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Seeing Guillermo del Toro presents above the title to THE ORPHANAGE ($28) is a key reason that this reviewer was drawn into seeing this particular movie. For my money, it is the best cinematic ghost story I’ve seen since del Toro’s own THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE. Watching THE ORPHANAGE I was reminded of other movie ghost stories I have seen over the years, but it certainly doesn’t try to mimic anything else. THE ORPHANAGE is the kind of movie POLTERGEIST could have been if it had settled for the subtlety of 1963’s THE HAUNTING, instead of being a fun house thrill ride.

The premise follows a woman named Laura (Belén Rueda), who spent a portion of her childhood in the orphanage of the film’s title, before she was adopted. As an adult, Laura is married to a doctor named Carlos (Fernando Cayo) and the couple has an adopted son named Simón (Roger Príncep). Laura and Carlos want to give something back to the world and purchase the abandoned orphanage, with the intention of turning it into a home for special needs children. Alone moist of the time, Simón naturally makes some imaginary friends, which his parents believe will disappear as soon as some real children arrive at the orphanage. However, there are some unsettling occurrences involving Simón’s imaginary friends, which culminate the boy’s disappearance on the very day the orphanage is reopened. Laura and Carlos are devastated by the Simón’s disappearance, especially Laura, who is unable to let go of the missing boy. Months pass and Laura remains hopeful of discovering Simón’s whereabouts, turning to the paranormal and a medium named Aurora (Geraldine Chaplin), who may be able to contact the ghosts that Laura has since discovered to be her son’s imaginary friends.

New Line Home Entertainment has made THE ORPHANAGE available on DVD in a 2.35:1 widescreen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. This is another terrific standard definition presentation from New Line. The image is generally sharp and well defined. Sure, there are the occasional shots that come off as slightly soft, but there really isn’t anything worth complaining about. Colors are rendered at a pretty natural level of saturation and flesh tones are accurate. Blacks are deep, whites are crisp and the picture boasts good contrast and shadow detail. The film elements appear clean and film grain is pretty minimal. Digital compression artifacts are always well concealed.

THE ORPHANAGE comes with 5.1/6.1 channel soundtracks in the varieties of Dolby Digital and DTS. Both tracks are excellent and provide an unhealthy dose of creepy atmospheric effects to drive up the film’s tension level. Fidelity is first rate, with the sound effects coming across in an exceedingly convincing manner, plus the film’s music having a rich, full-bodied sound. The Spanish language dialogue always sounds quite natural. The bass channel packs a punch. English and Spanish subtitles are present on the disc.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a nice complement of supplements. When Laura Grew Up: Constructing The Orphanage spends seventeen minutes providing one with a good overview of the production. Tomas Secret Room: The Filmmakers is a ten-minute look at the production team. Horror In The Unknown: Make-Up Effects is a self-explanatory nine minutes. Rehearsal Studio: Cast Auditions and Table Read is three minutes of rehearsals. A Still Gallery, Marketing Campaign (with artwork & trailers), plus Bonus Trailers close out the supplements.

THE ORPHANAGE is one of the best ghost stories I’ve seen in quite a while. Recommended.



The Orphanage (2008)



DVD reviews are Copyright © 2008 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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