Friday, March 21, 2008

The Orphanage - Scariest film since The Shining?

The Orphanage - Scariest film since The Shining?

Pan's Labyrinth
director Guillermo del Toro may only 'Present…' this outstanding Gothic fantasy but his fingerprints are unmistakably all over it.

Another richly supernatural adult fable, it follows the nostalgic return of 37-year-old Laura (Belén Rueda) to her former childhood orphanage.

With the help of her husband and their adopted son, Simón (Roger Príncep), a solitary seven-year-old infected by HIV, Laura intends to reopen the crepuscular pile as a home for mentally ill children.
Until, that is, little Simón traumatically vanishes on opening day. His mother is too late in recalling his fanciful burblings about 'imaginary' friends. And, whoa fears– who's the mad old lady with the shovel lurking by the potting shed?

An inventive splicing of Peter Pan and The Others, this is a scary movie that finally earns the term. No kidding, this is hands down the scariest film I've watched since The Shining.

Young debut Spanish director Juan Antonio Bayona masterfully orchestrates a jangling sense of unease – his melodrama creeps up on you like a game of grandmother's footsteps.

The pacing
is exquisite and the cinematography is so redolent with melancholy, it elegantly brushes over any plot holes. Who needs full frontal torture porn when a creaking door can leave you quivering on the ceiling?

That's sufficient enticement alone, yet this sensational horror goes way deeper than goosebumps. As del Toro says of discovering Sergio Sánchez's script, it 'wasn't simply another snazzy rehash of the stock elements of the genre: haunted houses, ghosts, parallel universes…'.

It's a painfully real exploration of parental fears surrounding a child's inner life. Indeed, 'absorbing' is too pale a word. When Geraldine Chaplin's medium finally 'sees dead people', you can hear a bit of popcorn drop.