Since becoming a parent, there are certain movies that affect me in ways they didn’t when I was younger. The Orphanage taps into the fierce devotion of motherhood, relying on a parent’s worst fears to provide its horror. It’s a spooky ghost story that is light on gore and void of jump scares, perfect for squeamish horror fans who still want to get some goosebumps this October.
Produced by Guillermo del Toro and directed by J.A. Bayona, The Orphanage stars Belén Rueda as Laura, a woman who was adopted from The Good Shepherd Orphanage as a child. With her husband, Carlos, she returns to the abandoned orphanage with her adopted son, Simón, in the hopes of opening a home for disabled children. Soon Simón begins to talk about imaginary friends that roam the halls of the Orphanage. He tells Laura of a game that the children play where they steal your most treasured belonging and set up a scavenger hunt to lead you to it. If you win the game by finding your treasure, they will grant you one wish. On the morning of a party for families of children who may come to live in the house, Simón tries to get Laura to come see his friend Tomás’s “funny little house”. In a rush, she refuses and he throws a tantrum causing Laura to strike him. It’s the last interaction they have before Simón disappears.
The movie centers on Laura’s search for her son as she begins to unravel secrets centered around what happened to her childhood friends after she was adopted. Belén Rueda’s performance as Laura captures the desperation of a parent who refuses to give up hope. She is captivating as she grasps at tenuous threads, ultimately trying to engage in a game with Simón’s imaginary friends. The film is filled with beautiful shots of the crumbling old house and the Spanish sea. At times, the music can be a bit poorly chosen, but it isn’t so distracting that it ruins this otherwise well-crafted film.
Featuring ghosts, creepy children, a strange old lady, and a house full of secrets, The Orphanage is a beautiful and heartbreaking film and a great way to get your spooky movie fix this Halloween.