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Geraldine Chaplin, Belén Rueda, Fernando Cayo, Roger Príncep, Mabel Rivera ... see more see more... , Montserrat Carulla , Andres Gertrudix , Edgar Vivar , Oscar Casas , Mireia Renau , Georgina Avellaneda , Carla Gordillo , Alejandro Camps , Carmen Lopez , Oscar Lara , Enric Arquimbau , Blanca Martínez , Carol Suárez , Isabel Friera , Fernando Marriot , Jordi Cardus , Pedro Morales

Pan's Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro produces director Juan Antonio Bayona's gothic frightener about a long-abandoned orphanage with a particularly troubling past. As a child, young orphan Laur... read more read more...a spent her formative years being cared for by the staff of a large orphanage located by the Spanish seaside. Those were some of the happiest years of Laura's life, and now, 30 years later, the former charge returns to the dilapidated institution with her husband, Carlos, and their seven-year-old son, Simon, to reopen the orphanage as a facility for disabled children. However, something ominous haunts the darkened hallways of this silent, stately manor. When Simon's behavior begins to grow increasingly bizarre and malicious, Laura and Carlos start to suspect that the mysterious surroundings have awoken something ominous in the young boy's imagination. It's not long before Laura, too, is drawn into this disturbing web and the repressed memories of the past come flooding back in a terrifying torrent of tension and deeply disturbing revelations. With opening day drawing near and their situation growing increasingly grim by the hour, Carlos attempts to write off Simon's bizarre behavior as a desperate bid to get more attention from his distracted parents. Laura isn't so easily convinced of this theory, though, and soon embarks on a desperate quest to unearth the terrible secret that lurks in the old house, waiting for just the right moment to inflict devastating damage on both her and her family. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

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86% liked it

64,955 ratings


86% liked it

168 critics

R, 1 hr. 45 min.

Directed by: Juan Antonio Bayona

Release Date: December 28, 2007

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DVD Release Date: April 22, 2008

Stats: 13,533 reviews

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Flixster Reviews (13,533)

  • February 18, 2014
  • January 20, 2014
    Great awesome edge of your seat perfect movie. Wow I was speechless of how good this movie was. Laura purchases her beloved childhood orphanage with dreams of restoring and reopening the long abandoned facility as a place for disabled children. Once there, Laura discovers that th... read moree new environment awakens her son's imagination, but the ongoing fantasy games he plays with an invisible friend quickly turn into something more disturbing. Upon seeing her family increasingly threatened by the strange occurrences in the house, Laura looks to a group of parapsychologists for help in unraveling the mystery that has taken over the place.
  • April 30, 2012
    The Orphanage feels like many of the other films in the genres for the first half, with samey scenes, unoriginal story and predictable 'jumps'. Then about halfway through the film shows its heart and it gets really good. It's one of those films that I liked throughout but ended u... read morep loving purely because of the last scene, which is perfect. It certainly redeems itself and shows its one of the best of its ilk.
  • November 11, 2011
    Spain has turned out quite a few excellent horror films in the last few years, and in my opinion, some of the most terrifying and original films of the last decade. The Orphanage is a brilliant, near flawless and beautifully constructed ghost story. The film benefits from all the... read more necessary ingredients to make a terrifying, and memorable horror film. Director J.A Bayona crafts one of the best ghost stories I've seen since The Others. What makes The Orphanage such a solid horror film is the tense, creepy atmosphere and effective pacing to steadily build up the horror. This is a solid, well acted horror film that is a must see for Diehard fans of the genre, or anyone looking for a good scare. I love horror, been a fan since I was a kid, and I've been quite unhappy with the current state of horror with all the remakes being released. Aside from a select few, most of them are terrible. However, it's nice to see an original, creepy horror film like this that comes out considering the fading trend of quality horror films. The Orphanage is a solid horror film. This is a smartly crafted film that delivers genuine chills and suspense. The Orphanage is simply put a brilliant, well acted horror film that is memorable and is one of the best horror films of the last decade. The film is scary, thrilling and spine tingling, as what a good horror film should be.
  • June 22, 2011
    Mainstream horror in the early-21st century has become defined by inept remakes, unnecessary reboots, and an uncreative obsession with physical mutilation embodied by so-called 'torture porn'. But even as the genre was taken to new lows with Roland Joffé's utterly vile Captivity,... read more there were a couple of reasons to be cheerful about being a horror fan. The first was Pan's Labyrinth, and the second is The Orphanage.

    The Orphanage is the latest chapter in the reinvention of horror and fantasy cinema spearheaded by Guillermo Del Toro and his counterparts. Although ostensibly directed by Juan Antonio Bayona, Del Toro's fingerprints are all over this stylish and chilling ghost story which breathes new life into the haunted house sub-genre and the lost child motif. While not on a par with Pan's Labyrinth, it is a worthy companion to both Del Toro's own ghost story The Devil's Backbone and to the classic cinematic ghost stories of the early-1960s.

    Because of its ghost story heritage, The Orphanage is immediately comparable to The Innocents, The Haunting and most recently The Others, in its emphasis on the unknown and its use of suggestion and paranoia rather than shock and gore to bring out true terror in an audience. There are also connections with Don't Look Now and Dark Water in the central thread of a family attempting to cope with the loss of their child, and in the resulting encounters with the spirit world where the intentions of the spirits are decidedly ambiguous.

    Like these great ghost stories, The Orphanage is on one level about dealing with grief - or more specifically, the idea that being able to make contact with the world beyond this would be in some way cathartic. Just as Julie Christie feels at ease after the psychic sister tells her that her daughter is safe and happy, so Belen Rueda allows the medium into her home on the grounds that she might be able to make contact with Simon. And as with Don't Look Now, direct communication with the supernatural lifts the lid off Pandora's Box, compelling Rueda's character to pursue her son even at the cost of her own life.

    If you want proof of the strength of the production, both in its direction and its script, you need look no further than the sequence involving the medium, played in a good performance by Geraldine Chaplin. Utilising the same hand-held, infrared aesthetic of The Blair Witch Project or [Rec], this is the point where the film could fall apart and descend into nothing than scared faces intercut with loud bangs. But though the content of these scenes are naturally creepy, Bayona never allows the tone to get too hysterical. He keeps cutting back to the crew observing and recording the medium, keeping our focus on the reasons behind the set-piece rather than simply expecting us to be scared.

    The Orphanage utilises a number of different techniques which combine seamlessly to keep the shivers flowing down our spine. The most prominent technique is the use of suggestion, with the long shadowy corridors and creaky floorboards of the orphanage leading us to imagine we are seeing something we are not. The masks worn by the children at the welcome party also have a macabre, creepy quality, being reminiscent of the Venetian masks worn in the mansion scenes of Eyes Wide Shut. But there are also one or two scenes of physicalized horror to provide variety, including a shattered and disproportioned face worthy of Rob Bottin.

    But beyond scaring us purely as a technical exercise, The Orphanage uses its chilling atmosphere to explore other issues beyond that of grief and catharsis. On a broader level it explores the way in which life and death intertwine, merge and even co-exist within a given place. The orphanage is presented as both a physical entity rooted in the present and as a portal into the past - a vessel, if you like, for the souls of the children who lived there. The crime that was committed there all those years ago has caused their souls to remain there, like a dark mark on history, and they now seek company in the form of Laura to comfort them and explain their fate.

    There are big overtones of Peter Pan in The Orphanage which influence its view of the afterlife and the role of the central character. The children at the orphanage are like the Lost Boys, both in their status as orphans and the fact that they will never age. Simon's fondness for the book, games and his 'imaginary friends' stems from a desire to remain young forever; when teamed with the knowledge that he is dying, his insolent rejection of his parents becomes a yearning for something or somewhere where death is no longer feared.

    If the ghost children are the Lost Boys and Simon is one of the Darling children, Laura begins as the sceptical parent but ends up rediscovering her childhood self and taking on the role of Wendy. There is a through-line with Pan's Labyrinth here in the idea of a central female protagonist who has forgotten her true identity, and who must find her true self through a series of challenges. But The Orphanage puts its own spin on it, characterising Neverland as the afterlife and the physical act of death as the gateway to staying young forever.

    This emphasis on childhood and childlikeness slips over into the behaviour of the ghosts with regard to their human companions. In the earlier sections of the film, The Orphanage seems to side with The Haunting in portraying the supernatural as something inherently and inexplicably malevolent, as shown by Tomas slamming Laura's finger in the bathroom door and then locking her in. But as things move on the ghosts' nature becomes more clearly playful; like children, they do as they please because they do not know the consequences of their actions. Any perception of threat is less down to their intentions as our preconceptions about death and the afterlife.

    There is a further comparison with The Haunting in the question of whether the events which transpire at the orphanage have any form of rational explanation. In the final scene, where the source of the scraping sounds is revealed, we gain some kind of understanding as to where the boundary between the explicable and the inexplicable lies. But up until then The Orphanage is great at keeping us guessing, generating real suspense during the night sequences which build to a heart-breaking last ten minutes.

    The Orphanage is also visually beautiful. Oscar Faura, who most recently shot Julia's Eyes, captures the haunting quality of the orphanage through a careful selection of pale blues, faded browns and a meticulous choice of shadows. The film has a sumptuous quality to it which makes its harsher moments all the more frightening. The performances are also of a high quality, with Belen Rueda anchoring the film in a portrayal which combines panic, dignity, sorrow and despair while never seeming anything less than human.

    The Orphanage is a first-class ghost story which confirms horror's ability, in the right hands, to address profound and insightful issues in a manner which is not only immersive, but sensitive, touching and intensely memorable. Because of its strong resemblance to Del Toro's work, it's hard to say how much of its success lies with Bayona, or whether he will be able to achieve this level of results under his own steam. But in the meantime it should be celebrated for what it is, namely an intelligent, heart-breaking chiller which will stay with you for a very long time.
  • February 1, 2011
    At first it was really spooky.. any time you put creepy kids in masks it's going to be spooky. But then the movie took a turn, it got really sad. Never Never Land to say the least.. heartbreaking.
    It was visual and you don't even notice it's not in English after awhile. But sinc... read moree you have to read subtitles, you have to pay attention.. no hiding through the scary parts.
  • December 29, 2010
    A well made and well acted movie. But... it's also one of the most depressing things I have watched in a long time. I was told it was one of the creepiest ghost movies that has been seen in the last few years but it didn't hold up in that department. While there were a couple ... read morescenes that were creepy, the movie tended to be a little slow and in the end nothing more than a flick that made me want to drink myself into a coma to escape the depression that it caused.
  • October 14, 2010
    This is a great foreign movie full of alot of eery and creepy stuff. Plus, there is plenty of mystery that keeps you wondering what happened until the shocking ending. A must see!
  • September 8, 2010
    3 stars
  • July 28, 2010
    a really great horror movie. it suprised me a lot. i wasnt interested in it at first but i really liked this movie. B+

Critic Reviews

Peter Travers
October 7, 2013
Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

A frightening movie that earns its scares the hard way, generating unbearable tension through artful technique instead of computer. Full Review

Bob Mondello
October 18, 2008
Bob Mondello,

The picture is a creepily effective exercise in gothic technique. Full Review

Tom Charity
October 18, 2008
Tom Charity,

At a time when American horror seems transfixed by graphic sadism, the acclaimed Spanish chiller El Orfanato harks back to an older tradition of psychological scares and things that go bump in the night. Full Review

Michael Phillips
October 18, 2008
Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

[Director Bayona] has a fine career ahead of him. Full Review

Sara Cardace
October 18, 2008
Sara Cardace, New York Magazine/Vulture

Alas, there's no Ahhhh! moment at the end to justify the mounting tension. Full Review

Peter Howell
October 18, 2008
Peter Howell, Toronto Star

The year's best horror picture is also one of the simplest. Full Review

Colin Covert
July 16, 2008
Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Bayona never spoonfeeds the audience, giving us lots of latitude to exercise our imaginations and believe what we choose as the film builds to its devastating climax. Full Review

Liam Lacey
June 4, 2008
Liam Lacey, Globe and Mail

What's even more disquieting is the persistent undercurrent of exploitation -- the mixture of grief and jarring shock effects and the pitiless use of a disfigured child as a source of horror. Full Review

Nigel Floyd
March 20, 2008
Nigel Floyd, Time Out

An extraordinary performance by Belén Rueda is the beating heart and tortured soul of The Orphanage. Full Review

Rene Rodriguez
January 11, 2008
Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald

The movie is so good at using its horror elements to explore deeper, less fantastical emotions. For all its bump-in-the-night suspense, The Orphanage is ultimately as much about motherhood and grief a...

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    • Laura: One, two, three, knock on the wall.
    • Aurora: Seeing is not believing, it's the other way round. Believe,and you will see.

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