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Juan Antonio Bayona
Belén Rueda, Fernando Cayo, Roger Príncep, Mabel Rivera, Montserrat Carulla, Andrés Gertrúdix, Edgar Vivar, Óscar Casas
Writing Credits:
Sergio G. Sánchez

A tale of love. A story of horror.

Haunting secrets of the past resurface when a child mysteriously disappears in the supernatural thriller The Orphanage, a spinetingler with a jaw-dropping twist that will take your very last breath away! Produced by Academy Award nominated filmmaker Guillermo del Toro.

Visionary Guillermo del Toro and acclaimed director J.A. Bayona present The Orphanage, a "positively terrifying" (John Anderson, "Newsday") new vision of the classic ghost story. Returning to her childhood home - a mysterious, seaside orphanage - Laura and her family unknowingly unleash a long-forgotten, evil spirit. Now, thrust into a chilling nightmare that involves the disappearance of her young son, Laura must confront the memories of her past before the ghosts of the orphanage destroy her ... and everyone she has ever loved.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$338.024 thousand on 19 screens.
Domestic Gross
$7.132 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Spanish Dolby Digital EX 5.1
Spanish DTS ES 6.1
Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 105 min.
Price: $27.95
Release Date: 4/22/08

• “When Laura Grew Up: The Construction of The Orphanage” Featurette
• “Tomas’ Secret Room (The Filmmakers)” Featurette
• “Horror In the Unknown: Makeup Effects” Featurette
• Still Galleries
• Rehearsal Studio
• Marketing Campaign


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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The Orphanage (2007)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 10, 2008)

For an update on the standard ghost story framework, we head to 2008’s The Orphanage. In this creepfest, we visit the Good Shepherd Orphanage and see the adoption of a young girl named Laura (Mireia Renau). From there the flick quickly jumps ahead to show an adult Laura (Belen Rueda) with husband Carlos (Fernando Cayo) and son Simon (Roger Princep). They move into the old orphanage and refurbish it as a location to help needy kids.

We soon learn that Simon himself falls into that category. Not only did Carlos and Laura adopt him, but also he’s HIV positive. The boy remains unaware of either topic, of course. Simon develops a number of imaginary friends and appears to “meet” another one when he and Laura explore some caves. He leaves some shells so the child can follow him home – shells that mysteriously wind up on their doorstep.

It turns out that Simon has six of these “friends”, and they send him and Laura on a treasure hunt game. They also reveal to Simon his adopted status and his illness. Before long we learn that these “friends” may not be so imaginary after all. Tomas (shakdj) appears at a welcome party for the kids who will stay at the orphanage, and Simon goes missing. Months go by but Laura won’t give up the search, even when it takes her down supernatural paths – and into some scary situations.

But you knew that was coming from the start, didn’t you? You can’t have a ghost story without creepiness, so it doesn’t surprise anyone when the story takes a darker turn. Not that director JA Bayona ever attempts to trick us. He gives the flick a grim sensibility from the very start, so the scary events that greet Laura don’t come out of left field.

Do they actually provide effective chills? Yeah, to a certain degree, though the movie falters at times. Actually, I think it works quite well until the ending. I can’t say that I actively dislike the movie’s finale, but it leaves me unsatisfied. I don’t mind that it likes theatrics and fireworks; a low-key conclusion is fine with me. There’s just something about the way this flick finishes that feels off base to me; it doesn’t wind up matters in a strong manner.

At least The Orphanage tends to succeed up until that point. Even when it comes with some predictable story points, it scores on the creepy side of things. The flick packs in some startling jolts and creates an involving world with a consistently spooky air to it.

I wouldn’t call this a tight narrative, but in a way, that adds verisimilitude to matters. After all, the world doesn’t usually work in a concise manner, so why should interactions with ghosts always follow a logical line? The tale unfolds in a reasonably believable way – as far as these things go – and keeps us interested most of the time.

Speaking of realism, perhaps the flick’s best sequence boasts an understated presentation. We see a medium (Geraldine Chaplin) explore the orphanage in a trance, but we watch her movement all via night-vision video cameras. The soundtrack lets us hear her as she goes from spot to spot, but the visuals stay with the somewhat murky video shots. That’s a cool choice, since it makes the whole thing feel more real – even if it does come across as something out of Poltergeist.

At no point does The Orphanage truly excel, and I must admit the ending comes as a letdown. Nonetheless, I do like most of the movie, and I suppose a second viewing might allow me to find more value in the finale. This is usually an understated and evocative ghost story.

The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B+/ Bonus C-

The Orphanage appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. New Line rarely botches their transfers, and this was another strong one.

Sharpness looked very good, as I noticed virtually no signs of softness. Even during the flick’s wide shots, matters stayed crisp and concise. Jagged edges and shimmering failed to occur, and edge enhancement also failed to mar the proceedings. In addition, source flaws were absent; everything looked clean and fresh.

With its gloomy setting, the palette of The Orphanage stayed pretty subdued. The flick provided occasional splashes of bright colors, but it usually went with virtually monochromatic elements. Given the visual design, the hues seemed good. Blacks came across as deep and dense, while shadows were excellent. Low-light shots seemed smooth and well-defined. Overall, I really liked this consistently excellent presentation.

When I examined the audio of The Orphanage, I found both Dolby Digital EX 5.1 and DTS ES 6.1 soundtracks. If any significant variations differentiated the pair, I couldn’t discern them. I thought both mixes sounded very similar.

Much of the mix stayed quiet since a lot of it revolved around spooky atmospherics. The movie represented these elements with good localization and packed them together in a tight manner. The surrounds added a good kick and made this an involving track that used the various channels to creepy effect.

The quality of the audio satisfied as well. Speech was crisp and natural, without edginess or other issues. Music sounded robust and dynamic, and effects worked along the same lines. Those elements seemed full and accurate, with good low-end punch. I found a lot of good material in this strong track.

A small roster of extras fills out the set. Four featurettes appear. When Laura Grew Up: Constructing The Orphanage runs 17 minutes, 37 seconds as it combines shots from the set, movie clips and interviews. We hear from director JA Bayona, producer Guillermo Del Toro, writer Sergio G. Sanchez, executive producer Sandra Hermida, acting coach Laura Jou, cinematographer Oscar Faura, special effects artist David Marti, visual effects supervisor Jordi San Agustin, sound designer Oriol Tarrago, composer Fernando Velazquez, and actors Belen Rueda, Fernando Cayo, Mabel Rivera, Edgar Vivar, Andres Gertrudix, Montserrat Carulla, Roger Princep, and Geraldine Chaplin. “Constructing” examines the story and characters, cast and performances, Bayona’s approach to his first film, sets and locations, effects and makeup, sound and music, and closing thoughts about the flick.

A few aspects of “Constructing” satisfy, especially when we see rehearsals and hear how the filmmakers evoked good performances out of the child actors. However, much of the program sticks with generic praise for the flick and all involved, and the whole thing feels rather promotional. That makes it a spotty product.

Next comes the 10-minute and 16-second Tomas’ Secret Room: The Filmmakers. This five-part collection involves Bayona, Del Toro, Rueda, Rivera, Carulla, Velazquez, San Augstin, storyboard artist Pau Lopez, and visual effects artist Lluis Castells. We get info about all the first-time filmmakers at work here, recording the score, the sets, digital effects, and the opening credits. As with “Constructing”, this area includes a smattering of good notes, especially in the last two components about effects and credits. Unfortunately, the clips are way too short for much detail, and they stay fluffy a lot of the time. They’re decent but not especially satisfying.

Horror in the Unknown: Make-up Effects fills nine minutes and 22 seconds with remarks from Marti and special effects artist Montse Ribe. They talk about the various practical elements they created for the film such as the deformed Tomas, a corpse puppet, and a mangled face. They cover their work in a concise and informative manner in this interesting piece, and plenty of good behind the scenes shots make it even better.

Finally, Rehearsal Studio: Cast Auditions and Table Read goes for three minutes, 42 seconds. Bayona tells us how he worked the rehearsals and we see some clips from those sessions. I’d have liked more footage from those periods, but this still ends up as an intriguing little piece.

In the Still Gallery, we get six subdomains. The DVD offers “The Cast” (14 images), “Make-up Effects” (29), “Set Design and Locations” (92), “Black and White Photography” (28), “Production” (18) and “Conceptual Art” (17). All of these offer useful elements, and I particularly like the way the DVD presents the stills. They come as thumbnails we can select, or we can choose a “slideshow” option to run them for us. I wish more DVDs made their galleries so user-friendly.

Under Marketing Campaign, we find a few different elements. We locate US and Spanish teasers as well as US and Spanish trailers. The area also includes “Poster Explorations”. That domain shows us 12 advertising concepts created for the film.

A few ads open the DVD. We get clips for Pan’s Labyrinth, Amusement, The Sickhouse, Otis and One Missed Call. These also appear in the DVD’s Sneak Peeks area.

While I can’t say that The Orphanage represents the best ghost story I’ve ever seen, I think it mostly provides a satisfying affair. It falters at times but it usually delivers the expected chills and scares. The DVD gives us excellent picture and very good audio, but it doesn’t offer a particularly strong set of extras. Nonetheless, the movie deserves a look, at least as a rental.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.875 Stars Number of Votes: 8
3 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main