Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Gripping Ghost Story

The Orphanage is throw-back cinema, a suspense tale that is fraught with psychological frisson while unfolding in a surprisingly stately, keenly modulated manner bringing immediately to mind similarly effective movies like The Others(2001) The Innocents (1961), or The Haunting (1963). Brought to you by Mexican master Guillermo del Toro (as producer) this beguiling (and haunting) ghost story is ably handled by first-time director Juan Antonio Bayona. No cattle prod, shock-and-roll tactics here, this is all about the atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere. Taking more than a few pages from the great American terrormeister Val Lewton (Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie) as well as del Toro (The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth), the movie, set in a Spanish home that was once an orphanage, artfully dances around the terrors of childhood and the tug-and-pull of mother-son bonding, all the while upping the tension ante by showing less and suggesting more. All in all, a legitimately unsettling (and gripping) experience.

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