Tuesday (or was it Wednesday?) Morning Horror Fest

First Toothless Smile

First Toothless Smile

Now that I’ve gotten the parental bit of news out of the way. (And the Tooth Fairy did come to visit, giving my daughter a strange idea: The Tooth Fairy takes the teeth and puts them in her mouth. I’m so proud.)

I’ve titled this blog, “Tuesday (or was it Wednesday?) Morning Horror Fest” because it’s the first horror movie review blog in a while, and I felt morally obliged to admit that it wasn’t a Saturday Night Horror Fest movie. Instead it was watched on a Tuesday (or possibly Wednesday) morning in December while I did laundry at my mom’s house. She fell dead asleep and missed the whole film, but I rather enjoyed it. What movie was it, you ask? Why none other than…

The Orphanage

Are those hands reaching for her or crocodile jaws?

Are those hands reaching for her or crocodile jaws?

I received this movie from Netflix in October and didn’t watch it until December. (That’s how busy my holiday season was. Too tired for any late night horror film watching.)

Until I watched it, everything I heard about the movie was fairly positive. They were right to be so. It is an excellent film. Subtitles aside, the imagery and color of the movie is incredible. It’s a beautiful film. I really enjoy movies that make color and setting just as important as character and dialogue.

While they relied on some cliched stereotyping to establish a few characters, they did a decent job of giving each character some depth. The actors as well did a great job of making the characters believable. The desperate, melancholy housewife Laura, as played by Belen Rueda, who searches for any clue, supernatural or real, as to the whereabouts of her adopted son, Simon. Her husband, Carlos as played by Fernando Cayo, is concerned about his wife’s mental state and her inability to let go of Simon.

The story ultimately centers around Laura and the changes she goes through.

A (Sort of) Basic Synopsis:

Laura returns to the orphanage she spent most of her childhood in with her husband Carlos and and seven-year-old son, Simon. They intend to reopen the orphanage as a home for disabled children.

Their first night reveals that Simon has two imaginary friends and that both parents are concerned about when he will leave these invisible playmates behind. The next day, while exploring the surrounding country side, Simon stumbles upon a new imaginary friend and Laura worries, but thinks that having more children in the home will help with this problem. Later that afternoon, a social worker shows up with Simon’s adoption file and it’s revealed that Simon has HIV, passed on to him by his birth mother. Laura angrily throws her out, visibly shaken by the woman’s loud admission of Simon’s heritage.

Just before the grand reopening party, Simon reveals to Laura that he knows he is adopted and that he will die soon–as told to him by his new friend, Tomas. He runs away to hide, and while Laura searches for him, she is assaulted by a boy wearing a sack mask and a shirt with the name Tomas sewn into it.

Hours later, the entire party is searching every where for the child, and having exhausted all possible hiding spots in the home, begins looking in the country side. Laura spots a child sized figure standing at the mouth of the cave where Simon met Tomas and runs toward the cave as the tide comes in. She breaks her leg and weeps as the figure disappears.

That night at the hospital, a police psychologist suggests the case worker may have abducted Simon. When Laura and Carlos return home, she hears strange banging in the walls and believes Simon’s invisible friends are behind his disappearance.

Months pass–told to the viewer through narration and a slow pan of a wall covered in maps, thumb tacks pinpointing possible appearances and countless new articles about Simon. Laura and Carlos are obviously miserable and their nerves are frayed. Laura thinks inviting a psychic and her team in will help locate Simon. She’s come to believe he’s still in the home, just “on another plane with his friends.”

Although some spooky stuff happens during the psychic’s investigation, no new clues are revealed. Carlos and the police psychologist tell the psychic and team to leave. As they go, the psychic, Aurora played convincingly by Geraldine Chaplin, tells Laura that she is close to hearing and understanding the ghosts of the children, and that if she were near death she could see them.

The next day, more spooky stuff happens, convincing Laura that something supernatural is going on and that if she just plays alone, she can get her son back. Carlos lays down an ultimatum: He can’t take it anymore and wants them to both just move on. She begs him for just a day, one day, alone in the orphanage to say goodbye. Surprisingly, though he’s played a concerned and loving husband so far, he actually gives in (which surprised me–I would think his character’s intelligence would tell him Laura would try something incredibly dumb to find Simon supernaturally, and that he’d refuse to leave Laura alone, but hey, who am I to judge?) and leaves, promising to be back in exactly one day.

Laura sets the orphanage up as it would have been in her day, takes a bunch of sleeping pills to put herself near death, and begins conversing with the dead. She goes on a scavenger hunt to find her son…

Here I’ll stop. I wouldn’t want to blow the ending for you.

But let me say this. I found the ending to be almost a let down. Not the shocking part, but the part after. It seemed almost too neat and happy for such a dark and dreary film.

Ultimately, I found the movie entertaining, moving and most of all, a little scary. Not as much as I would like, but the psychic’s investigation and the spooky scavenger hunts put me on edge.

So definitely go out, pick this one up and watch it with the light’s off. Preferably in the evening. I have to admit, watching it on a Tuesday (or Wednesday) morning took some of the edge out of it.

For a second opinion, visit FilmCritic.com.

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