The Orphanage, or El Orfanato is a Spanish horror movie directed by J.A Bayona. It is about a woman, Laura, who buys the orphanage she grew up in. She plans to open up her own care home for children as well as making it a home for her own family – her husband Carlos and adopted son Simon, who is HIV positive. Not long after they arrive does it appear the house contains some horrible secrets and the ghosts within start to haunt the family, focussing most of their attention on Simon.
Simon claims to have befriended a boy called Tomas who tells him secrets of the house. Simon draws pictures of Tomas who always has a burlap sack covering his head. Simon and Laura play a game together where they hide clues for one another around the house, each clue leads to the next and at the end they are granted a wish. Simon tells Laura he knows that he is adopted and that he will die soon. The social worker who is assigned to the family, Benigna, acts suspiciously around the family and on one occasion, Laura finds her in the garden outhouse. While throwing a party for the launch of her new care home, she and Simon have a fight which results in Simon hiding from her. After the party Laura deduces that Simon is missing after searching for him everywhere. She hears several loud crashes and noises throughout the night and the following day, Police tell her they suspect that Benigna has abducted him.
The search for her son starts to eat away at her life and her marriage. She becomes obsessed with finding her son and ultimately she turns to the children who haunt her house to help her find him. They set up clues, like in Simon’s game which should lead her straight to him, but she gets stuck on one of the clues – a doorknob. She checks every door in the house and can’t find one with a missing handle. She drives herself into sickness as she continues to search for Simon which eventually leads to the films dramatic, heart stopping, gut wrenching final twist which will stay with you for days after.
The Orphanage is infinitely terrifying throughout, the ghosts of the children though they may seem to be harmless and innocent are blood-curdlingly scary, one specific scene that of nightmarish proportions is when Laura plays ‘1, 2, 3 knock on the door’ to encourage the children to reveal themselves to her. Grab a pillow, seriously.
Terrifying, emotional and devastating this film goes all out to make you feel depressed afterwards. It truly is a masterful horror film and one that will be sure to make you jump, scream and cry out as the wretched tale of El Orfanato is played out. What better film to watch on Friday 13th?
The Orphanage is available to borrow from the DVD Zone at 791.430946 O