A ghostly orphanage

(Canscene) — “Serious” ghost stories have been rare in film. One fondly recalls the British omnibus classic Dead of Night, the all-but forgotten Latin Quarter, the first version of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting, Jack Clayton’s The Innocents, John Carpenter’s The Fog, Nicholas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now, Tom Tryon’s The Other — all films in which the hauntings are real and not played for laughs.

El Orfanato from Spain is one such.. It’s been produced by Guillermo del Toro of Pan’s Labyrinth fame and directed with a great sense of location by Juan Antonio Bayona

Laura, wife and mother (played by Belen Rueda who graced the screen so beautifully in The Sea Inside) has persuaded her wealthy husband to purchase the old orphanage in which she was raised before adoption.

But gradually, the orphanage begins to take on a personality of its own and the woman’s son is seen in the company of a group of children who may or may not be real. Then he disappears.

After months of frantic and fruitless search for the boy, working with the police and even a celebrated medium (Geraldine Chaplin) Laura is on the point of abandoning her home, but after has husband has left decides to stay one more night.

The last twenty-five minutes of this film as Laura, alone, stalks the corridors and cellars of the orphanage looking for her son, provide almost unbearable suspense with shock achieved by punctuating silence with sudden sounds.


Rueden’s performance is great as she registers Laura’s fear, conquered by maternal love and determination . El Orfanato is worthy addition to a genre that is almost totally neglected today in favor of crude and gory horror films.

Comments are closed.