Photobucket“One. Two. Three. Knock on a tree.”

If you have been reading my reviews for any length of time you know that I am not a fan of anything in the scary, eerie vain. I like them if they are done well but my nerves are on alert for hours after. I jump at the slightest noise and I am convinced beyond a doubt that something is going to come down my dark hallway or be waiting for me in the closet. I am almost surprised more when it doesn’t happen. I chalk it up to my off the chart creative imagination and not because I simply scare like a school girl. I was intrigued by The Orphanage though because it had that classic, old fashion scary movie look about it. The foreign architecture and design of classic sets and story lines. It felt as if it could be from any generation. Plus I figured with subtitles it might distract me from the scary kid in the hallway. One can hope right?

It is the tale of a Laura (Belén Rueda) who buys the orphanage she grew up in and along with her husband plans to turn it into an orphanage for handicapped children. The couple’s adoptive son begins to see and hear imaginary friends and when he disappears from a party the struggle begins to decide if is an abduction by physical or spiritual persons. The presence of a mysterious woman and untold secrets of the Orphanages past shines some light on this matter but the secret is locked even deeper than they know. Laura becomes obsessed with finding her son and it takes a toll on her marriage and mental well being. When she unravels the mystery it only pushes her further into the game being played. This is a well done ghost story and I have not seen one like it in sometime.

The Orphanage is Spain’s Official Submission to the Best Foreign Language Film category for this years Oscars and if not for The Kite Runner, I would lean toward it for my own vote as well. It is not your classic slasher, demonic, rehashing of a tale. It is smart and clever and does not cheat the viewer in the end. It all ties up neatly in a thrilling package. The imagery and feel of the set design adds much to this horror story. There is nothing creepier than huge mansions in foreign countries. I for one don’t see how they can live in them. I would never sleep a wink. Add to this great direction and cinematography and the intensity level stays at a heightened peek. Plus there is the loss of a child that makes you attach emotionally with the parents in the film. You want a happy ending for them all and struggle through the story alongside them. There is a mystery along with the scary elements and this gives it more depth than the normal films in this genre.

The Orphanage is rated R for some disturbing content. That is always vague because anything can be disturbing in the wrong context. I think this would be too frightening for those under 17 and the maturity of the theme and plot only adds to that. If you don’t speak Spanish the adult language is visible only in text form, so if you can’t read English or speak Spanish you will be ok. Also, the fact that it is in Spanish with English subtitles may turn off many adults as well. Fans of classic horror need not miss this one. It is visually stunning and heart pounding when it needs to be. You will jump several times so get ready. I give The Orphanage 3.5 out of 5 chills. This genre needs more films like this and less mindless drivel that the Jason’s and Michael’s bring us.

Matt Mungle (matt@mungleshow.com)(1/16/08)

“Matt is a member of the North Texas Film Critics Association (NTFCA) and co-hosts a weekly radio feature, The Mungles on Movies, with his wife Cindy. For additional reviews, interview clips and great DVD giveaways, visit the website www.mungleshow.com”

Review copyright 2008 Mungleshow Productions. Used by Permission.

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