Review: The Orphanage

The OrphanageProduced by Guillermo del Toro of Pan’s Labyrinth fame, The Orphanage is a story of a couple living in an old orphanage-turned-house, with their adopted son Simon. Simon’s got issues, having all sorts of friends of the imaginary variety. When he goes missing, his mother Laura (a former resident of the same orphanage she now lives in as a house) begins to suspect these imaginary friends could be more.. supernatural in origin.

The story is not the standard-fare ghost story you might be expecting, and the slow story buildup at the start is so worth it in payoff later. It’s very well written, the characters are excellent, and the performances are all believable.

It’s a foreign film (spanish), so expect to read subtitles.

There’s some genuinely amazing bits in this film, and your heart rate will increase rapidly on many occasions. Best part is the film doesn’t suffer the hollywood scary movie failing of doing so by making loud noises and using psychotic editing. There’s some seriously scary crap happening on the screen to freak you out, and it’s damn effective.

It’s also used to service the story, not for pure adrenaline value.

I love writers strikes. They should happen more often, because the focus shifts more to foreign films, where the real talent is lying these days. If you were a fan of Pan’s Labyrinth, definitely do not miss this.

Review: Cloverfield

Cloverfield PosterCloverfield’s been getting a ridiculous amount of hype, and a lot of that is really cunning secretiveness on the part of the film’s producers. It’s finally out, and I got a chance to see it on opening night.

The theater was full to capacity. We ended up seeing it in maybe the third or fourth row from the front, which was probably a bad idea. The shakey-cam aspect of this film cannot be overstated, if you even have the slightest possibility of getting motion sickness from stuff, this cam will have you feeling ill fast. That aside..

The story centers around a group of friends who are busily throwing a party for one of their friends who’s leaving the country for a job in Japan when the crap hits the fan. Something’s tearing New York a new one, and these friends are at ground zero trying to get out of the city. The audience is right along for the ride because the story is told from the perspective of one of the characters holding a digital video camera, hence why the footage is chaotic.

The integration of the effects into the footage is shockingly good. With the city coming apart around everyone it’s amazing to watch because normally that kind of thing is a pain to put together with the filmed stuff, due to the motion. Here it’s spot on, and totally engaging because you have to pay attention to spot details and catch what’s going on.

The film’s incredibly immersive audio helps to sell the experience as well. There’s no music, just whatever audio’s able to be picked up by the video camera.

All in all the experience is very engaging and the presentation is quite original, despite people making comparisons with Blair Witch Project. It can be a stomach twister at times, but there hasn’t been anything out like this in theaters that I can remember. Check it out, but if you can take a back row or wait until it comes out on video.

(Note: I’m being deliberately vague on a lot of plot points which I feel are best experienced than to be told outright)