“Oh, there’s a bit in it that’ll really make you jump,” said the Picturehouse barman as he handed Chris five tickets for The Orphanage (along with the more traditional bar fare, a bottle of wine). A comment like that sets you on edge before the film even begins, albeit an edge dulled by half a bottle of Pinot. But the unspoken implication of such a statement is that there is only one spring-loaded moment.
That’s not a bad thing (nor, in fact, was it strictly true in any case). Too many random shocks and you’re either laughing from the ridiculousness or shrieking in a self-made puddle and being led out by the St John’s Ambulance, depending on temperament. The scary moments are the ones you’re waiting for, the ones in plain sight: it’s all anticipation, of course. (The scariest parts of BBC classic Ghostwatch are the scenes where you happen to spot Pipes subtly inserted into the background.)
The Orphanage scores quite highly on the anticipation scale. The orphanage of the title is now owned by a small family; the mother used to be housed there. She and her husband have an adopted child, who has several imaginary friends. But just how imaginary are they? Who is the woman with the thick glasses? And why do they all speak Spanish?
Well, it’s a Spanish film, produced by Guillermo Del Toro. There’s a pointless American remake in production for people unable to cope with subtitles or without casual violence.
We saw it with a talkative audience, but in a good way: the odd “oh no!” heightens the tension.
Without giving anything away, it’s a film about loss. It contains no haunted videotapes or rabid emos climbing out of TVs, but it does contain the creepiest children’s game you’ll see this year.
Avaragado’s rating: five blueberry muffins