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Seeing Guillermo del Toro presents above the title to THE ORPHANAGE ($36) is a key reason that this reviewer was drawn into seeing this particular movie. For my money, it is the best cinematic ghost story I’ve seen since del Toro’s own THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE. Watching THE ORPHANAGE for the first time, I was reminded of other movie ghost stories I have seen over the years, but this film certainly doesn’t try to mimic anything else. THE ORPHANAGE is the kind of movie POLTERGEIST could have been if it had settled for the subtlety of 1963’s THE HAUNTING, instead of being a fun house thrill ride. A lot of the subtleties contained in THE ORPHANAGE become readily apparent, upon a second viewing of the film. Thus, having the opportunity to view the film again on Blu-ray made this reviewer even more aware of what was overlooked the first time around, thanks in part, to the superb clarity of a truly marvelous high definition presentation.

The premise of THE ORPHANAGE follows a woman named Laura (Belén Rueda), who spent a portion of her childhood in the institution of the film’s title, before she was adopted. As an adult, Laura is married to a doctor named Carlos (Fernando Cayo) and the couple has an adopted son named Simón (Roger Príncep). Laura and Carlos want to give something back to the world, and purchase the abandoned orphanage, with the intention of turning it into a home for special needs children. Alone most of the time, Simón naturally makes some imaginary friends, which his parents believe will disappear as soon as some real children arrive at the orphanage. However, there are some unsettling occurrences involving Simón’s imaginary friends, which culminate the boy’s disappearance on the very day the orphanage is reopened. Laura and Carlos are devastated by the Simón’s disappearance, especially Laura, who is unable to let go of the missing boy. Months pass and Laura remains hopeful of discovering Simón’s whereabouts, turning to the paranormal and a medium named Aurora (Geraldine Chaplin), who may be able to contact the ghosts that Laura now believes to have been her son’s imaginary friends.

New Line Home Entertainment has made THE ORPHANAGE available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. This is an absolutely stunning 1080p presentation, which really ups the ante over New Line’s already terrific looking DVD. Everything appears crisp and highly defined with a wonderful level of fine image detail that makes textures, individual hairs and even the lines in the actors’ faces cleanly visible. For the most part, the colors tend to be cool and subdued, however flesh tones are wholly natural. I give the presentation high marks for recreating the intended color palette so faithfully. Blacks are pitch perfect and the whites are clean and crisp. Contrast and shadow detail are pretty much first rate. The film elements appear pristine and grain is generally mild.

THE ORPHANAGE is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a Spanish language 7.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Sonically, the Blu-ray release of THE ORPHANAGE perfectly complements the impressive visuals of the disc. The short version is that this is a truly wonderful sounding track. There is a lot of subtle complexity in the sound design, but there is also directionality and well-placed sound effects. Sound effects aren’t just thrown in for a wow factor, but are present, when the storytelling warrants it. The sound design is highly dimensional; creating realistic sonic environments and there is enough playfulness in the sonics to heighten the creepiness factor. Fidelity is truly excellent, with the music greatly benefiting from the lossless quality of DTS-HD format. The top end is crystal clear, while the bottom is fully authoritative and rumbling. Voices have a warm, natural effortless quality, although I am no judge of language intelligibility beyond English. No other language tracks have been included on the DVD, but English and Spanish subtitles are provided.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a nice complement of supplements, which duplicate the content of the DVD. When Laura Grew Up: Constructing The Orphanage spends seventeen minutes providing one with a good overview of the production. Tomas Secret Room: The Filmmakers is a ten-minute look at the production team. Horror In The Unknown: Make-Up Effects is a self-explanatory nine minutes. Rehearsal Studio: Cast Auditions and Table Read is three minutes of rehearsals. A Still Gallery, Marketing Campaign (with artwork & trailers), plus Bonus Trailers close out the supplements.

I think THE ORPHANAGE is one of the best cinematic ghost stories that I’ve seen in quite a while and is the kind of movie in which fans are urged to sit down for a second viewing shortly after the first. New Line’s Blu-ray release is appreciably superior to its already excellent DVD release on both the visual and sonic levels. Very highly recommended.


The Orphanage [Blu-ray] (2008)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2008 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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