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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 8 April 2009
This is one of the best films I have seen in a long time and perhaps the most powerful and moving. Reviewers debate whether the film is a 'horror' or not - well for me at least, I found it genuinely chilling and scary and can think of few other so called horror films that had a profound and emotional effect on me. Infact I would go as far as to say very few films have ever given me the chills - but this did. More than that I was weeping like a emotional wreck by the end. It is fortunate that the wife hates watching sub titled films so I was able to 'experience' this without the indignity of others witnessing it!
Set in Spain and subtitled for nthe non spanish speaking, the film is a well conceived 'haunted house story' delivered in a manner similar to The Others and containing an atmospheric feel akin to the excellent Pan's Labrinth and Dont Look Now. For those who haveendured the loss or fear of losing a child - this story is both impactful and full of empathy. Carefully crafted, mature and intelligent in composition - a dark horse of a masterpiece. Supremely well acted and directed and highly recommended,
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on 27 February 2013
I am baffled as to why this film is listed under horror as there wasn't anything in it that scared me in any kind of way. There are some supernatural references but the essence of the film seems to be very much about a mother's turmoil after her ill son's disappearance. Despite not being what i was expecting it is a great film. I was prepared to jump out of my seat and hide behind my hands but ended up being close to tears after the emotional and heartwarming rollarcoaster that it puts you through. I do recommend it but if you expect to be terrified you will be disappointed!
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VINE VOICEon 15 March 2009
"The Orphanage" is a slow-paced supernatural chiller that builds stylishly to a sad,unexpected climax. A middle-aged couple move into an old orphanage with their young adopted son who has a serious illness. Their son has imaginary friends who he "plays" with to his parents mild amusement, but after he suddenly disappears they start to wonder how imaginary they really are. They call in a team of psychics who indicate that some manner of atrocity had taken place in the orphanage many years earlier and they suspect that it may be linked to their son's disappearance. The mother single-mindedly tries to get to the bottom of the mystery and after some tense scenes the various pieces of the jigsaw slot into place at the end. Ghost stories and horror movies aren't really my favourite genres of film, but "The Orphanage" was a cut above most of them.
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on 22 February 2011
There's not a lot I can say that hasn't already been said; but I too would like to admit blubbering like a baby at the end of this masterpiece.

Tense and touching, terrifying yet utterly tear-jerking, the plot twists snake-like and leaves you guessing right up to the last 20 minutes; which for me are amoung the most powerful I've ever seen.

Once in a blue moon you watch a film that for whatever reason 'changes' you. The Orphanage re-set my expectations and made me sit up and realise that the vast majority of films are actually dross! Watch this film and you too will be saying 'Now that's how you make a film' over a post-viewing box of tissues.

The Orphanage - An all too rare marvel that I couldn't recommend highly enough.
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on 28 March 2008
For the past few months I, a huge fan of movies, have been eagerly anticipating the latest Guillermo Del Toro film to hit our screens. After all of this angst, the day finally arrived and I can't tell you how pleased I was with the result.

"The Orphanage" by debut director Juan Antonio Bayona, is a truly mesmerising tale produced by the visionary director of "Pan's Labyrinth" (another superbly executed Spanish fantasy movie).

At the start of the story, children play a "knock, knock, knock on the wall" game in the grounds of an orphanage. However, these images soon melt into blackness to be replaced by wallpaper (for the title sequence) which is then ripped away by young hands, with tormenting music echoing in the background. I soon gathered that this was not going to be the most pleasant of tales.

Around thirty years on, we slowly slip into the world of Laura who has just moved back into her childhood home, the orphanage. The setting is now slightly more sinister: darker clouds, stormier seas and creaking doors galore. As the film progresses it becomes apparent that Laura's adopted son, Simón, has HIV and is therefore on constant medication, not great when, in a moment of carelessness, Simón vanishes. What evolves from this scene is a harrowing tale which examines the reality of loss, insanity, horror, and, most importantly, challenges our imagination, the one thing that when in the darkness of the orphanage, we cannot control.

Some scenes in this movie are utterly horrific, there is no doubt about it. Although gore is of the minimum, suspense and horror and childhood games are not. There is one section of this film that scared me witless. Imagine the haunting eyes of a medium (played by a superbly creepy Geraldine Chaplin) alone in the dark corridors of the orphanage as the screams of dying children echo through ours ears. Or perhaps, the games children play with our minds when we're alone in the dark. Let me make this fact clear and simple: this is one hell of scary ride.

Like "The Others" in many ways, this gothic film is brought from a well-made ghost story to an excellent movie by its female lead, Belén Rueda. In the film's first quarter, she portrays a vision of serenity that is soon shatter by the loss of her son. Although she shines mostly in the dark corridors, her cacophony of screams are the single most important thing in this movie. They really do send a shiver down your spine. As with the harrowing, water-drenched moment on the beach and at the film's shockingly emotional conclusion, Rueda lures us into the action on screen and sends a sorrowful tear dribbling down your cheek.

The film's conclusion is unlike any other I have ever witnessed during a ghost story. It is not cheesy or predictable or pointless. And it doesn't let the whole film down. It is simply origional and emotional. I won't go into great depth about what happens as it will ruin the entire movie, but I will give you one little clue: think of Peter Pan and Wendy, the story of never growing up, never wanting to leave your roots.

"The Orphanage" made my day cold, and I'm sure it will do the same to you. What could have been an average film with an average story and average scares, was brought to our eyes with such meticulous detail from director Juan Antonio Bayona that it emerges as the last decade's greatest ghost story. It lingers in your imagination long after the horrors have ended. Not only does it seamlessly blend Guillermo's fantastical vision with horror, "The Orphanage" depicts the life of a parent whose child has disappeared to stunning effect. And that is a rare attribute to a find in a movie.
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on 8 October 2008
The Orphanage, does bring sophistication in ghost stories which is rarely heard of, but Guillermo Del Toro manages to pull it off time and time again, and somehow he even managed to inject his magic into this one, which he only produced - as this very much plays out like one of his own films. Not to discredit Mr. Bayona, though, for he has done a fine job. This is a dark, powerful, and moving masterpiece that both adheres to convention and brings some new, more artistic elements to the table in the direction and storytelling.

There was nothing about this film I didn't like. The acting, the thrills, the cinematography, the story, and the atmosphere. Everything was not short of sheer brilliance. The chilling moments freaked me out a couple of times, which I'm glad they did. That was what I wanted out of this film, but I was offered so much in return. Since I knew Guillermo Del Toro was involved with this project, I had a feeling it would be good. I just didn't think it would be THIS good. It was also very heart-warming, which was something I did not expect.

The acting is great, Belen Rueda as Laura is magnificent. Fernando Cayo as the husband Carlos is also good; he looks like a Spanish version of Josh Lucas. The kids do a decent job. And seeing Geraldine Chaplin (Charlie Chaplin's daughter) was a surprise, and she delivered an excellent performance as the 'seeing' medium. The bond that Laura, Simon, and Carlos shared is very sensitive and is carried out well throughout the movie.

This is definitely one of those horror films you should see more than once. The horror films you see nowadays are weak, not scary, and most of all; not worth your time. This one is WORTH the time. Believe me, his film has absolutely everything you need to know on how to make a well-executed ghost story and more.
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on 24 December 2009
i really enjoyed this movie as there was none of your usual gore and blood. it was just scary and quite jumpy in parts. similar in parts to the others(nicole kidman) with a big house and creaking doors. its a spanish movie but you forget the subtitles are even there after a couple of minutes. great storyline and great ending. iwatched it on dvd but have since purchased it on bluray to add to my collection and its worth the few extra quid for bluray defo.
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on 25 March 2008
Just got back from the cinema and have to say that this film is a real gem. After about 15 people walked out because of the subtitles (meatheads)you can sit back and NOT relax. It's alot like 'Dont Look Now' and other chillers. It's what you don't see that scares you although there are real moments of fright.

The story is original and emotional with blind kids, one so ugly they put a sack over his meathead. The film is handled well and moves at a good pace (like all Toro)dealing with parenthood and the paranormal.

For those who liked Pans Labyrinth you won't be disappointed. One real good sequence is following the medium round the house with fixed camcorders and sound recorders as she tries to find the spirits of children.

To finalize, a great thriller/horror. Go and see it (but don't take popcorn or sweet wrappers and any under 15's into the cinema- it's annoying)
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on 27 July 2009
I have just finished watching this movie and I am in tears.
(And I'm a guy).

Tears, not through fear, but through emotion.

I have never before watched a film with such an incredible plot, twists, and final scene as this.

Yes it makes your hair stand up on end, (time and time again) yet there is little violence if any.

Yes there are creepy scenes and darkness, but this is after all a scary film. It meant to scare you and it does, I lost count how many times I said 'freaky' outloud and felt really un-nerved.

Yet it has a mind blowing end sequence that is just so moving, so touching that you must watch this utterly superb film.

10/10 - never seen anything like it.
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VINE VOICEon 22 March 2008
I went to the local multiplex cinema to see this amazing Spanish ghost story. I was enthralled by its premise and the execution of the film was brilliant.

It tells of how a young woman called Laura, who acquires this old orphanage where she once had a life, and decides to turn it into a place for children with learning disabilities. On the opening day, her young son, Simon, who has imaginary friends because of his vivid imagination, disappears and Laura loses control of her feelings and embarks on a search to find him.

A couple of days before this, a strange old lady comes calling saying she's a social worker, but she turns out not to be all she seems. On her search, Laura decides to bring in a medium to hopefully try and find her missing son. Despite the lady conceding she heard five voices screaming from this one room, Laura decides to go it alone.

I felt that the performance by the Spanish actress Belen Rueda, as Laura, is impressive and believable. She shows a lot of range in this performance and you feel for her sadness and eventual happiness.

There are some terrific and really frightening moments throughout this inventive and scary film. The most memorable for me, I think, would be the orphanage building. It's a place where you wouldn't want to be left alone knowing that the ghosts of days gone by haven't been put to rest. The brooding score and atmospheric cinematography are chilling and brilliant. The production design is first rate too. These elements all add to an impressive ghost story that's almost old-fashioned in its delivery and execution.

It goes to show that you don't need computer generated effects to make a decent horror/thriller. You just need an eirie old building and use the insides of it. The doors opening and closing on their own is enough for me. This is one of the best films of this kind I've seen. If you don't mind thrills see it.
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