El Orfanato (The Orphanage, Spain, 2007)

Boy or ghost?

Boy or ghost?

WARNING: THIS IS FULL OF SPOILERS. This movie pinned me back in my seat in the cinema but, as it’s an example of the ‘fantastic’ – where everything might simply be a figment of the protagonist’s imagination – I wondered whether it would work on a second viewing: it does. The opening half hour, certainly, is less successful if you know the ending, but after that the sheer craft of the film is more than engaging.

The film uses many of the tropes of the ghost story (though, as my son noted, ‘thank god someone in a horror movie has turned the light on’) and so, although there’s nothing supernatural about the ‘ghosts’, it is a truly horrific story as we find at the denouement when the mother understands what’s happened to her son; the moment of realisation is one the most chilling moments in cinema.

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