3 April 2008

THE ORPHANAGE (Dir. Juan Antonio Bayona, 2007, Spain) - Disappointing Thriller From the Producer of Pan's Labryinth

The Orphanage is another film which has been overhyped and fails to live up to the impossibly high expectations that have been consensually generated by mainstream critics in the UK. The film has been a gigantic commercial success in Spain and is doing very good business for a 'subtitled' film in the UK, having gained a good distribution deal, allowing it to target the multiplex crowd. This is not a horror film but a traditional ghost story that draws a great deal upon Gothic literature and American films like The Others, The Sixth Sense and Poltergeist. This is a very minor film with little originality in terms of the ghost story genre, relying upon established conventions like the one about the past coming back to haunt the present. For me, this film has been marketed quite cleverly, misleading audiences with it's effectively taut trailer that gives very little away in terms of key narrative plot points. What would have made for much more of an interesting story is if they had stayed with the child's perspective and had the narrative unfold through the eyes of the little boy who is played brilliantly by a talented young actor. The twist ending is totally uninspiring and was lost on me as an audience member as everything seemed to build up to this one moment and when it arrives it suddenly seems as though we have just been robbed because not only is it quite predictable, it is cynically manipulative and very Del Toro like in it's fatalism.

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