The Orphanage

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2 out of 5 stars
The 100 best horror films, horror movies, the orphanage
“Presented” by producer Guillermo del Toro, The Orphanage is being positioned as this year’s Pan’s Labyrinth, but it’s more a descendant of The Turn of the Screw, The Others and any number of movies in which children see dead people. Here the little dickens (Príncep) is an adoptee who’s just moved into a musty estate with his father and mother, the latter of whom grew up on the grounds back when they were used as an orphanage. Soon the kid starts talking about his new “friends,” whom Mom (Rueda) writes off as the products of an overactive imagination. After he disappears, however—possibly kidnapped by a moppet in a potato-sack mask—she begins to change her tune.
First-time feature director J.A. Bayona has learned that loud noises and (pace the Coens) unexpected car accidents will make an audience jump. But testing viewers’ reflexes is not the same as creeping them out, and once the well-deployed shocks wear off, it’s hard to ignore that The Orphanage never coheres even on its own fantastical terms. A sequence involving Geraldine Chaplin as a medium is gorgeously suggestive, but mostly, this is an overproduced Twilight Zone episode—and it might have been more satisfying had Del Toro conjured the ghost of Rod Serling and closed the movie with a monologue.

By: Ben Kenigsberg

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Release details

Rated: R
Release date: Friday December 28 2007
Duration: 100 mins

Cast and crew

Director: J.A. Bayona
Screenwriter: Sergio G. Sánchez
Cast: Geraldine Chaplin
Belén Rueda
Roger Príncep
Fernando Cayo
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