Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Orphanage

Remember when The Phantom Menace came out and everyone who'd seen a preview or a snippet of it before release would crow about the brilliance? Remember how you felt after the credits started to roll and the lights came back on? For me, that was The Orphanage.

Touted all over the internet as the most frightening and thought-provoking horror film in years with superlatives such as 'terrifying', 'edge of my seat', 'mesmorising' and 'unforgettable' being thrown around, I would like to put forward another view. First with the adjectives (and other); 'boring', 'on-trick pony', 'slow', 'predictable' and 'over written'. Now for the explanation.

The Orphanage was a fair bit of story to it. A young girl grows up in an orphanage until one day a family is ready to adopt her. She sadly leaves her friends behind... and now jump forward to the present-day. The little girl is now a woman, the orphanage has closed down for being too cliche and the woman has somehow talked her husband into buying the old building so they can set up a half way house for sick children. If that isn't a recipe for disaster I simply don't know what is.

The woman has a child of her own now, though we learn he's adopted, and the movie shows them moving in and how happy they are. Later, the little boy makes imaginary friends (I think he had other imaginary friends already) with another boy. This other boy is a ghost, apparently. So some stuff happens, a crazy old lady character shows up and the try-outs for position of sick children are held at the house. On the day of the trials, the woman argues with her little boy because this is such an important day and he is wasting her time as he wants to show her something exciting. She hits him. He runs away. This, and the 'proper' ending make up all that is good in the movie, while everything else is slow and boring. The argument, slap across the face and the 'ending' (trust me, i'll explain in a minute why I keep saying 'proper ending') are heart wrenching moments if you have kids of your own, if only they stuck with that storyline this movie would have been worth watching.

I digress. They boy ultimately goes missing and the rest of the movie is about the parents searching for him. The day he goes missing the woman sees a 'ghost' and that night she hears noises in the walls - banging and thumping. Over time various theories are put forward; they think he might have drowned in the ocean or been kidnapped by the crazy lady. Months pass. Nothing. They boy has simply disappeared.

There's a subplot where it turns out the crazy lady was a worker at the orphanage and one of the children was her son. He wore a mask to cover his deformed face and this led to him being left out and laughed at by the other children. One day, after the woman had left the orphanage, her friends lured him down to the beach and he drowned. The mother found out and later poisoned all the children, then ran away. Back in the present-day, the woman finds their cremated bodies in a shed. It's a bit tacked on and only there to offer support for the 'crap ending' and add more ghostiness overall.

Eventually the woman goes a bit crazy, her husband moves out and she plays a game with the ghosts. The ghosts provide her with clues to find something and if she finds it she also finds the next clue. This will lead to her son of course (though the logic of her coming to this conclusion is vague) and after some dicking about, it does. I consider the next 10 minutes the proper ending. What she finds is a secret door in the broom closet and this door leads down to a hidden basement, a basement set up as a childs bedroom. In fact it was the bedroom of the deformed kid  back in the days of the orphanage, and also the exciting thing her son had found and so desperately wanted to show her until she slapped him.

After slapping her son she left the room in a huff and he ran away to sulk in the secret room he'd discovered. Unfortunately, the mother took a bunch of metal poles and shoved them into the broom closet, thereby blocking his means of getting out again. The noises and banging she heard that night, the ones that so frightened her, were the sounds of him crying out while trying to escape.

When she first arrives in the basement it's a vision, the room looks clean and light and she finds her son asleep under a blanket. After a heart warming moment the vision is gone and she's holding an empty blanket. She turns to see the room is now gloomy and dusty, the staircase broken (one of the loud bangs that night her son went missing) and on the floor, a withered corpse. Her son. While trying to escape, the stairs broke and he fell to his death. It's a moving moment and if the credits had rolled, i'd give this movie an 8. Instead it goes on and fucks the whole thing up.

Now mentally disturbed, she kills herself by taking sleeping tablets. While dying, the ghosts of her childhood friends all come to life in a vision and then her son comes back to her (his dried up remains reanimate in her arms). Great. No, I meant rubbish. In the end her husband stands at their graves for a moment then walks away a broken man. The end. I hated it.

So, apologies for the long explanation, but I felt this movie COULD be made into a good thing by cutting a bunch of crap, integrating the 'crazy lady and her deformed son' subplot better, showing the ghosts as figments of the woman's imagination and fixing the ending as I explained above. Just hit Stop when you get to the dead son and I guarantee you'll walk away happier. Well, maybe not happy but at least with a feeling of fulfillment instead of the disappointment I got.

Another great example of not believing the hype.

4/10 - So disappointing I'm not even adding pictures. Oh ok, maybe just one.

I've managed to show the lead actress, cleavage, wet dress and a shot from the movie all in one. Bravo me.
"I've managed to show the lead actress, cleavage, wet dress and a shot from the movie all in one. Bravo me

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