Favourite Horror Double Bills 2: ‘Orphan’ & ‘The Orphanage’
The former is a guilty pleasure for its Enemy In The Home set-up, its shameless B-movie set-pieces (the hammering of a kindly nun!) and the utterly outrageous twist ending that, for once, feels entirely in keeping with the rest of the film.
Kate and John are rebuilding their troubled marriage. Kate drank after her miscarriage. John had an affair. The couple decides to adopt a precocious, creepy nine-year-old Russian girl, Esther, Their son Daniel is hostile to her, but their deaf-mute daughter is enchanted. However, when Kate becomes convinced of Esther’s evil intentions, the family starts to fall apart. Kate starts Googling Esther’s past and discovers she is not at all who she pretends to be. In fact, she’s – aargh, I can’t tell you but it’s a safe bet you’ll never guess.
‘The Orphanage’, on the other hand, is a bravura work which channels loss, grief and redemption through themes used by J M Barrie. Laura raises her adopted son SimÃ³n with husband Carlos in her former orphanage, which she reopens. SimÃ³n says he has an invisible friend, but during a party for disabled children he vanishes, led astray by what may be a ghost. She invites a team of parapsychologists to uncover the truth, but the investigation does not take its expected route…
There are nods to Hitchcock but the film owes more to childhood fairytales and fables, which might explain the presence of Guillermo del Toro in the production credits.
The disappearance of Laura’s son seems linked to the children who once lived in the orphanage, but all ghosts need a reason to exist, and this is as much about their need as hers. The climactic solution (underscored by a graceful soundtrack) will leave the hardest viewer with a tear in the eye.