What’s your favorite scary movie? Part 2 – ‘The Orphanage’

The problem with so many supposedly scary films is that they resort to the same, tired tactics.  Gore does not necessarily equal scariness, nor does a loud jolt of music when The Monster pops out of nowhere.  The best scary movies are ones that don’t pander to the lowest common denominator, that take their time developing character and plot.  And while I only recently saw The Orphanage, I would have to say that it’s one of the better–if not the best–horror/suspense films I’ve seen in a long time.

What’s it about? Laura (Belen Rueda) and her husband Carlos (Fernando Cayo) have moved into the orphanage where Laura once lived before being adopted.  Their son, Simon (Roger Princep), is also adopted and has HIV.

Laura and Carlos are prepping the orphanage so that they can take care of a few special needs kids.  A visit from a social worker  named Benigna (Montserrat Carulla) bothers Laura greatly, due to the fact that the social worker is asking questions about Simon and not the kids who will live with them.

Simon’s a lonely boy and already has two imaginary friends.  But soon he’s made new imaginary friends, particularly with a boy named Tomas.

Laura hears noises in the house and eventually believes that the house is haunted.  At a party with lots of guests (and in the daytime, no less), Laura has a violent run-in with “Thomas.”  That same afternoon, Simon goes missing.

Time passes, and still no leads on Simon’s whereabouts.  Laura and Carlos hire a clairevoyant (Geraldine Chaplin) to help them figure out if the ghosts in the house can help find Simon.

More stuff happens.  But it’s so eery and suspenseful, I want you to have the same chills up your spine as you watch the story unfold.

What’s good about it? The gore is used sparingly (in only two scenes, really) and the film doesn’t resort to cheap tactics to get you to squirm in your seat.  The story is compelling with lots of genuinely scary moments.  Reminicent of The Others, this is a ghost story that doesn’t rely on special effects to wow you.  The pacing is great; the cinematography is lush and effectively creepy when it needs to be.  The score is very, very good.  But probably the weirdest thing about The Orphanage is that, in a way, it’s a feel-good horror film–when was the last time you smiled after getting the crap scared out of you?

What’s bad about it? The film is rated R, but it’s one of the tamest R’s I’ve ever seen.  (A scene with an automobile accident is what made it too intense for PG-13.)  But if you couldn’t handle The Others or The Village, you’d probably be best skipping this.  Oh, and if you couldn’t tell by the trailer, the film’s in Spanish.  So if you hate subtitles, suck it up!  If you love scary movies, this one is too good to pass up.

Perfect for: fans of intelligent horror films (yes, there is such a thing).

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