Laura has returned to her childhood home, an orphanage by the sea, with her husband, Carlos, and their adopted son, Simon. Laura and Carlos plan on turning the large mansion into a home for disabled children, but their plans are interrupted when Simon disappears.
I loved the supernatural elements in this film, from the early thrills and chills, to the devastating turns of the final acts.
The Orphanage was nowhere near as strikingly beautiful - or as devastatingly sad - as del Toro's amazing Pan's Labyrinth, but the depressing muted color of El Orfanato only lends to the suspenseful storyline. The dreariness constantly reminds the viewer of Laura's plight, and allows the film to carry everyone along to the inevitable conclusion.
What struck me most was that while considered (and marketed as) a horror film, there was little to be scared of, yet the viewer is constantly on edge. From the music to the acting to the cinematography, the viewer never forgets that s/he is watching a horror film.
Belen Rueda (Laura) absolutely carries the film. In every single scene, the viewer feels her pain and her horror, her feelings of loss and dread. She is absolutely amazing. When the final scenes are carried out, you not only understand her decisions, but you revel in them.
El Orfanato is not on the same plane as Pan's Labyrinth, no, but it is a fantastic film.