Tuesday, June 17, 2008

EL ORFANATO/ THE ORPHANAGE (Juan Antonio Bayona, 2007, Spain) This Spanish horror flick is Peter Pan as written by the Brothers Grimm! It is a dark and moody reflection Barrie’s Lost Boys (the spooky children and the faceless mask), The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up (Simon, who disappears and never ages…for obvious reasons), and the childless Wendy (though never explained, Laura and her husband are apparently sterile). Director Juan Antonio Bayona channels the primitive and supernatural undercurrents of Roeg’s DON’T LOOK NOW creating suspense and chilling fear with sound, tight framing, and excellent acting. Chiaroscuro lighting and the eerie landscape of the renovated orphanage keep the viewer on edge. This is no splatterfest or shock-inducing horror film, THE ORPHANAGE carefully builds a sad and bleak tragedy….with ghosts. I’m also reminded of THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE but this doesn’t carry the social commentary of Del Toro’s flick; this is a straightforward tragedy without a happy conclusion. This film would never be green lighted in the US because our tradition of storytelling is to water-down and censor the trauma and Disney-ize everything. I think this is a very good horror film that many will overlook (Kubrick pun intended) because it isn’t Americanized for our mass consumption; no chainsaws, ice-picks, volcanic blood geysers, and cleavage-chicks gallivanting in blood soaked tank-tops. Do I sound cynical? Of course I do. I’m glad they didn’t include an English dub: Read the subtitles and be prepared for an unsettling and emotionally challenging ghost story. (B-)