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The Orphanage


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The Orphanage (Movies)
The Orphanage (Movies)
The Orphanage (Movies)
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Information about The Orphanage

The Orphanage (Spanish: El Orfanato) is a 2007 (14 years ago) Spanish-language horror movie and the debut feature of Spanish filmmaker Juan Antonio Bayona. The movie stars Belén Rueda as Laura, Fernando Cayo as her husband, Carlos, and Roger Príncep as their adopted son Simón. The plot centers on Laura, who returns to her childhood home, an orphanage. Laura plans to turn the house into a home for disabled children, but a problem arises when she and Carlos realize that Simón believes he has a masked friend named Tomás with whom he will run away. After an argument with Laura, Simón is found to be missing.

The film's script was written by Sergio G. Sánchez in 1996 (25 years ago) and brought to the attention of Bayona in 2004 (17 years ago). Bayona asked his long-time friend, director Guillermo del Toro, to help produce the movie and to double its budget and filming time. Bayona wanted the movie to capture the feel of 1970 (51 years ago) Spanish cinema; he cast Geraldine Chaplin and Belén Rueda, who were later praised for their roles in the film.

The movie opened at the Cannes movie Festival on May 20, 2007 (14 years ago). It received critical acclaim from audiences in its native Spain, winning seven Goya awards. On its North American release, The Orphanage was praised by English speaking critics, who described the movie as well directed and acted, and noted the film's lack of "cheap scares". New Line Cinema bought the rights to the movie for an American remake.



The movie is set in Spain, where Laura (Belén Rueda) returns to the dilapidated orphanage where she grew up, accompanied by her husband, Carlos (Fernando Cayo), and their seven-year-old adopted son, Simón (Roger Príncep). Her plan is to reopen The Orphanage as a facility for disabled children. Once there, Simón claims to see a boy named Tomás, whom he befriends and draws as a child wearing a sack mask. A social worker named Benigna Escobeda (Montserrat Carulla) visits The Orphanage, telling Laura that she has Simón's adoption file, which includes the fact that Simón is HIV-positive. Incensed at Benigna's intrusion, Laura sends her away. That night, Laura finds Benigna snooping around her coal shed, but Benigna escapes before Laura can confront her. Later, Simon teaches Laura a type of scavenger hunt game that Tomás taught him. The game involves hiding a person's possessions, with the player who recovers his final possession winning a wish. While playing the game, the clues lead to Simón's adoption file with an angry Simón saying his new friends told him that Laura is not his real mother and that he knows he is going to die.

During a children's party at The Orphanage, Laura and Simón argue, and Simón hides from her. While searching for him, Laura is confronted by a boy in a sack mask with the name "Tomás" embroidered onto his shirt. The boy traps her in a bathroom, and when she escapes she finds that Simón is missing, and searches for him throughout the house and outside. The hunt leads her to a cave where she trips and injures herself. At a medical center, the police psychologist, Pilar (Mabel Rivera), suggests to Laura and Carlos that Benigna may have abducted Simón. That night at home, a bedridden Laura hears unexplained banging in the walls.

Six months later, while searching in a snowy city in Northern Spain, Laura and Carlos spot Benigna pushing a baby carriage downtown. As Laura calls out to her, Benigna is suddenly hit and killed by a speeding van. Laura rushes to Benigna's carriage, but finds only a doll wearing Tomás' sack mask. The police search Benigna's home and find evidence revealing that Benigna worked at The Orphanage long ago and that she had a son named Tomás who was at the orphanage. He wore a sack-like mask over his head due to his deformity and was housed away from the other children in a separate room. Tomás was accidentally killed by the children of The Orphanage who stole his mask near the beach caves by the sea. Tomás refused to come out, resulting in his death by drowning. In desperation, Laura goes to a medium named Aurora (Geraldine Chaplin), seeking clues to her son's disappearance. After Aurora investigates the house she tells Laura that she is close to death, and has the ability to see the dead. With clues from the medium, Laura searches The Orphanage grounds and discovers the remains of the orphans she grew up with who were killed by Benigna and stored in sacks of bone and ashes that were hidden inside the coal storage outside the house.

Unable to cope with the situation, Carlos leaves The Orphanage as Laura promises him she'll be done in two days. Laura attempts to contact the ghost children and soon begins to see them around her when she initiates a game, similar to that of red-light-green-light-1-2-3, that she used to play while growing up at the orphanage. The ghosts lead her to a hidden door leading to a basement room. In the room, she discovers Simón alive and hugs him in a blanket. As the ghost children vanish, Laura finds that the blanket is empty and the body of the deceased Simón lies behind her. She realizes that she had inadvertently caused Simón's death (she had accidentally blocked the hidden door to the basement where he was playing, trapping him inside), and realizes that the unexplained noises she had heard were Simón trying to get out. Laura carries Simón's body upstairs and swallows all her medication, begging to be with Simón again. Laura's wish is granted as the ghosts of the dead children appear and Simón comes to life in Laura's arms. Some time later, Carlos walks alone over to the gravestones for Laura, Simón, and the orphans, which stand outside the orphanage. Carlos returns to the orphans' old bedroom and finds a medallion that he gave to Laura on the floor. He hears the sound of the bedroom door opening; as he looks up he slowly smiles.


  • Belén Rueda as Laura: The wife of Carlos and mother of the adopted Simón. Laura returns to The Orphanage that she spent some of her youth at to turn it into a home for disabled children.
  • Fernando Cayo as Carlos: Carlos is the husband of Laura and father of adopted Simón.
  • Roger Príncep as Simón: Simón is the young adoptive son of Laura and Carlos. Simón meets new imaginary friends in The Orphanage and eventually threatens to run away with them.
  • Geraldine Chaplin as Aurora: Aurora is the medium brought in to help find Simón when the police can't find him.
  • Mabel Rivera as Pilar: Pilar is the head of the police psychologist who eventually leads out the truth of who Benigna really is.
  • Edgar Vivar as Balabán: The man who puts Laura in contact with Aurora and directs the spirit session in her house.
  • Montserrat Carulla as Benigna: Bengina appears first in the movie as a social worker who sneaks around The Orphanage at night. When she is seen young in the film, she is portrayed by Carol Suárez. Production companies working with Bayona tried to urge him to keep this character alive until the end of the film.



The first draft of the script of The Orphanage was written by Sergio G. Sánchez in 1996 (25 years ago). Sánchez was not sure why he chose to write a genre movie for the screenplay, as he explains, "I ended up writing a movie in the style of those I liked as a kid, movies like Poltergeist, The Omen, and Rosemary's Baby which I ruined on the first VCR we owned at home." Sánchez revealed the literary influences underlying his writing of the script, such as The Turn of the Screw and Peter Pan. Sánchez originally wanted to direct the script but he was repeatedly turned down by various Spanish production companies. While Sánchez was working on the short movie 7337 in 2004 (17 years ago), he met with director Juan Antonio Bayona and offered him the script to direct. Bayona accepted the opportunity because he felt that a fantasy themed script like that of The Orphanage would allow him freedom as a director, saying the fantasy genre was a great tool for learning as it "allows manipulation of space and time as we wish or the use of certain camera moves with an immediate efficiency".

Bayona cut parts of the script, including the outcome of the other orphanage children, because he wanted to focus on the character of Laura and what happens to her. To create the movie as he wanted, Bayona had to double both the film's budget and the amount of filming time. To accomplish this, Bayona received help from fellow movie director Guillermo del Toro, whom he had met at Festival de Cine de Sitges when del Toro was presenting his movie Cronos (1993, 28 years ago). Del Toro offered to co-produce the movie as soon as he learned about it. For the rest of his crew, Bayona worked with his regular team that he worked with on commercials and music videos.


On discussions with casting between del Toro and Bayona, Bayona wanted to have Belén Rueda in the lead. Del Toro admired this choice as he appreciated her as an actress and that Bayona was casting her against the genre. Bayona admired her after seeing her performance as Julia in Alejandro Amenabar's The Sea Inside. Bayona had Rueda watch The Innocents and Close Encounters of the Third Kind to prepare for the role. Another role Bayona desired for the movie was to have Geraldine Chaplin as the role of Aurora the medium. Bayona stated that he wanted the movie to have "the mood of 70s Spanish cinema and Geraldine starred in one of the best movies of that decade, Carlos Saura's The Secret of Anna, as the ghost of the mother. It made sense to have her play the medium." Bayona was nervous about filming with Chaplin. To break the ice, on the first day of shooting with her Bayona hid under a bed and grabbed her leg when she knelt down in the dark. Chaplin's scream in the movie is her genuine surprise of her being grabbed. The role of Simón by Roger Príncep was one of the first test-screenings for the role. Bayona went through over four-hundred children over two months before making his choice. Edgar Vivar was cast for role of Balabán. Bayona knew Vivar through his work on the Mexican TV series El Chavo and sent him an invitation for the role through e-mail.


Production on The Orphanage began on May 15, 2006 (15 years ago) in Llanes, Asturias. This location was chosen due to the area's diverse natural settings that include beaches, caves, cliffs, forests, a small village and the Partarríu Manor where The Orphanage scenes take place. The Orphanage was an old colonial house from the end of the nineteenth century. Bayona wanted to use certain cinematographic techniques that were impossible to achieve in the house, so several parts of the house were reconstructed in sound stages. After four weeks in Llanes, the team moved to Barcelona to finish up the last ten weeks of filming in sound stages, making over 80% of the movie there. Bayona showed the movies La residencia and The Innocents to his Director of Photography on the film, to make special notice of the Scope lensing used in both films.


The Orphanage premiered at the Cannes movie Festival on May 20, 2007 (14 years ago). The movie was positively received with a ten minute ovation from the audience. The film's Spanish debut took place at the Sitges movie Festival on Oct. 4, 2007 (14 years ago) where it opened the festival. The Orphanage had a wide release in Spain on Oct. 11, 2007 (14 years ago) and was immensely successful in Spain after an $8.3 million four-day launch from 350 screens. The movie was the second highest-grossing debut ever for a Spanish movie and was the biggest opening of the year, making it even larger than the worldwide success of the Spanish movie Pan's Labyrinth.

In Spain, the movie was nominated for 14 Goya Awards, including Best picture (wallpaper) and ended up winning awards for Best Art Direction, Best Director of Production, Best Makeup and Hair, Best New Director, Best Screenplay - Original, Best Sound Mixing and Best Special Effects. The Orphanage was chosen by the Spanish Academy of movies as Spain's nominee for the 2007 (14 years ago) Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, but ultimately did not end up as one of the five final nominees in that category. The Orphanage was picked up by Picturehouse at the Berlin movie Festival for American distribution.

It opened in limited release in the United States on dec. 28, 2007 (14 years ago) and had a wide release on Jan. 11, 2008 (13 years ago). In opened in Mexico on Jan. 25, 2008 (13 years ago) and earned over $11,000,000 at the Box Office.


The Orphanage was received very well by American critics on its original release. The movie ranking website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 86% of critics had given the movie positive reviews, based upon a sample of 146. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the movie has received an average score of 74, based on 33 reviews. Critics praised the movie for its lack of cheap scares. movie critic for the Chicago Sun Times Roger Ebert praised the movie claiming it to be "deliberately aimed at viewers with developed attention spans. It lingers to create atmosphere, a sense of place, a sympathy with the characters, instead of rushing into cheap thrills". Bill Goodykoontz of the Arizona Republic echoed this statement noting, "Bayona never lets The Orphanage descend into cheap horror. The scares here are expertly done and, placed in the context of Laura's state of mind, well-earned, perhaps even explainable (or not)." Peter Howell of the Toronto Star wrote, "The year's best horror picture (wallpaper) is also one of the simplest. The Orphanage makes little if any use of digital tricks to present its numerous terrors." The casting of Chaplin and Rueda was praised while the role of Carlos was called dull. Goodykoontz noted the role of Carlos, saying "Cayo is rather pedestrian as Carlos, but he isn't given that much to do". Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune shared this opinion saying, "Rueda has a great pair of peepers for this assignment. When she looks one way and then the other, while skulking through the hallways of her childhood home, every nerve-wracking whatwasthat? registers, and how. Cayo is pretty dull by comparison, but Chaplin certainly is not." Liam Lacey of The Globe & Mail praised Rueda stating, "The strongest appeal of the movie is the brooding, intense performance by Spanish actress, Belen Rueda." The Orphanage listed as one of the top 10 best movies of 2007 (14 years ago) by several critics, including Lawrence Toppman of the Charlotte Observer, Marc Doyle of Metacritic and Tasha Robinson of The Onion. Anthony Lane of The New Yorker included the movie on his top ten list of 2008 (13 years ago).

There were few negative reviews, and those that were negative were not in agreement. A negative review came from Lacey of The Globe & Mail, who felt that at "[the film's] core, it seems intended as a sympathetic drama of a bereaved mother, who may have slipped into madness. What's even more disquieting is the persistent undercurrent of exploitation - the mixture of grief and jarring shock effects and the pitiless use of a disfigured child as a source of horror." A.O. Scott of The New York Times claimed to the movie to be a "diverting, overwrought ghost story" and that it "relies on basic and durable horror movie techniques". Jack Matthews of The New York Daily News founding the ending of the movie to be one of the worst of the season, but praised the acting of Belén Rueda.


  1. "Prólogo"  
  2. "Créditos"  
  3. "Una luz mágica"  
  4. "El juego del tesoro"  
  5. "Un día de fiesta"  
  6. "Atropello"  
  7. "Tomás"  
  8. "Dos kilillos"  
  9. "Una regresión"  
  10. "Crea, entonces verá"  
  11. "Sola en la casa"  
  12. "La Casita de Tomás"  
  13. "Reunión y final"  
  14. "Créditos finales"  
  15. "Propuesta inicial (Maqueta)"  
  16. "Tema Principal (Coro)"  


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