New review: Haunted?

// 5 June 2008

El Orfanato posterEl Orfanato is a rare example of the ‘horror’ genre with a strong female lead. Or is it? Lindsey M Sheehan has more

This review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk

El Orfanato – or ‘The Orphange’ – gained some box-office and critical traction this year, thanks at least partially to its high-profile co-producer Guillermo del Toro (director of the Hellboy films, Pan’s Labyrinth, Cronos, etc). How nice, then, that the Spanish horror flick features a strong female lead. Maybe.

I’ve seen El Orfanato described as a ‘horror drama’, but I think that just means ‘horror with plot’ as opposed to 90 minutes of running and screaming. So if not running and screaming, then what? El Orfanato is a ghost story: a little boy starts talking to ghosts then mysteriously disappears. The rest of the movie is about how his mother, Laura (BelĂ©n Rueda), searches for him, believing he has been taken by the ghosts.

When I first saw this film, I was so impressed by Laura. She was strong and brave, and no matter what obstacles got in her way she never stopped searching for her son. She called out and confronted a group of ghosts in one of the most tense and chilling scenes I have seen in a long time (and I watch a lot of movies). But – and there is quite a big but.

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