to see The Orphanage ever since I saw it advertised with the Pan’s Labyrinth HD DVD as something presented by Guillermo del Toro. I’m quite wary of these endorsements, given that Tarantino’s name has given us such classics as Hostel, but I don’t think that del Toro has made a bad film yet, Pan was ridiculously good (to continue a theme from my last post, I own four copies of that film), and it’s looking like he’s going to direct The Hobbit. The man’s a legend, and the reviews of The Orphanage have justified his interest.
I had the opportunity to see The Orphanage ahead of my Blu-ray order arriving in a couple of weeks, and I was impressed. It’s not as terrifying as some critics (Mark Kermode, I’m looking at you) made out – I only had one good jump out of it – and it doesn’t even have a particularly unsettling atmosphere, a few scenes aside, but it still stands out as a bloody good film.
It’s not that often that you can say that about a horror film. Nowadays they tend to fall into the two categories of blood-drenched ‘torture porn’ (Hostel, Saw), or something from a director whose idea of horror is to jam on the piano keys every time another cat is inexplicably released from a cupboard. That or a remake of one of the seminal 70’s horror films. Both may be scary or entertaining in their own ways, but they’re usually used to prop up a crepe-paper story that really isn’t worth watching between the wanton bloodshed and cat jumping.
For one thing, it’s not like every post-Sixth Sense supernatural thriller, in that it’s not reliant on being turned on its head in the final few minutes to make it worthwhile and really doesn’t have all that much supernatural stuff going on. There are ghosts, sure, but no “they were dead all along” revelation. Just a story of past trauma that hits close to home (the following link is a spoiler) at this time and that I really should have seen coming in retrospect, and an explanation of how the events of the past 90 minutes have come to pass.
Cinemas that show non-English language films are like hen’s teeth around here – the nearest one to me that’s showing The Orphanage is 30 miles away – but if you have one (or the ability to import the BD or DVD), this one comes recommended.