by Chris Lovato
Since it is Halloween month, we thought it would be fun to have new KRL writer, Chris Lovato, share with us in our Monday Movie Reviews some movies on his Halloween Must Watch Movie list. Feel free in the comments to share some of your own!
Un, dos, tres, toca la pared. (One, two three, knock on the wall)
These words, part of a simple child’s game, begin a tale of suspense and tragedy; in other words, a sign of a Guillermo del Toro produced film. If you’re familiar with his work, or you enjoyed Pan’s Labyrinth, then you might find yourself sucked into…El Orfanato, or, The Orphanage.
Set in Spain during the 70s, it follows the story of Laura, a girl that grew up in an orphanage, and what happens when she returns as an adult. Eager to reopen the place she grew up in as a home for children that need special care, she moves into the old house with her husband, Carlos, and her son, Simón, who makes imaginary friends with “invisible children.” When Laura starts to notice things aren’t as peaceful as they seem, and perhaps that old stones are better left unturned, Simón goes missing during a party, shortly after the appearance of a child in a sack mask. Over the months that follow, she spirals deeper into depression as she searches for her son, but when she starts to entertain the notion that her son’s imaginary friends might not be so imaginary, she’s drawn into a race against time to find Simón and solve the mysteries of the orphanage. When all is said and done, the tension gives way to a tragic, yet somehow happy, ending.
Belén Rueda’s performance as Laura changed as dramatically as the arc of the film, going from a happy mother to a grieving woman and showing us what it’s like to lose a child. Fernando Cayo plays Carlos, and he does a wonderful job of maintaining the role as the skeptic and father trying to be strong. Roger Princep appears for a short time as Simón, but perhaps the most interesting role in the film is filled by Montserrat Carulla as Benigna Escobeda, a woman posing as a social worker; like the house, things aren’t what they appear to be with her. Mabel Rivera and Geraldine Chaplin both give memorable performances as Pilar, a police psychologist, and Aurora, a medium, respectively.
Of course, it wouldn’t be El Orfanato without the orphanage, and the film crew did a wonderful job of creating a house to play host to the “invisible children” and Laura’s family. Overflowing with a somewhat creepy, lived-in feel, it definitely does its part to lend to the chills of the film, especially la casita de Tomás. From the scarecrow to the old playground carousel to the orphans’ old bedroom, every nook and cranny was beautifully designed, and every creak and noise will have you jumping.
A note: this movie is originally in Spanish, and of course, there are subtitles or, for people who don’t like to read while they’re watching a movie, an English dub. As usual, I highly recommend watching the film in Spanish with subtitles, but it’s not necessary to enjoy it.
You can definitely add this one to the list of good films that del Toro’s had his hand in, and most certainly to the Halloween Must Watch List. Although it’s not a blood and guts, slice and dice kind of movie, it’s one to watch with the lights off. By the way, if you cried at the ending of Pan’s Labyrinth, have some tissues ready at the end.
Fear Factor 3/5 (More spine-tingling than scary)