Combustible Celluloid
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With: Belén Rueda, Fernando Cayo, Roger Príncep, Mabel Rivera, Montserrat Carulla, Andrés Gertrúdix, Alejandro Campos, Geraldine Chaplin, Edgar Vivar
Written by: Sergio G. Sánchez
Directed by: Juan Antonio Bayona
MPAA Rating: R for some disturbing content
Language: Spanish, with English subtitles
Running Time: 100
Date: 05/20/2007

The Orphanage (2007)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Beasts and Children

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Guillermo Del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth) added his name as "presenter" of this skillful, moving Mexican horror film, proving that he has good taste. Belén Rueda (The Sea Inside) gives a terrific performance as Laura, who, with her husband and son, moves back into the now-abandoned orphanage in which she grew up. She hopes to bring in several new, troubled children of her own. During a welcome party, her own son Simón (Roger Príncep) disappears. We also learn about a horribly disfigured boy who lived there during Laura's childhood and who may or may not still be haunting the grounds. Laura begins an obsessive search for her son, and also of her own past, despite the impatience of her husband (Fernando Cayo). She even calls in a medium (Geraldine Chaplin), recalling a similarly effective sequence in Poltergeist (1982). First-time director Juan Antonio Bayona (with a series of short films and music videos under his belt) has an amazing touch for color, light and darkness, sound, space and nuance, and his presentation of horror never tricks or insults the audience. The horror is a by-product of his emotional investment in the characters. In the end, The Orphanage is far more moving than it is scary, though it's certainly scary too. Newcomer Sergio G. Sánchez wrote the screenplay.

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