FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Apr 22, 2008

give it a good home

If you leave your couch today and venture out to some type of "store", that is, a place where perhaps they "sell" "DVDs", you'll be happy to know that The Orphanage is finally hitting shelves today.

Because I am a big lame, I missed the film during its brief theatrical run; it remained near the top of my "must see" list, though, and after all this time I must was really worth the wait. If you like ghost stories that pack an emotional wallop and still manage to be unbelievably unnerving, then yeah- get off your couch today and check this one out.

Laura (Belen Rueda) was adopted out of her seaside orphanage as a young girl. Now grown, Laura has moved into the abandoned orphanage with her husband Carlos (Fernando Cayo) and her adopted son Simon (Roger Princep) with the intention of turning it into a home for special needs children.

Laura and Carlos are mildly concerned when Simon seems only interested in playing games with his imaginary friends; concern mounts to terror, however, when Simon disappears.

After nine months searching and not a single lead as to her child's whereabouts, Laura descends deeper and deeper into despair as she uncovers the terrible secrets hidden in the sprawling orphanage during her search.

The Orphanage is "presented by" and co-produced by Guillermo Del Toro, and it's definitely got a Del Toro vibe- if you like The Devil's Backbone, chances are you'll like this. It's genuinely scary in parts- several times I had that know, like right when you're about to get goosebumps? Yeah. Very creepy. There's a lot more to the film than scares however (and it should be noted, none of them, to the best of my recollection, are cheap), namely story. As in, it actually has one that pulls you in, keeps you guessing, and manages to be extremely evocative. Gasp! I know, right? It's almost as if writer Sergio Sanchez and director JA Bayona worked the frights into the story so they happen organically, rather than appearing completely tacked on, obvious, and useless.

I can't say enough good things about Belen Rueda's performance, either. As Laura, it's her job to carry virtually the entire film and she does it incredibly well. Laura runs the gamut of emotions, from happiness to fear to just shy of maybe going a bit mad with grief- grief she won't allow herself to feel and instead turns it into determination- and it's a fantastic nuanced performance.

After the film finished, I was struck by the quality of the original horror content coming from Spain (this film, the aforementioned Devil's Backbone, the I haven't seen it but I can't wait and I hear great things [REC]) and likewise, from France (High Tension, Them, Inside) and it made me even sadder (than usual) that American horror seems to be stuck in the remake rut. Whether reworking Asian films or rehashing native shit, it's all been seen before. Where are the original voices?


Unknown said...

I've got a copy of this sitting at home that I've been, for some reason, unable to make time for over the past month.

It's one of those movies that I've wanted to see since I first heard about it. I'm still waiting for a chance to see Inside and [REC].

AE said...

This movie was fantastic. It scared me so much that I bit Art Boy. Glad you liked it too! Now you can picture that little boy standing in your doorway every night as you fall asleep. No, he won't go away. Just seeing your freeze-frame of him gave me a chill.

Adam said...

Studios don't want to take a chance on something original. The "Gee, it worked once why not try it again (and again, and again)" theory prevails. Something new and interesting is either ultra low budget, or backed by a heavyweight like a Tarantino, Eli Roth, or Guillermo Del Toro.
Speaking of European horror if you haven't seen "Calvaire" check it out! You won't be disappointed...or perhaps you will. I can't really make a judgment call like that.

FatalPierce said...

I just went to add it and noticed Netflix put it up to stream already. I know what my movie plans for tonight are!

Funny, I was just recommending "Devil's Backbone" to a friend the other day.

John Barleycorn said...

All the (parenthesis) made (this) incredibly hard to (read).

Love you!

Stacie Ponder said...

Eh, I only got distracted in the middle of one parenthetical thought. Try to keep up, Barleycorn- you're with the big kids now!

I can't wait to watch this movie again. The image of the boy with the rucksack mask intrigued me from the moment I saw it, and I'm glad to say it lived up to my expectations in the film.

kindertrauma said...

I woke up @ 5 in the morning last night and watched this, not only was it great but when I went back to sleep it invaded my dreams big time.
great film.

Anonymous said...

I was a bit disappointed. It was a little too Hollywood for my liking. Yet, I did enjoy it and I loved Belen Rueda in it. It's better than most of the recent American horror for sure. Speaking of foreign horror flicks, you should check out INSIDE and [REC] if you haven't already.

Jason Adams said...

Guess it's time for the tide to turn! I too was disappointed. I found it scarier in theory than I did while actually watching it; I mean, when I got home and thought over sequences they seemed like good ideas that should've scared me, but when I was actually watching them I wasn't terrifically involved in it.

Belen Rueda was very good, and it was better than most dreck we get made here, and I'd be a happy boy if more movies like this one were attempted here in the US. But it struck me much like The Host did, in that I thought the hype and crazy positive word-of-mouth were a bit overblown.

I've got it coming from Netflix tomorrow to watch it again however, so maybe, with lessened expectations, I'll like it lil' more.

Unknown said...

At least rucksack's career is gaining momentum with his newest role in The Strangers ;) Seriously though, speaking of asian and native remakes, more news of The Uninvited *cough* ATOTS *cough* and Happy Birthday to Me remakes were posted today... Yay? *sigh*

Anonymous said...

I cried like a baby when it was over, and was creeped out for the hour beforehand.

Great flick.

spazmo said...

Haven't seen [REC] yet, but I loved, LOVED "Inside", though. What a shocker!

The Orphanage wasn't quite as good as "Devil's Backbone", but it was worth a look, and the performances were excellent.

Stacie, you're quite a sucker for sack-heads, aintcha?

Paco Fox said...

This film has been a HUGE success in Spain. Being a horror film, it's been rather unexpected.

Anyway, there is one cheap scare. But it is effective: when certain character is run over by car... you know... I don't want to spoil anything for those yet to watch it.

Unknown said...

this blog is just soooo fuckin good, that is making me cry --- go Stacie go!

Anonymous said...

"Where are the original voices?"

Mainly writing good screenplays that don't get made, while talentless jerks pull in the bucks doing shitty remakes and torture porn.

Still - if we wouldn't watch it, it wouldn't get made.

Stacie Ponder said...

I'm totally a sucker for sack-heads! They really creep me out. F13-2, The Town that Dreaded Sundown, this film, practically ANY scarecrow movie...sack-heads rule!!

The only thing I didn't like about the ending was that the John Williams-style music sort of took AWAY from the emotional impact of it- it was too sweeping or something for my taste.

Paco, yeah, I guess that was a cheap scare, but it was SO unexpected and rad that it didn't feel cheap, you know? Not like a cat jumping out from behind a curtain or something.

Viktoria, thanks much! I totally want to put accents all over my name now, even if they're not warranted.

Ali A said...

Oh man life took me away from the blog but by god I AM BACK!

This movie sounds very very good. I will have to see if I can find it.

Anonymous said...

In totally unrelated news about Guillermo Del Toro, he has been signed to direct The Hobbit.

Chad Helder said...

I loved this film. I was very impressed by the way the suspense reached an amazing intensity when the boy in the mask appeared in the hallway, and then the film was able to build up all of the suspense again for the ending, which I found pretty shocking. I loved it. I think it surpassed Devil's Backbone for scary, but I think Devil's Backbone is also an excellent film for political reasons.


Unspeakable Horror dot com!

kelkane said...

I love your sense of humor and your reviews are always interesting and well written.
You NEED to see [REC], def one of my favorite movies in recent years. I love when movies actually scare me and don't just through blood at you.

Drew Beard said...

It's pretty rare, as an adult, for me to turn a movie off halfway through in order to finish it in the light of day as opposed to the dead of night. "The Devil's Backbone" was one of those movies. I've been meaning to aggravate my insomnia, and "The Orphanage" sounds like just the way to go about it.