I often wonder if certain movie “scenes” are really just cobbled together because you get one outstanding film from a country and then everyone looks a bit closer at the others. The last major horror scene before the recent interest in Spain, was J-Horror, and looking back at it, the products were a bit woeful. We got one classic (Ringu), a few OK films which seemed original because of a different cultural view of ghosts and spirits and a hell of a lot of hair, eyes and creepy kids. Oh, and I daresay the odd university film essay on technophobia (I know, I wrote one!) And even worse US remakes.
The Spanish horror wave of the last few years is also slowly being remade by Hollywood, but there is much more of a shared cultural connection between the two on the surface. But the Spanish horror films of the last few years, which often have been more ghost movies than horror anyway, have had at their heart Spain’s turbulent last one hundred years. In particular the Spanish civil war and the forty years of Franco and fascism. We have been primed for this by Spirit Of The Beehive so we look for it constantly in a Spanish movie, but the horror movies presents this relatively unexplored cinematic history as a hornets nest apt for poking with allegorical sticks made of orphaned kids and ghosties.
The Orphanage is a terrificially well told story. Its a ghost story, and as considered in our recent MR James series on FT, there aren’t that many actual ghost stories that can be told. The Orphanage is a classic because of how it dresses itself, the horror of the missing child, the teasing of the history of the house and then, just when you think this is going to be a cerebral thinking kind of ghost story, the best jump cut out of your seat I have seen in years. The cinema I was in screamed. Which never happens these days. Which said to me The Orphanage was near perfect.