Movie Discussion: J.A. Bayona’s The Orphanage [El orfanato] (2007)

  • Monthly Theme: Families in PerilPoster001
  • The Film: The Orphanage
  • Country of origin: Spain
  • Spanish title: El orfanato
  • Date of Spanish release: October 11, 2007
  • Date of U.S. release: December 28, 2007
  • Studio: Grupo Rodar, et al.
  • Distributer: Picturehouse (subtitled)
  • Domestic Gross: $7.1 million
  • Budget: $4 million (estimated)
  • Directors: J.A. Bayona
  • Producers: Guillermo del Toro, et al.
  • Screenwriters: Sergio G. Sánchez
  • Adaptation? No.
  • Cinematography: Óscar Faura
  • Make-Up/FX: Lluís Castells, et al.
  • Music: Fernando Velázquez
  • Part of a series? No.
  • Remakes? No.
  • Genre Icons in the cast? No.
  • Other notables?: Yes. Spanish film star Belén Rueda.
  • Awards?: 7 awards at the 2007 Barcelona Film Awards.
  • Tagline: “No secret stays locked away forever.”
  • The Lowdown: When a young boy goes missing during a family’s renovation of an old orphanage, his mother (Rueda) searches desperately to find him. But his vanishing might have something to do with the ghosts haunting the old building….

If you haven’t seen The Orphanage our discussion will include massive SPOILERS. 

Kristine: This was the most internal of all the movies we’ve watched for the blog so far, and the only one where the protagonist was a woman. Coincidence? Of course not.

Sean: The Orphanage does have the only lady-lead, but she was all tits, no personality if you ask me.

Kristine: They were fake boobs. Next.

Sean: I actually think she has no interior life in the movie. She is all maternal drive and gigantic bazongas.

Kristine: “Bazongas”??? Right, but she is supposed to be super maternal and crazed. The whole movie hinges on her having some sort of psychotic break when she moves back into her childhood home.

Sean: What? She doesn’t have a break….

Kristine: I think she does.

Sean: Explain.

Kristine: I think she has unresolved issues from her time at the orphanage that she blocked out, and they come back when she moves back.

Sean: Okay I’ll buy that. But the plot doesn’t hinge on her feelings.

Kristine: Do we care about her AIDS baby? I don’t.

Kristine to ghost freak: “Go away, you have AIDS.”

Sean: I did. I think the kid in the movie is great. The opposite of the crusty munchkins in 28 Weeks Later. I found him very lovable.

Kristine: He is a good child actor, but I still don’t care that much. [Editor’s Note: I received the following e-mail from Kristine at 4:18 am two days after she made these remarks: “Hi, I have had a change of heart about some things we discussed in our chat. I don’t know why I felt dismissive of The Orphanage and Texas Chain Saw on Sunday. The reason I am up this early is because I am haunted by terrifying visuals from both movies and can’t sleep! Also, I love Simón and I take back that I don’t care about him being an AIDS baby! I want to retract that statement!] I love the fact that he was full of rage and shut her finger in the bathroom door.

Sean: And I love all the “Let’s play a game” scavenger hunt business.

Kristine: That was very charming. That frenetic scene was fun and delightful.

Sean: Simón didn’t shut her finger in the door, that was the dead ‘tard, Tomás.

Kristine: No, it wasn’t.

Sean: It was.

Kristine: No. It was him.

Sean: Cutie Simón never wore that retarded mask. Only Mongo did.

Kristine: Then he goes and hides in the basement, wearing the mask. Remember, she pulls it off in the basement? It’s the big reveal and we see dead AIDS baby’s face.

Sean: You are a big dumb Wrongie.

Kristine: Dammit, Sean. It was her kid.

Sean: She does find him mummified but he is not wearing that dumb mask.

Kristine: Yes, he was. Mongo has been dead for years.

Sean: I know. It’s Mongo’s ghost.

Kristine: No, it’s not. It’s her own kid and he is mad at her for slapping him and lying to him about being an adopted AIDS baby.

Sean: Eh, maybe…

Kristine: Yes yes yes yes yes.

Sean: I think this is a bit besides the point.

Kristine: What??? It is the whole point. I am livid right now!

Sean: You need to calm down, there…

Kristine: If you were here, I would slap you and slam your finger in the door.

Sean: Relax.

Kristine: I will kill you in your sleep.

Sean: I’d like to have some more constructive conversation if at all possible.

Kristine: I want you to acknowledge you are wrong and then I can move on.

Sean: Fine, it’s possible I’m wrong.

Kristine: Cop out, but I accept. [Editor’s Note: Simón is wearing the mask when she finds him dead in the basement.]

Sean: You enjoyed Poltergeist too right?

Kristine: I did enjoy Poltergeist. One last thing – this conversation has made me decide that the only question you need to ask an American to determine whether they are liberal or conservative is: What is the more significant event in American history – Katrina or 9/11?

Sean: I actually think Poltergeist and The Orphanage are very reflective of each other, no? And The Others? I would love to teach a class on “Maternity and the Supernatural” with those three movies, plus The Innocents with Deborah Kerr.

Kristine: That would be an amazing class. I don’t know about the similarities between Poltergeist and The Orphanage though. Is it because of A Mother’s Love™?

Sean: Yes, motherhood and ghosts; melodrama and suspense.

Kristine: Address my political allegiance theory.

Sean: Your theory holds water. Brackish Katrina water.

Kristine: But the levee’s didn’t…

Sean: So, I want people to know that you jumped and screamed and were terrorized while we watched The Orphanage and it was really fun.

Kristine: It was fun. And like we said, I loved the treasure hunt and leaving the trail of stones that end up on her doorway… lots of fun stuff. I even thought her dressing up in her old uniform and hosting the tea party worked because it showed her desperation for answers.

Sean: Do you think jump-scares are cheap and easy, and that “real” horror auteurs should never stoop to them?

Kristine: No, I love jump scares.

Sean: Me too. They’re really fun. Remember the old lady’s jaw after the car crash? I had forgotten all that stuff, and it was kind of awesome.

Kristine: That scene… the whole mowing down with the ambulance was like whoa. It made me laugh with horror.

Sean: Yeah – the movie would be a good date movie, right? Really fun, good jumps, good gross-outs, but with heart.

Kristine: Agreed.

Sean: Is the movie sexist?

Kristine: Yeah, but I am so used to that now, sadly.

Sean: So then let me ask you this: Is horror, as a rule, misogynist? Or is it more complicated that that?

Kristine: I don’t think it has to be, but it certainly seems like it often is.

It’s messed up that the movie allows the father to be coldly rational, getting over Simón’s death so easily when Simón was also his child and he was loving towards him. I am so tired of the myth that mothers love their children more than fathers.

Sean: Me too, and that mother’s are like, always ‘selfless.’ What’s wrong with being selfish?

Kristine: I know. It sucks. Over it.

Sean: What’s wrong with putting yourself first, your children second? I hate that idea. When planes crash, you’re supposed to help yourself first, no?

Kristine: I second that emotion.

Ratings Round-Up

The Girl’s rating: Problematic, but fun as hell.

The Freak’s rating: Problematic, but fun as hell.

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