The Orphanage ★★★½

Perhaps the anticipation of watching this film got the better of my experience with it. It came highly lauded, and while I'll agree it's certainly one of the best additions to the horror genre from recent years, that really isn't saying much. In a genre composed primarily of garbage, this one has a little bit of sheen but is still not quite worthy of pulling out of the pile. And certainly not clean enough to call a classic.

El Orfanato suffers from clichéd devices that even when exceptionally well done still feel tired. This is a film that has some truly ingenious new ideas that will get under your skin, and overall it works, but it comes at a cost. It builds most of its scares by restraint and manages to mostly avoid convoluted subterfuge. But while it neatly ties together its plot, there are still a fair share of plot devices and red herrings that feel heavy-handed and serve only to veil what is actually going on.

I think this film is worth watching, but it didn't resonate with me enough to consider it part of my favourite creepy films - that is, enough to watch again anytime soon. I'm especially harsh in this genre because I genuinely love how simple ideas can have such huge impact in the world of monsters and mysteries, but I'm usually let down by filmmakers and writers who try to do too much with what could be done with less. Because typically, 'too much' winds up overlapping a lot with everything else that has come before.

Scott liked this review