Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Movie Review: The Orphanage

The Orphanage, or El Orfanato as it is known in its native Spanish tongue, is a 2007 horror/mystery movie "from" Guillermo del Toro. I say "from" because on the front cover it says "Guillermo del Toro presents...", but in fact he neither wrote nor directed the movie, meaning he was probably about as involved in it as Steven Spielburg was in the Animaniacs (which, while I could be wrong, I imagine basically amounts to signing a paycheck for putting his name on it). The result of this misleading though effective advertising is that I had the wrong expectations going into the movie.

I was thinking "Wow, Guillermo del Toro did a horror movie! This should be aboslutely amazing." Because really, if you think about the gorgeous cinematography and incredible creature designs of Pan's Labrynth, or of the over-the-top but still inspired and original creatures from the Hellboy movies, you have to think that del Toro would be most at home in a true horror movie. Unfortunately, this movie is not that movie, but if that movie ever happens I'm totally there.

That's not to say the movie is bad - it's really not. But when you're expecting del Toro creatures and you get typical horror movie small-scary-children it's more than a little disappointing. Still, let's look at the movie for what it is: a good, though not great or inventive, horror/mystery movie. I hesitate to call it a horror movie outright because it really lacks the gore, scares, or general terror to really fill that genre (and is a rather mild R-rating). But it's more than just a mytsery or a thriller because it does genuinely have a few very creepy scenes.

The rough plot is that a woman now lives in the orphanage she grew up in (already the audience gets a little bit of a wtf from that one). She has a husband and a young, sick boy who likes to play with "imaginary friends". One day, he decides to go off and play and disappears. Anyone not see that coming? The movie then follows our herione's efforts to find her lost boy. A common theme in the movie is the concept of a clue-hunt where one clue leads to a location where another clue is found. These hunts come across like The daVinci Code in fast forward and without the code-breaking, and really to me seemed kinda silly. I won't spoil the ending, but don't hope for anything too shocking or ground-breaking - it falls into one of the few stereotypical endings for these movies, while still leaving you will a few unanswered questions.

On the plus side, the movie has a few genuine shocks in it, some creepy characters and scenes, and the single most terrifying game of "red light, green light" I've ever seen. I will say, watching a scary movie on an elliptical can certainly motivate to run a little harder at times. In any case, I'll give the movie a 7/10. Competantly acted, a decent though somewhat derivitive story, and some good scares. If you like horror movies but have a very jumpy date, this might be a good one since it's often tense but only jumpy a few times. If you're looking for a better horror movie, I'm still partial to The Ring (thought primarily on first viewing - it gets weaker each time you watch it) and probably my favorite horror movie: The Descent.

On a related note, my Netflix Diet is going well. I was down to 197.5 pounds this morning, which considering I was at 203.5 less than 3 weeks ago that's pretty encouraging. I'm sure that'll fluctuate naturally a bit and I'm probably on the low end, but still progress is progress. :) I'm also keeping a daily log of the duration, calories burned, distance, etc., which I find to be encouraging and would recommend to anyone on a new exercise routine since it gives a good sense of accomplishment and progress.

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