'El Orfanata' (The Orphanage), directed by Juan Antonio Bayona, is shaping up to be the most rewarding creepshow in a long time -- and, not surprisingly, this picture is a Spanish production.
The Spanish seem to have a lock on creepy, character-driven movies of late. Guillermo del Toro recently gave us 'El Laberinto del Fauno' (Pan's Labyrinth), an atmospheric and lovingly photographed fable which, although it didn't quite maintain its forward motion in Act II, was original and enjoyable.
Del Toro's 'El Espinazo del Diablo' (The Devil's Backbone) sustains itself with more energy but, doesn't offer as compelling a set of characters, or story. Still, it's a lot of fun. Even his uneven 'Mimic' shows more heart than most -- I'd recommend it. All in all, Del Toro's movies are a breath of fresh air that, amid emotionally challenged and intellectually stagnate Hollywood horror fare, revive the imagination and renew one's interest in good storytelling.
And then there's perhaps the best of recent Spanish creepshows, 'The Others', directed by Alejandro Amenabar. Here Nicole Kidman is pitch perfect, the story manages to ratchet up tension at every turn, the cinematography is a pleasure -- with scenes that are both classically lit yet keep a contemporary fluidity in the camera and editing -- and even the ending (that most difficult thing to peg in a supernatural thriller) is satisfying. And, if Hollywood isn't convinced by those qualities, 'The Others' was a huge financial success as well.
Why is Spain the new font of character-driven suspense? With the waning success of the new super-graphic, ultra-sarcastic brand of Hollywood horror movie, Tinsel Town could take a lesson. (Not that they're likely to). But, one can hope. In the meantime mi gusto mucho los nuevos peliculos de Espana. Hey, that's the best I could do -- high school Spanish was long time ago. See you at the movies...