We're just never going to be good enough for the ghosts of orphans, it's time we faced it. Horror fiction often plays on guilt, the vague feeling we deserve to be punished, and looking at the sorrowful faces of hundreds of abandoned children can fill one with even deeper feelings of falling short when those orphans died in some accident resulting from negligent adult supervision. 2007's The Orphanage (El Orfanato) is among the many films to play on this psychological dynamic. Somehow it's not very scary but it is stylish and tells a decent story.
The film is almost entirely told from the point of view of a woman named Laura played by Belen Rueda whose lined face tells you this movie wasn't made in the U.S. where female protagonists are required to look no older than thirty five. Rueda gives a good performance as she struggles with her relationship with her HIV positive adopted son while trying to turn her home, an old orphanage, into a place to care for special needs children. Her prospective partner in managing the place is her husband, a doctor (Fernando Cayo). As events unfold, he proves to be not the most sympathetic or caring husband but he's generally supportive when Simon (Roger Princep), their adopted son, disappears one day.
Laura tries to explain how she still feels the presences of the phantom children she and her husband assumed were Simon's imaginary friends but no-one believes her.
There are a lot of jump out scares in the movie that for reasons I can't quite explain never seemed to work on me. Furniture suddenly falling over, a door slamming, a window pane falling out--something about the timing was off, I don't know. I don't really care, jump out scares aren't what distinguish good horror movies. Though it does somewhat sabotage the audience's identification with Laura when we don't jump at the same things she jumps at.
The movie actually reminds me of a much more conservative version of 2004's Saint Ange which I watched a couple weeks ago. Saint Ange is a better and weirder film but The Orphanage is a nice enough way to spend a couple hours.