Film / The Orphanage

"A tale of love. A story of horror."

The Orphanage (El Orfanato) is a Spanish-language horror film directed by Juan Antonio Bayona and produced by Guillermo del Toro of Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy fame. With its claustrophobic and creepy atmosphere and surprising twists, it is one of the most horrifying films ever.

Laura and her husband Carlos decide to return to the orphanage where she grew up before she was adopted. Laura has herself adopted a son, Simón, who is HIV-positive. There is, however, a secret to the orphanage and what happened there after Laura left - including Tomás, a mysterious boy who always wears a sack mask.

The rest you'll have to see, because it is supremely scary.

This film provides examples of:

  • Fingore: At one point Laura has her fingers slammed in a closing door by Tomás's ghost, trying to warn her about Simón. It's bloody and icky and fingers should not bend that way. One of her nails falls right off.
  • Foreshadowing: Laura has a necklace with a St. Anthony medallion. This is actually clever foreshadowing since St. Anthony is a doctor and patron saint of lost items.
    • Laura mentions that they plan to care for six or seven special needs children. She does. They just turn out to be dead.
  • Ghostly Goals
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Subverted.
  • Haunted Heroine: Laura.
  • Hell Is That Noise: Tomás made a horrible rasping noise.
  • Imaginary Friend: Simón has many and Laura thinks Tomás is one of them.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: Inverted, the ads and trailers for this movie make it seem like it was directed by Guillermo del Toro, not the actual director, Juan Antonio Bayona.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted, of course.
  • I See Dead People: Well, she can hear them.
    • Later in the film she can actually see them.
  • Nightmare Face: Tomás without his mask. Also, Benigna, when she dies.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: A lot of the movie is built on incredibly unnerving atmosphere as opposed to jumpscares. For example, early on in the film Laura wakes up to hear a clanging sound from outside. She goes out the front door and heads toward the shed, where the noise seems to be coming from. She says "Who's there?". Suddenly the crickets stop chirping, the clanging stops, the wind stops, and she is surrounded by an extremely chilling silence.
  • Orphanage of Fear: The entire film is set in a former orphanage. Played with, since it wasn't all that frightening back when the protagonist lived there, though. Apart from one creepy employee it was closer to Orphanage of Love, considering how she remembered it with affection. Later it really became one when that same creepy employee ended up POISONING the other children and burning the remains to hide in a coal storage.
  • Peek-a-Boo Corpse: Benigna after the car crash.
  • Psychic Powers: The medium can hear the orphans screaming.
  • Scare Chord
  • See No Evil, Hear No Evil: Justified in the bus crash, since everything fades to silence. Presumably, the characters' attention is so occupied that they don't hear it either.
  • Supernatural-Proof Father: Carlos, but not so much as he still supports Laura.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Benigna. After Tomas died, she poisoned all the other orphans.