Buttle's World

28 February, 2009

The Orphanage

Filed under: Posts — clgood @ 12:29

For someone in the movie business I don’t blog about movies much. Odd, that.

Today I’m recommending The Orphanage (El Orfanato) as not only one of the best horror films I’ve ever seen, but one of the best films, period. I rented it from Blockbuster to watch as part of a research project I have, and decided to pay the extra ten bucks to keep it. Here’s why:

It’s got one of the most amazingly solid scripts I’ve ever seen. Nothing is wasted. That means that every detail, even many that seem inconsequential at first, has a reason and a payoff. The characters are well-drawn. In fact, this is a character-driven piece, which is pretty amazing for a genre film. That’s great writing.

It is scary. I mean really scary. But it is not a slasher film, and there is practically no gore. This is more in the line of The Haunting or The Uninvited in that it’s a psychological game, not a visceral one. One of the most chilling scenes involves little more than a well-operated camera and clever blocking. If you’ve seen it, all I have to say is “Un, dos, tres. Toca la pared” (One, two, three. Knock on the wall) and I’ve given you chills. That’s great direction.

It’s moving. Days after watching it, just replaying the climactic scene of discovery in my head rips my guts out. What made the experience of watching it, even the second time, so engaging and satisfying is that I was completely emotionally involved with the characters. I was terrified, and I was in love. That’s great movie making.

The ending is an emotional rollercoaster that reliably makes me cry. Heck, I’m getting choked up just thinking about it now. And remember: this is a horror movie I’m talking about.

The director, J. A. Bayona, turns out to be a very young man who, previous to this, had only shot music videos. That would normally be a recipe for disaster, but his direction is restrained and mature. If this movie wasn’t a fluke, and I certainly hope it’s not, expect great things from this guy.

Another surprise, for me, was learning that Geraldine Chaplin speaks Spanish. She, like everybody else, is superbly cast in this film.

Gather your heart meds and a box of Kleenex and enjoy a great ghost story.

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