Monday, May 4, 2009

THE ORPHANAGE

by Tobias
> view trailer

A creepy and methodically crafted horror jewel in the spirit of such contemporary genre classics as THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE and THE CHANGELING (1980).

Director Juan Antonio Bayona, making his feature debut here, seems to have inherited an aesthetic soul and style from just about every Spanish film artist of old and new; ala Victor Erice, Alejandro Amenábar, Guillermo del Toro, etc. THE ORPHANAGE is the type of intimidating film debut that can drive a struggling filmmaker mad with envy. Bayona seems to arrive as a fully formed professional that knows how to expertly control composition, sound, and countless other cinema atmospherics to raise the scare-factor of his film. Although not necessarily unique, Sergio G. Sánchez's neat little script plays with ghost story conventions more than you would think and he gives it some intensely taut plotting and thankfully it's all anchored by an inventive and bravura director.

This, at times, psychologically bothersome movie managed to simultaneously startle me with its effective hair-raising scares and move me with its intense spirituality. Something about actress Belén Rueda's beautifully expressive face is able to capture the diverse and chaotic emotions of grief and fear in this film so well. She's the greatest performance and the moral center of the movie, she has me glued to the screen every time I see it.

Horror buffs fed up with the current mass of mindless schlock pumped out by the U.S. studio machine (torture fests, hackneyed remakes of classics, Americanized Asian horror) will be swift to embrace this handsomely gothic Spanish gem.

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