The Orphanage (2007)

DECEMBER 27, 2007


Guillermo Del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone is one of the finest ghost movies ever made, blowing stuff like The Others out of the water, into the atmosphere, and pulverizing it into dust. And since the trailers for The Orphanage (aka El Orfanato), which Del Toro produced, gave me a Backbone vibe, I had high hopes for the film. Thankfully, they were more or less achieved.

This is not a film for impatient viewers. If you need a death or carnage every 5 minutes in order to accept it as a horror movie, not only are you kind of dumb, but you should definitely avoid this. The film is drenched with atmosphere and “slow burn” style chills, not fake scares and other bullshit. There are a few set-pieces here and there that provide some standard thrills (such as a panicked rescue attempt at high tide), but they are few and far between, and not really the point anyway.

Strangely, as much as I abhor the dubbing process, I almost wish the film was in English. Because the set design and cinematography were so great (and the image was 2.35:1, rare for this type of film), I found myself immersed in the image, and thus missed a few plot points because I didn’t feel like focusing on one small area of the screen so I could read the subtitles. Or maybe I should just learn Spanish. There was a hypnotism scene where a guy counted backwards from ten... at least I understood that without needing to read.

Some have claimed the ending is “happy”, but that’s not entirely accurate. It’s a very bittersweet “happiness”, if anything. A happy ending, to me anyway, is everyone surviving, bad guys dead, etc. This ending combined suicide, accidental death, parental regret... not exactly the stuff of fluffy bunnies.

Also, the lead actress, Belén Rueda, is stunningly beautiful. Just wanted to point that out.

Not sure how wide the release is, but if it’s in your area and you can appreciate a “fairy tale” style ghost movie with an emphasis on atmosphere instead of “trailer moments”, then please check it out, especially if you’re a Del Toro fan (there should be a Hellboy II trailer attached as well, wooo).

What say you?


  1. I left the movie pretty much speechless. It was pretty fantastic. Still need to see Devil's Backbone though.

  2. Cronos is Del Toro's best movie, I reckon. I was kind of disappointed by The Devil's Backbone and haven't seen The Orphanage (though I'll try now).

  3. I loooooved this movie, as well as "Devil's Backbone." Granted it was Produced By and not Directed By. “Pan's Labyrinth” did nothing for me, some cool effects, but I thought the story was weak.

    Funny you mention the subtitles because I really did not feel it was necessary to subtitle NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!! I thought “NO” was pretty universal, especially given the circumstances in which it was screamed.

  4. This movie is freakin scary! I had to pause the movie in some parts just to be able to breathe properly again.

    There was so much atmosphere and tension, especially during the knock on the wall scene. The way it frightens audiences using suspense is way better than the 'boo' scares that other conventional horror movies use.

    I would recommend this movie to anyone. And I did not mind the subtitles at all. I'm a big foreign film fan so I'm used to them anyway.

    Love ur blog btw! keep up the good work!

  5. ok i hate ghost films! to me someone who we think is alive is usally dead or something to that effect, maybe watching sixth sense all those years ago made me this way. i loved the whole film, the tension and atmosphere was so thick you could cut it with a proverbial knife. most of the film reminded me of the original omen, which is one of my favorite films. the damn ending let me down. i wouldn't call it happy, to me just a copout. i love subs but the version i watched the subs could have been better. final verdict: good intense film, the ending is your choice. recomened!

  6. I found The Orphanage in a sale at Blockbuster to get 3 for $21. I picked it up because it had Guillermo's name on it and I was glad not to be disappointed even though he didn't direct or write it.

    I think my two favorite scenes in the movie, and the scenes that show what it does so well in terms of subtlety are the scene with the psychic and and the scene when Laura is knocking on the wall to call the orphans to her. These aren't jump scares and there is no violence at all except for when Laura's hand gets shut in the door, but the movie is chilling none the less.

    Also, the scene where Laura finds the old woman in the shed and she just kind of peels away from the wall was one that made me jump internally.

    Overall, I think it is a really well acted, subtly done film that shows what horror can be apart from the blood and gore that is so common now.


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