The Orphanage, Blu-ray (2008)

by | Apr 26, 2008 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

The Orphanage, Blu-ray (2008)

Presenter: Guillermo del Toro
Director: J.A. Bayona
Studio: Picture House/New Line Home Video
Video: 2.35:1 anamorphic/enhanced for 16:9 widescreen, 1080p HD
Audio: Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (Extras: English/Spanish DTS-HD 5.1; English/Spanish DTS Stereo)
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
Extras: “When Laura Grow Up: Constructing The Orphanage;” “Tomas’ Secret Room” (The Filmmakers); “Horror in the Unknown: Makeup Effects;” Still galleries; Rehearsal studio; Marketing campaign
Length: 105 minutes
Rating: *****

A wonderful Spanish supernatural thriller in the vein of The Sixth Sense. This is the first feature by Bayona, but overseen by del Toro – director of the excellent Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy. It may be promoted as a horror movie, but it has no bloody/slasher scenes and like the horror classics of old depends on creating a mood and suspense thru not showing everything rather than putting it in your face.  The characters, especially mother Laura (Belén Rueda), are strong and portrayed in depth by fine actors.  The woman and her unusual adopted child are at the center of the classic ghost story. They see dead children specifically.

An old orphanage at a seaside location goes on the market and is bought by Laura and her husband because she was brought up in that same orphanage and she wants to operate it again but as a home for children with special needs.  Their seven-year-old son has a life-threatening illness and a couple imaginary playmates.  Soon he has five more playmates and Laura begins to be thought unbalanced due to telling her husband she’s hearing odd noises and seeing strange visions. Then their son disappears and they call in a medium, who turns out to be Geraldine Chaplin, speaking convincing Spanish.  The boundaries between the living and the dead are breached, and the film has a bittersweet happy ending.

The transfer is excellent, and highly detailed in the many dark areas of the images. The special effects and makeup are well done, except for the face of one of the dead children, which wouldn’t have looked realistic even on a soft-focus standard DVD.  The DTS-HD surround track is skillfully used to support one’s fears of the unknown in some of the scenes. The sounds from overhead are especially effective – even when I had to switch to my headphones towards the end of the movie (it was into the wee hours), some of the rumblings still were spatially-located over my head.  There is also an appealing full orchestra Korngoldish music score.

 – John Sunier

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