August Blind Spot Review: The Orphanage (2007)

“Seeing is not believing. It’s the other way around. Believe, and you will see.”
– Aurora

SYNOPSIS: A woman brings her family back to her childhood home, which used to be an orphanage for handicapped children. Before long, her son starts to communicate with an invisible new friend. – via IMDB

Finally got to checking this out, too, and again, another one I am pleased to have checked off my list. For years and years it has been recommended to me and I have always been like Captain Eventually about it, but this year was the year for me! I honestly didn’t know too much going in to watching this, not about the story, nothing (except maybe that the kid from above was in it), and I am grateful for that. This is the kind of movie where the less you know, the better.

The movie gets into the swing of things gradually, not too rushed or anything, and you get the backstory for what is going on. When Simón goes missing, the effect on the Laura and Carlos is heavy. Their hope dwindles as time moves on, and to see the way they handle it is really sad. I think the story is woven so well, because there is a psychological and emotional aspect to this and it is handled deftly throughout. You really get caught up in the story and their suffering, as well as the mystery.

The performances from Belén Rueda and Fernando Cayo are truly good, as they are the ones that sell the story to you throughout. The Orphanage is a creepy film – it does not go big for jump scares, but a subtle chill that creeps in, which is awesome. Jump scares are overrated, and I always prefer a movie that works more with the atmosphere and the psychology. This one definitely goes for more of a look at the parents, specifically the mom, and how she is dealing with it. I wish they had explored a little more how it was for her to be back at the orphanage she grew up in. 

So we have covered the performances and the pacing, which leaves us with how the movie looks and sounds, and I think both work wonderfully to weave that dark, mysterious, magical feel of it. It all works together to create a fantastic atmosphere. I  didn’t expect it to have as much of an emotional core as it did, but I really think it takes The Orphanage from being a generic mystery/horror to having a little dramatic spine which elevates the whole experience.

The Orphanage is such a good movie and it has so much going for it. I was mesmerised from the off and enchanted throughout. It is a magical, mystical, dark, creepy film, and well worth checking out!

July Blind Spot Review: Cronos (1993)

“You may continue the game. After all, you have the toy. But I’m keeping the instructions, and I’m open all night.”
– Angel de la Guargia

SYNOPSIS: A mysterious device designed to provide its owner with eternal life resurfaces after four hundred years, leaving a trail of destruction in its path. – via IMDB

Finally! I know it has been forever since I posted a Blind Spot review, but with the move and all that I just did not have the time, and had to get my hands on movies and get some time to blog and blah, blah, blah, but I finally have it. I have been really interested in seeing Cronos for some time as I really love Del Toro’s Spanish work.

I have never really read too much on this movie because I like to go in to watch things with as little knowledge as possible, so that it is a totally new experience for me. Definitely what I got here. For one, I was shocked that sections of it were in English, though the majority was Spanish. I also was not impressed with Ron Perlman, but that is just me. He irrationally annoys the crap out of me, and this was no exception.

The movie is shot well, and has the beginnings of that magical charm to it, but never realises it quite like The Devil’s Backbone or Pan’s Labyrinth. The dark fairytale teases but never fully comes to life. The storytelling is a bit uneven, too. We get the whole concept of life everlasting, then the Alchemist is dead, this antiques seller has the archangel statue that houses this “eternal life”, he mistakenly finds it and then is suddenly using it and the people searching for it immediately know he has it and… yes, I could go on, but it is all so messy and sudden.

The story I liked, but was a bit disappointed that ultimately it was all about vampirism, and the insect running the show was never explained. I wanted answers! Once I accepted that the life everlasting was vampirism, there was a lot to appreciate. I did enjoy the undertaker/makeup man, he provided some solid humour to the movie, and I also liked the fact that, while this is ultimately vampirism, it is different from what we are traditionally used to (the turning, for instance). The movie also has a darker tone to it, and weaves a few different themes throughout it to varying degrees of success.

Cronos is worth a watch, and it shows that Del Toro is gifted, I just felt that it was a little underwhelming, more like his English works (though still better than the rest) than his Spanish fantasies that I have come to love. I know a lot of people love this movie and think it is brilliant, and I am glad that I have watched it, but it is certainly not my favourite of his, but worth a watch.

Rapid Review: Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

pan's labyrinth poster

“You’re getting older, and you’ll see that life isn’t like your fairy tales. The world is a cruel place. And you’ll learn that, even if it hurts.”
– Carmen

SYNOPSIS: In 1944 falangist Spain, a girl, fascinated with fairy-tales, is sent along with her pregnant mother to live with her new stepfather, a ruthless captain of the Spanish army. During the night, she meets a fairy who takes her to an old faun in the center of the labyrinth. He tells her she’s a princess, but must prove her royalty by surviving three gruesome tasks. If she fails, she will never prove herself to be the the true princess and will never see her real father, the king, again. – via IMDB

pan's labyrinth

GRADE 9I have been meaning to watch this film in its entirety for years. Really. But, typical of life, something keeps coming up. I have seen sections of it throughout the years though, but never the whole thing, so I was so happy to see it picked for Film Club a while back. Starting off, I liked the way the movie looked. Dark and gloomy but pretty, very intricate. The way the fairy tale is told right at the beginning draws you in, and I think it is so successful because it is pretty dark, not this light and fluffy ordeal. No happily ever after right there.

Meeting Ofelia, you just know you are about to be pulled into something magical, something different. I think that Ivana Baquero was absolutely brilliant in her role, and she had my support every step of the way. This was a girl I was going to root for. I think that the casting for the movie was very well done, everyone carried their own and I enjoyed watching them. Maribel Verdú, Sergi López and Álex Angulo particularly stood out as the sweet and brave Mercedes, the cruel and callous Captain Vidal and the compassionate and kind-hearted Doctor Ferriero. The complex relation between them was fascinating to watch.

I was a big fan of the way the fantasy and reality were crafted in Pan’s Labyrinth. It definitely was something to experience. It was stooped in extremely harsh reality, what with the Captain Vidal, Ofelia’s ill mother and a war to boot. However, on the other side was the oddly fantastical but no less dangerous world of the faun and his enigmatic labyrinth and all the tasks she is given to complete to prove herself the Princess Moanna, daughter of the King of the Underworld. The story is wholly engrossing, and I did not find my attention wandering once, and the pacing is exactly what it needed to be. The film utilised every second it had to weave the tale we got.

I fully maintain that Guillermo del Toro is phenomenal when he does foreign Spanish films. Both this and The Devil’s Backbone were infinitely more engrossing than his English films, and have significantly better stories and portrayals. I certainly have a preference when it comes to his work. If it is foreign, I am there. They just seem so much more genuine and heartfelt. I can definitely say that Pan’s Labyrinth is well worth the watch, shot beautifully, and tells a exquisite, dark fantasy tale.

Review: The Devil’s Backbone (2001)

the devil's backbone poster

“What is a ghost? A tragedy condemned to repeat itself time and again? An instant of pain, perhaps. Something dead which still seems to be alive. An emotion suspended in time. Like a blurred photograph. Like an insect trapped in amber.”
– Cesares

Carlos (Fernando Tielve) arrives at an orphanage one day throughout the course of the Spanish Civil War run by Dr Cesares (Federico Luppi) and Carmen (Marisa Paredes). He is horrified to learn that he will now need to stay there, and has to soon decide how he is going to fit in. When he is given the bed of a young boy named Santi (Junio Valverde), all the other boys have something to say about it, though Carlos doesn’t understand it. An older boy, Jaime (Inigo Garces), starts off as what appears to be a nemesis, though the boys later slip into a friendship. Carlos later finds out that Santi was murdered, and associates the dead boy with the apparition he is seeing around the orphanage.

the devil's backbone orphans
Being left behind after his father’s death.

Jacinto (Eduardo Noriega) is the groundskeeper and his girlfriend, Conchita (Irene Visedo), is a teacher. Jacinto is having an affair with Carmen, who is the object of Carlos’s desire. Cesares and Carmen are hiding large amounts of gold that they use to support the Republican loyalists with. It seems Jacinto has set his sights upon the gold. He, too, was an orphan at the very same orphanage, and expresses an intense hate for the place. The stories of Santi run rampant, too, and Carlos is having difficulty with the visions he is suffering.

the devil's backbone doctor
“The devil’s backbone. Children who should never have been born.” – Cesares

Slowly he lulls himself into some semblance of a life at the orphanage and makes friends, though he wants to know what happened to Santi. It is a sore topic for Jaime, who refuses to talk about it. Carlos is intent on getting to the bottom with it. In the meanwhile, Jacinto is putting the final touches on taking over the gold that Carmen and Cesares have stashed in the building. Soon the young boys are dealing with more than they can handle almost when Jacinto launches his attack on the orphanage, which was not the planned one he was going for.

the devil's backbone santi
“Many of you will die.” – Santi

Will Jacinto find the gold? What of the young boy, Santi? Will Carlos discover the truth as to what happened to the young boy? Who knows more about his death than they are letting on? Will Carlos and the rest of the boys be safe in the orphanage, and what will they do if there is no longer anyone left to care for them? When will anybody understand Santi’s messages?

I rate The Devil’s Backbone an 8/10. The story was not too bad at all, and the kids that were cast to play there characters were actually rather sweet. While this is not the traditional eeeeeeek scary type of horror, it had that element of a drama around the edges, though it never became just that, either. Jacinto was such a twit, and annoyed me no end. He was such a nasty, cruel person, though I don’t think that many people aside the doctor had much warmth or caring going for them. Jaime was an intricate character – he is introduced as a nasty bully, but progresses to actually being a stand-up guy hardened by his circumstances, but forever looking out for the other boys around him. He made it his sole responsibility to be their guardian. The camera work was also not bad at all, and the fact that the entire movie was subtitled didn’t bother me one iota, though I know there are a lot of people out there that will not read subtitles or watch a subtitles movie when it is in another language, which is sad, because this is definitely a movie worth seeing. I enjoyed it, and I would recommend it. There were chilling aspects, there was drama, there was humour, and it is worth checking out.