I can’t think of a better movie to finish the 101 Horror Movies list than The Orphanage. Guillermo del Toro served as executive producer of this ghost story, in a tale that shows that great beauty can be found in things that may initially scare us.
I’d seen it before, but this time around the ending simply wrecked me. Bayona has created a masterful film that shows you don’t have to rely tons of special effects to tell an effective and emotional ghost story.
Laura (Belen Rueda) was an orphan, adopted from a home she later returns to live in with her husband, Carlos (Fernando Cayo), and her own adopted son, Simon (Roger Princep). Shortly after settling in, Simon begins chatting to some invisible friends, Laura and Carlos take it in stride, believing he’s just lonely and making his own fun.
Until they start telling him things he couldn’t know, and Laura begins to suspect something else is going on.
There’s a fun sequence, which sets up the key to the end of the movie when Simon and Laura are playing, finding clues that lead them from one place in the house to the next. Laura believes Simon may have set it up, but he’s only playing the game the other children have set up for him.
At a welcome party for their home, which they hope to open as a special care facility for 5 or 6 patients, things take a turn, when Laura encounters a sack-masked boy, and the revelation that Simon has suddenly gone missing.
They search in vain for him, days turn into months, and Laura becomes more convinced that his invisible friends are in the house with them.
A paranormal investigation team provides for a very spooky sequence, cementing Laura’s belief that there is something there. She learns terrible secrets involving the children she grew up with before she was adopted, and that they have a game they want to play with her. A game she’ll have to play if she ever wants to see Simon again.
It’s a gorgeously shot film, and the story, penned by Sergio G. Sanchez, is involving, alternately spooking the audience, and then tugging at their emotions as Laura fights to be reunited with a son she doesn’t believe is dead, simply missing. Bayona doles out some great moments, establishing the 1-2-3… red light game at the beginning of the film, and then revisiting it later in the film, as Laura turns her back on the unknown, and plays with those in the house with her. And honestly, what’s creepier than ghost kids… GAH!
The revelations through the film are heartbreaking, and the finale, as mentioned just did me in, transforming fear into something wonderful. It’s a bittersweet ending, but incredibly satisfying. The last shot few shots give some amazing resolutions to the lead characters.
Ghost stories have always been a part of the culture, and they have always had the ability to scare us with thoughts of the unknown, and comfort us with a belief or hope of something after, something more. This film does both of those things, happily defining it as one of the most perfect ghost stories in recent years, and as I said…
A wonderful end to the 101 Horror Movies list.
What did you think of it? What ghost movies would you recommend?