"Most of what we object to as misconduct in children is a natural rebellion against the intrusion of an unimaginative adult despotism in their lives." Floyd Dell, Were You Ever a Child?
Turn of the Screw by way of Others, Lord of the Flies, Sixth Sense, and myriad suspense, horror, and science fiction films and literature: The Orphanage is a respectable Spanish contribution to the depiction of children as masters of the house, be they real or spirits.
The Orphanage has crisp cinematography that accentuates the old Orphanage's lurid corners and closets wherein may hide the supernatural forms of past inhabitants and the hope of the current mistress of the house to find her son lost to the history and lure of the home.
The clich?s of horror fiction abound: No one, much less physician husband, believes mom that the house is haunted; the admirable score provides a measure of scary telegraphing; each nook and cranny has the potential to shock the unwary; the denouement is predictable right down to the conversion of the most wary. However, the Hitchcock-like suspense is masterfully executed, not like the slam of current slasher films. There is little blood, just enough disfigurement, and surprises such as the haunting cameo by Geraldine Chaplin, a medium heating the suspense and converting the skeptical.
Like any thinking person's sojourn into the spiritual, the Orphanage doesn't quickly make a case for ghosts; rather it poses questions such as how far into a psyche should a mother go before Oedipus kicks up a royal storm, or how far a husband, or even responsible administrators should go to support an unstable-appearing wife.
Nothing is new for the genre, but the look is classic, the acting above average, and the kids still hold the attention of adults, who, like the audience, know enough to respect the power of innocence unbound.