Sunday, 31 May 2009

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - The Orphanage

Well, well, well, for a change, I think we will have a film which is completely praiseworthy. By far and out, so far the best film I have seen all year. For starters, the acting in the film is note perfect, from Belen Rueda in the lead role to even the most minor of roles (Montserrat Carulla as Benigna). Belen Rueda delivers one of the best performances from an actress in a horror film in many years. Also, Fernando Cayo, who plays Carlos in the film, keeps a great of degree of sustained rationale in his performance throughout. Finally, in a breakthrough role as the young Simon, Roger Princep manages to be charismatic, humorous and mysterious all at once in one of the best performances by a child actor over the past decade. I could go on and on about the acting, but frankly I need to deal with the rest of the film. Worthy of mention is Sergio Sanchez's wonderful screenplay, which is one of the best structured screenplay's in many years. The characters are beautifully developed, with a fantastic unravelling of the plot, slowly giving us little pieces of the large jigsaw that makes up the mystery of The Orphanage. Normally a screenplay this good can fall folly of having a director who was not right for the project. Director Juan Antonio Bayona was not just right for the project, but damn near perfect. His restrained direction and respect for the script avoids the cheap pops and scares that normally come with a horror film. In my opinion, any other director would have exploited the story in a way that appeals to the horror side of the story. Bayona sticks to his guns in a very wise move, creating a story with multiple layers and in doing so creates a horror film that is overall, more accessible to a mainstream audience. I mean this in a good way, and not in the way that most "mainstream" horror movies appeal to the afformented "cheap pops and scares." The scares in this movie are genuinely unexpected and very terrifying indeed. However, the "big scares" are few and far between, enabling the tension to be sustained and what is truly the main story of the piece, which is the unconditional love of a mother for her son. Bayona displays a veteran instinct that reflects through in the finished film. And it is the man's first feature length film. This film is easily the best horror film debut since that of Richard Kelly with Donnie Darko. As mentioned earlier, the scares are truly unexpected, and the musical composition helps this. Not composed in the way that many horror films have music which, while attempting to develop tension for an upcoming scare, inevitably remind the more informed audience of today that a scare is coming along. This score is unique in its creation, done in a very unfamiliar way which does indeed take us off-guard. Also, for the scenes of genuine emotion (and this film has many) the music helps enhance the scene, rather than bringing it down to the usual level of Hollywood corniness. Also, the cinematography is superb, varying from the harsh, beaming colours of the daylight, to the barely visible blacks and greys of the night. This is particularly exploited in the orphanage itself, with the nooks and crannies of the building being enveloped in shadow, not revealing what is really there. Finally, the film is a movie of genuine emotion, and not just some cheap attempt to exploit spooky children and ghosts. The best horror film in my opinion since 28 Days Later. However, in many ways it is better than 28 Days Later, for this is a genuinely emotional film which does make the audience feel and empathize with the lead characters. The first movie that this actually reminds me of is The Exorcist, another masterfully structured, genuinely scary, but nonetheless emotional film. I am very happy that this received alot of press attention and a wide cinema release, because should genuinely see this and deserve to see this after the recent drought of films. Do not be put off by the fact that it is subtitled and is in Spanish. Please seek it out. You will enjoy it. If you want a genuinely scary ghost story with an emotional storyline, this is the movie for you. The first true masterpiece of 2008.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 9/10

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