As a fairly enthusiastic horror fan, I fail to see the hype surrounding the Orphanage. Many stressed it’s creeping atmosphere, and it’s reliance on suspense oriented scares, but all I saw were a bunch of cheap gimmicks and jump scares. Perhaps my perspective is jaded, I do not personally see much of a place for the well meaning, or at least reasonable spirit within the horror genre. In this case especially, it diffuses the internal struggle the protagonist is experiencing while also minimizing the blow of a certain discovery.
I’m struggling with the idea that because the film breaks the mould of my expectations, that perhaps my view is tainted… but at the same time, I think it seems to miss the point of horror, and the hopefulness seems misplaced amidst the sheer horror of the events having taken place. It failed to explore thoroughly the state of mind of a mother without a son, and ironically, the mother with a tormented past. Though one feels a connection between her and the old Orphanage, it is not built upon much beyond that.
Though I don’t mind a film that is “predictable”, especially with horror a lot of fears are built on expectations of what is to come. We know the formulas and tension and fear is built off of how they interpret or subvert it. In the Orphanage though, the plot feels forced and an obvious introduction of important information via a treasure hunt, is forgotten seemingly days later, while it’s still very much fresh in the audience’s minds. There is something to be said for the audience being more “in the know” then the characters, but this kind of dramatic irony is abused and badly executed… mostly because the only reason the audience is in, and the characters are out is an apparent “amnesia” on the character’s part. Though one can almost understand in times of great stress, that one might forget what initially seemed such an inconsequential game, her ongoing obsession with her son’s “imaginary friends”, makes it difficult for me to believe she would forget the revelatory moment when he shows her what they are capable of.
The film ends off with a sort of Sixth Sense moment, where we are supposed to look back at certain apparently meaningless moments in the film where suddenly everything makes sense. It just strikes me as lazy writing, and a failed opportunity once again. The statement, “What are you willing to do to find your son”, seems to be key in understanding the final sequence after the husband leaves, but it never feels right, or emotionally satisfying. The film is no doubt, interesting in premise, but even with some great ideas about the moral culpability of children and their parents, as well as the sacrifices parents will make for their children. It just seems half-baked, and not particularly interesting.