Mini Review Day 26: The Orphanage (2007)
The horror films from Spain have really been making waves over the past 15 years, with the likes of [REC] (2007) really capturing a wide audience for it’s different approach to the found footage sub-genre. Spain has produced many incredible film makers, and while some of their home grown horror hasn’t always reached a wide audience, 2007’s The Orphanage certainly received a lot of attention. Director J. A. Bayona definitely made a splash with this film, and more recently directed a big Hollywood Blockbuster with Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom (2018). He has a great eye for horror and helped tell this story with grace and terror, The Orphanage is unsettling and a memorable experience.
The story is about Laura (Belén Rueda), who moves her husband Carlos (Fernando Cayo) and their adopted son Simón (Roger Príncep) to the house she grew up in as a child that was formally an orphanage. Laura has plans to make the house a place where there are facilities available for disabled children. After moving back into the house, Simón talks to and about his invisible friends. He has two, but the number grows and he talks about one called Tomás, and how they play games together. On the day of the a party to open the facility, Simón suddenly goes missing after telling Laura he wants to show her Tomás’ house. Months pass and there is no sign of Simón, but a mysterious woman and strange events lead Laura to believe there is more going on and she invites a medium called Aurora (Geraldine Chapman) to the house to see if she can help uncover what is going on and where Simón is.
It must be said that The Orphanage is a great film, it contains an intriguing mystery and brings forth much sadness. This is not simply a ghost film or a haunted house film, there is far more going on and the subtle nature of the scares makes it extremely effective as a horror film but also a drama. The performances are memorable and Belén Rueda is outstanding as Laura, going through so many emotions as a distraught mother. Roger Príncep as Simón is equally as excellent, his performance is quite mature for someone so young at the time of filming.
As mentioned earlier the direction is superb and the cinematography from Oscar Faurais beautiful and bleak, fitting the tone perfectly. It is difficult to understand how The Orphanage had mixed reviews upon release, it is a great film and over a decade later it still hits all the right notes and stands out highly above other horror films within the same genre. This is a film that needs to be seen for something much different from the standard ghost story film, and proves once again that Spanish horror is its own entity.
Mini Review Day 27: Here Comes The Devil (2012)
Mexican cinema has delivered us some truly great talent’s with the likes of Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro González Iñárritu just to name a few. Just from those three names we have seen some incredible cinema, and they certainly brought more eyes to Mexican cinema. Horror is a genre that gets delivered well from Mexico, the genre is vast and memorable, with some real hidden gems out there (Most may not have heard of Poison For The Fairies from 1984 but please seek this one out). More often than not, horror from Mexico is quite different from other parts of the world and absolutely worth seeking out. Here Comes The Devil (2012) is a more recent film from Mexico, and it takes on the possession sub-genre in a much different way than done before. As unique and as visually striking as this film is, it wont be for everyone as it deals with some heavy themes and intense visuals.
The film opens with two women who are in the middle of a sexual encounter, it is a strange way to begin a film, however it does serve a purpose. After they finish up, one of the women feels some regret and their conversation is interrupted by a knock at the door. One of the women goes to answer the door and is attacked by a machete wielding mad man, the other woman manages to injure him and he runs away. The film then fast forwards to some time later, where a family of four with mother Sol (Laura Caro), father Felix (Francisco Barreiro) and their children Sara (Michele Garcia) and Adolfo (Alan Martinez) are having a picnic. The kids want to explore a hill, so Sol and Felix decide to wait in the car at a gas station and wind up getting occupied by their sexual frustration. After they wake up from a nap, they notice the kids haven’t returned and call the police to help find them. The next day the police have found Sara and Adolfo, however both Sol and Felix notice they aren’t the same and wonder what happened to them. Their investigations leads them down some disturbing paths, in order to find out why their kids just aren’t the same and what possibly could have happened to make them change.
The synopsis may be a long one, however it isn’t easy to describe this film. There are many themes at play, including sexual desire and good/evil. The film doesn’t shy away from sex and nudity, neither does it shy away from violence, and the two definitely get interlocked at times. It is not always clear what the message of the film may be, but what is clear is that there is one. The film works on many levels, however some of the camera work often let’s it down. There are odd zooming in shots at very strange moments, it does not make much sense and it feels very cheap and takes away the intensity of the story. At times the feel of the film feels like something out of the 70’s and it does have a bit of a slow burn feel to it, and that is certainly a positive. The performances are also quite good, with Laura Caro being a strong standout as Sol who has so much to go through in the film and she handled it convincingly.
Here Comes The Devil does end up being more of a mixed bag, but it is certainly worth a watch if you’re a fan of Mexican cinema and horror films that break down barriers. Writer/director Adrián García Bogliano took a risk with this film, setting out to make a film that isn’t like anything else in horror and change the game with the possession element. While some aspects don’t entirely work, the film over all is a very compelling experience.
Reviews written by Marcella Papandrea