The Orphanage, El Orfanato in it's native Spanish, is a movie made in the tradition that generally scares the hell outta me. Films like Rosemary's Baby, Nosferatu, The Others --even the original Saw--scare me more with visual teasing and through inference than the use of graphic violence and excessive blood-letting.
When Laura (a former orphanage resident who was adopted at age 10) grows up and marries, she wants to give back. She adopts Simon, a young boy with a serious disease, buys the orphanage she once lived in as a child and becomes determined to open a home for children with disabilities.
After being in the home for a few weeks, Simon begins talking about his all-too-realistic imaginary friends. They have names and direct him in daily game-playing, he says, and they were once real kids who lived in the orphanage. Simon becomes so involved in his activity with the imaginary playmates that his parents become concerned. As they tighten down harder on Simon to keep him grounded in what they think is reality, Simon becomes more defiant.
On one particular day Simon disappears during his play-time with his friends, setting up the film's main plot--Laura reaction to his disappearance, and her efforts to find her son.
The Orphanage is a Spanish film, so utilizando subtítulos era necesario para mí. Like Pan's Labyrinth, though, the story unfolds so well that subtitles were not always necessary. The acting in the films was top shelf, and the cinematography was quite good. In fact, The Orphanage was so good and so well received in Spain that it was that country's submission to the Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Film category.
It didn't win. But it well could have. It's a bit predictable, but quite good.