The Orphanage is among the best ghost stories ever committed to celluloid and easily one of the best horror films of the 2000s. It is set in a beautiful coastal Spanish town at a very old, very large orphanage. Laura, a girl that grew up there has just purchased the property with her husband, Carlos, who is a doctor. They plan to take on five or six special needs children, which is a small amount given the size of the property, but they want to be able to provide special care and give the kids a good experience. The couple also has an adopted son, Simon, who is HIV positive and requires regular medication. As time passes Laura begins to hear noises and sense a sinister presence in the house. At the same time, Simon speaks of friends and playing games that can’t be possible unless there are other kids in the house. There are no other kids there so Laura and Carlos first assume he has imaginary friends. As Laura experiences more and more things, she begins to understand that Simon’s imagination is not as inventive as she once presumed.
The movie is a bit of slow burner. It isn’t packed with jump scares and chaos, but when it does utilize scares, the atmosphere and suspense are so well developed that the scares are really good. The kids that lived in the orphanage in the past comprise the ghostly presence, and their look is very well done and super creepy. The movie quite often made the hairs on my neck and legs stand up. That is an involuntary response and a rarity these days. I’ve just seen so many horror movies so when one can actually make me feel anxious and develop that sense of dreadful suspense, then you have to respect that and celebrate it.
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