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Friday, July 29, 2011

DVD Challenge #18: THE ORPHANAGE

The Orphanage (El orfanato)
Run-time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Directed by: Juan Antonio Bayona
Starring: Belén Rueda, Fernando Cayo, Roger Príncep

Whenever I see Guillermo del Toro's name attached to a film, I have the immediate reaction that I should be expecting something, at the very least, above average. With directorial efforts like the Hellboy films and the brilliant Pan's Labyrinth, he's proven himself to be incredibly competent behind the camera. And although he takes his talents to the producer's chair for The Orphanage, you can still feel that del Toro "stamp" on the film, so to speak.

There are many ways to describe this film, but I think that the critical consensus offered on the online review aggregate offers the best concise breakdown: the film "is a breath of fresh air for critics and audiences alike, seamlessly blending in a poignant tale of loss with the scares and blood." In a day and age where remakes and reboots are the norm (especially in the horror camp), it's always nice to see something new and original hit the screens.

When it comes to horror films, I'm not really a fan of the "cheap thrills" - those moments meant to make you jump out of your seat. I feel like they really are cheap, giving you a sudden jolt that you won't remember two minutes later. No, the brand of horror I truly crave is the kind that can offer suspense that seeps into your subconscious. If a movie can get inside your head, I think it's all the more terrifying than a door slamming shut or a monster popping from behind a corner. And while The Orphanage does have a few "jump-out-of-your-seat" moments, it mostly delves into the suspense of the story to give its viewers their thrills and chills.

In order for a film to be successfully suspenseful, however, it needs to have an engaging storyline that allows the audience the opportunity to get lost in the story. With the horror and thriller genre, the only way to create legitimate terror through suspense is to hook the viewer from the opening scene and never let go of that hold. If a film can't do that, then it's lost its audience from the very start and is surely headed towards a drastic demise. It's for this very reason that we don't see all that many great horror films nowadays, but The Orphanage definitely teeters on the brink of greatness. We get a fantastic plot that's infused with a level of emotion not normally seen within this genre. It's this emotion that helps carry the film towards its rather beautiful conclusion, and it should be commended.

On the same hand, we're also getting a slew of great performances from the cast. Rueda is fantastic as our lead, and the young Príncep holds his own whenever he finds time on-screen. We also get a couple of rather good supporting performances, especially from the likes of Geraldine Chaplin who brings a legitimate cameo appearance to the film.

I'd also like to make a quick mention of the film's fantastic musical score, composed by Fernando Velázquez. It perfectly sets the mood for the film and holds the tone throughout. It's a beautifully written score, and here's a little snippet for your listening pleasure:

At the end of the day, however, it's the story and the emotion that truly carry The Orphanage to success. While I'm not quite ready to call the film "great," I do have to say that it's a very good movie that offers a different type of horror experience. If you're tired of cheap thrills and want a "breath of fresh air," then give The Orphanage a go. Be forewarned if you're not a fan of subtitles, however.

Previous DVD Challenge: SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004)

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