May 8, 2008

The Orphanage

There is nothing more terrifying than a child. The evidence lies in every single classic horror film such as The Shining, IT, Poltergeist, and last but not least, The Exorcist. The idea of something so innocent and pure carves way for the greatest achievements of horror in marble. Like the latest Spanish fantasy horror films, this one sets the bar even higher. The semi-recent Pans Labyrinth was the perfect foreign specimen. That film alone, proved that Spain has a more-than capable film industry and gave adults a wonderful fairy tale. With Del Toro presenting this film, I can safely say that this film might hold its own against Pans Labyrinth.

Laura is a thirty something year old who bought her childhood orphanage with her husband and child in hopes of re-opening the orphanage for disabled children. When her son finds out he is HIV-positive and an orphan, he confides in his imaginary friends attached to the dark past of the orphanage. When her son disappear without a trace, she must solve the riddles left by the children to uncover the truth about the orphanage.

Plot in a nut-shell; A headstrong woman tells the dad that he is no longer needed just to exercise the all-feminist motherly rights. We've seen it many times in film. The father figure is just a plot device and has no real involvement, whether it's work or a scandalous affair. This preposterous feminist front for horror films is the face of new horror. The survivors (if any) are all women who have been pushed to the edge of sanity. To illustrate my example, take a look at modern horror.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
The Descent
The Ruins
Prom Night
Alien VS. Predator

My list could go on. Point is, this facade is just the humble beginnings of a new style of horror. Survival instincts are out the door. There is no more manly lumberjack saving the day with an axe, the throne belongs to Tegan and Sara fans. Regardless of the misandric beliefs in today's horror, the film boils down to the formula of a failed American psychological horror film but with more "zazz"

New horror in cultures present a large obstacle. When Japanese horror began to get noticed for it's originality, the style of film never developed and it soon became clear that even the Intuitive Japs were running out of ideas and recycling ideas and sequels. Just as every culture has done before that, Spanish horror films are beginning to dull down. The Devil's Backbone was damn near the same film as Pans Labyrinth and now Juan Antonio Bayona is starting to mold into a Del Toro copycat. Expect a copied and uninspired ending; albeit it still maintains emotion.

Loaded with more chilling moments than your average horror film, It is clear that this is not average. The Orphanage manages to be a charming tale of separation anxiety and a woman's scorn towards ghastly ghosties. I was very glad to see a lack of jump-out scares and that they relied on tension being created by a horrifying baghead costume. It's not as beautiful as Pans Labyrinth or as aesthetically pleasing, but it fits in a nicer niche for scares.


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