31 Days of Halloween 17 – The Movie with a Remake on the Way

orphanage1Guillermo Del Toro is currently in production of a remake of The Orphanage (2007), a horror film written by his pal Sergio Sanchez and directed by his buddy, J.A. Bayona.  The original is a Spanish film, was filmed in Spain, and praised at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. It was very successful upon release and was the second highest grossing movie opening in Mexico ever.  Some highlights include a deep sense of foreboding and dread, much like in The Others (2001) or The Sixth Sense (1999), but actually good.

orphanage2 Guillermo Del Toro was involved in the original movie, and helped get it off the ground.  He is deeply invested in the story and the overall film, which is why the remake could be good.  The current movie is structured simply out of lack of money, which is in greater quantity financed by American backers, so Del Toro promises to craft a different movie.  With Del Toro as producer, Mark Pellington is pegged as director.  Pellington’s experience is in television and as director of The Mothman Prophecies (2002).

Aorphanage4my Adams is said to be cast as Laura, the orphan child who returns to the abandoned orphanage years later.  Belen Rueda plays Laura in the original and does a good job.  The movie begins with her and her family, which is a good opportunity to showcase her acting and ability to support the rest of the cast.  Apparently, Laura’s son Simon is HIV positive, but he seems like a healthy, normal kid.  She sends a social worker away when they claim to want to help.  I feel trouble brewing.

orphanage5 The slow build in this movie is great.  The layers build upon each other, get a little more complex, develop and boil over with drama and emotion.  It’s good structure.  Laura grew up in the orphanage and she wants to restore it as a home for special children.  It is a good place for creepy horror visuals.  She discovers what went on there in the past and not all of it is good.

Through the innocence of a child, Simon explains to his mom that he has made six new friends.  All of them can’t grow up.  His mother obviously has a problem with Simon’s new imaginary friends and the usual imaginary friend stuff happens.  Simon disappears after an argument with his mother and some strange stuff happens.  They can’t find him anywhere.  The tension builds at this point, accelerating the fear and anxiety in each scene.  Simon’s mother becomes more frantic.  Where did he go?

orphanage6About half-way through the movie, it slows down again and we play with plot and reality.  Is Simon really dead? Was he only in Laura’s head?  Is Laura crazy? If he’s not dead, who took him?  Where is he? Much like The Sixth Sense, things are presented in a straightforward way, but have hidden meanings and a deeper connection to the characters.  Her husband takes Laura to a bereavement group, but she still denies that Simon is dead.  Simon is missing and she promises to recover him.  She never wavers from this motivation.

orphanage7As a last result, Laura hires a spirit medium to communicate with Simon’s friends to find her son.  They set up in the house and it’s like an episode of Ghost Hunters on Sci-Fi, with computers, video taping, and audio recording.  They don’t find a damn thing.  And worse, they all seem convinced Simon is dead.  After following some clues, Laura discovers the ashes and bones of the children who used to live at the orphanage years ago.  Is Simon there with them?  Hell no, there’s another hour left, duh.  

The camera plays with perspective in this movie.  As the camera tilts, we can see things that otherwise would be hidden.  The camera also reveals hidden emotions, as it looks at characters from different angles, and lingers on them, follows them, and concentrates on them.  

orphanage8Laura finally reaches the spirits herself. The last twenty minutes of the movie are the best and the movie becomes a haunted house flick.   Unfortunately for her, there is no Vincent Price to help her out. The ghosts do the helping and lead her to Simon’s corpse, locked in the basement.  I was like…WTF?  Simon is dead?  Is this a trick?  What the fudge?  He was apparently the victim of an accident, but then he turns up alive a few minutes later.  SURPRISE!  I was just about done getting pulled around by this movie at this point.  STOP SCREWING WITH ME CRAZY LADY.  IS HE DEAD OR NOT?

The epilogue reveals all and gives us the answers without any dialogue whatsoever.  It is nearly perfect.  I won’t spoil it for you.  In the end, this movie is slow-moving and tense, but  Belen Rueda gives a great performance.  Her range of emotions is extraordinary and pulls you into the story with her.  You feel her anxiety and her grief over her son.  Let’s hope the English remake can get as good a performance out of its actors.  As a horror movie, The Orphanage only works marginally, and labeling it as a simple ghost story is not really fair.  It is a deep exploration of emotion, but the supernatural elements and a powerful sense of tension help bring it together to be a taut story of tragedy.

31 Days of Halloween Movie Marathon

1 – Frankenstein and the Monster from HELL (1974)
2 – Dracula has risen from the grave (1968)
3 – The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964)
4 – Evil Dead II (1987)
5 – Dawn of the Dead (1978)
6 – Les Diaboliques (1955)
7 – The Howling (1981)
8 – Friday the 13th (1980)
9 – Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
10 – Hellraiser (1987)
11 – Let the Right One in (2008)
12 – Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1984)
13 – House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
14 – The Strangers (2008)
15 – The House of the Devil (2009)
16 – Psycho (1960)
17 – The Orphanage (2007)
18 – The Amityville Horror (1979)
19 – The Raven (1963)
20 – Blue Velvet (1986)
21 – Repulsion (1965)
22 – Dementia 13 (1963)
23 – The Vanishing (2008)
24 – Halloween (1978)
25 – Shaun of the Dead (2004)
26 – The Silence of the Lambs (1988)
27 – An American Werewolf in London (1981)
28 – Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
29 – The Exorcist (1973)
30 – The Ring (2002)
31 – Night of the Living Dead (1968)