Sometimes I look back at myself as a child and I am astounded by how dumb I was. Sometimes I don't even have to look THAT far back. Only a few years ago I was still making some stupid decisions, damaging my body and spirit and not focusing on sorting my life out. Perhaps that's why I didn't like The Orphanage the first time I saw it. Perhaps I'd killed off a few too many brain cells back then. Whatever the reason, I was wrong. As many people already know, The Orphanage is a wonderful horror movie, full of real heart while also delivering the requisite scares.
The story concerns Laura (Belen Rueda) and her loved ones (her husband Carlos, played by Fernando Cayo, and her adopted son Simon, played by Roger Princep) as they settle into their new home. Well, it's not really a new home for Laura as she used to stay there as a young girl, back when it was an orphanage. Hence, the title. All is well for a little while until Simon starts to become more troublesome and more caught up in activities with his imaginary friends. Perhaps there's more at work than just the imagination of a small boy. Things get spookier and Laura finds herself considering a number of different possibilities when Simon goes missing. Maybe those "imaginary" children can help her find him.
Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona, and written by Sergio G. Sanchez, The Orphanage really slots all of its pieces into place beautifully. The supernatural is mixed with everyday worries, in a way that's not entirely dissimilar to the style of producer Guillermo Del Toro, and both aspects of the movie provide equal amounts of interest and tension.
All of the performers do a great job, but the majority of the time it's Belen Rueda carrying the movie and she's more than up to the task, making Laura a sympathetic character who does become unnerved and then frightened, but knows that she will do whatever it takes to find Simon. As for Simon himself, Roger Princep is a very capable young boy and his performance feels completely natural even among the creepier moments.
A wonderful score complements the cinematography and there are also some great audio cues used to add to the atmosphere. Mind you, it's not all dark beauty and polished technical work. Horror fans will be pleased to know that The Orphanage also has one or two fantastic jump scares, all the more effective thanks to their scarcity.
All in all, this is another excellent horror movie that I hope people seek out. I also hope that they don't make the same mistake as I did after a first viewing. Soak up the atmosphere, the performances and the details and I'm sure that won't happen.