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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Weekly Top Five

Scary Movie Edition!

2. The Orphanage
Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona
Starring Belen Rueda

The Orphanage is Spanish-language horror film by first time director Juan Antonio Bayona, which was produced by the now-ubiquitous Guillermo del Toro, is one of the tensest and saddest movies I’ve seen in a long time. Centering on a woman, Laura, who moves her husband and young son to the orphanage where she grew up in order to open a home for handicapped children. But as the movie progresses, Laura’s son begins to have conversations with a new “friend” culminating in a game of hide and seek which leads to her son’s disappearance.

The remainder of the movie is one part supernatural thriller, and two parts meditation on faith and love, in which Laura, convinced her son is still alive tries desperately to find any clue as to his whereabouts, even if her quest leads her into the realm of the dead.

Based loosely on Peter Pan, this film doesn’t “scare” in the traditional sense*, but creates a pervasive sense of mounting dread as each of Laura’s theories are systematically debunked, leading her with no other option but to believe that the spirits in the house have kidnapped her son. The lengths this mother will go to save her son, and the unflappable belief in her son’s survival, give the tension a level of realistic horror that sets this movie way apart from it’s peers.

And above all the ending is simply devastating.

5. Pumpkinhead
4. Aliens
3. The Ring
2. The Orphanage

*For those of you who don’t make a regular habit of watching horror movies in a language that is not native to you, I would suggest trying it occasionally. While the experience of watching a horror movie is generally a visceral experience, reading subtitles has the effect of forcing you to use your mind instead of your body for absorbing the images. It makes the experience less physically stimulating but over-all can make for a much more overwhelming experience, because you have had to use your mind and body.