Been spending the past couple days (and the next couple days) at my brother's house. I've been given the duty of cat-sitting while he's on vacation and one of the perks that comes with that is a PS3. Now I should point out that he's also got a Blockbuster unlimited rental plan (free of charge, for me) and up until now, I had never seen a full movie in high def. Last night I rented The Orphanage and it was quite a glorious occasion. I'd seen the movie twice before, but never like this. And that's not only because of the Blu-ray beauty. It's taken me three viewings but I think i've finally unlocked all of the secrets to the film, or at least i've formed my complete viewpoint of it, thanks in part to the help of some serious post movie discussion between the lady pal and I.
In case you haven't seen the movie, it has caused quite a lot of debate among horror fans and has raised quite a few questions as to what exactly the meaning of the film is. There's gonna be many spoilers throughout here plus you'll have no idea what the hell i'm ranting about if you haven't seen it, so if you belong to that group, don't read ahead until you no longer belong to that sad group. I'm writing this for those who have seen it. For those who just wanna get some good old fashioned horror related entertainment and not several thousand words on the meanings of a movie, i'll have some of that coming later today for ya!
To sum it up in a few words, the movie is a "ghost story" about a woman who buys and returns to the old orphanage she used to live at and decides to re-open it's doors. While there, she uncovers deep dark secrets about the place and we go from there. Now the questions that have been raised are mostly regarding the films supernatural elements. Is it a ghost story or can everything be explained in much simpler ways? For me, there's no question as to what the intentions of the film were. But really, no matter how you cut it, this movie is fucking AMAZING and one of the best horror films of all time. I get chills just thinking about it.
I'm no expert here nor am I claiming to be an Orphanage know-all, so this is just my point of view as to what went on in the movie. Don't take my word for it and watch yourself to form your own opinions. The beauty of this movie is that it's all left up to you. Are you a skeptic or are you a believer?
First of all, and most importantly, if you didn't understand the end of the film (which many seem to not have) let me give it a quick sum up. Laura unknowingly locked her son Simon in Tomas' secret room in the basement when she accidently knocked a bunch of heavy poles in front of the secret door. Simon banged on the door for some time to get out but eventually the railing on the steps gave way and he fell to his death. Laura, heartbroken and completely devastated upon finding her son's dead body, which she kinda caused, overdoses on some pills and kills herself. In her own mind, post death, Laura is re-united not only with her son but also with all of her old orphanage friends who had been killed many many years prior by Benigna and also with Tomas.
Let me just get right out here and say it ; there are no ghosts in this film. There is no supernatural element. It is actually anything but a ghost story and the ghost element is only used as a clever device to throw us all off. And it sure as hell worked. Let me explain...
The banging Laura had been hearing in the house, which she attributed to the ghosts of the orphanage kids, was actually her son Simon desperately attempting to get out of the locked basement. The cracking and falling she hears is, obviously, the rail giving way and her son falling to his untimely demise. This much we can all i'm sure agree on. But what about some of the other stuff in there? How about the ghosts Laura sees towards the end of the film when she's playing that red light green light 1-2-3 game? They're not real! They're products of Laura's imagination. Just like she imagined seeing her son alive and well, she imagined these little guys too. Laura so desperately believed that the 'ghosts' would help her locate her lost son that she ended up seeing them. Like the psychic woman tells her not too long prior, "Believe, and you will see." I think that whole parental therapy scene was thrown in there to show how many parents think they see their child's ghost after he/she passes on because they so badly want to.
Alright, all well and good, but what about when Tomas attacks Laura? That was not the ghost of Tomas, it was Simon wearing Tomas' gear. Simon had begged and pleaded with his mom to come take a look at the secret room he had discovered, but all he was met with was a slap. So, out of spite, he dressed up as Tomas in an attempt to scare and get back at his mother.
This brings us to the final game of treasure hunting Laura engages in. Who put it all together? Are you catching the drift by now? Simon put that together before his death, it wasn't the doings of a ghost. Laura mistakenly thinks that the game was put together by the orphan ghosts because it leads her to their dead buried bodies, but that was not the intention of the game. The door knob was supposed to lead Laura to the basement room that Simon had so badly wanted her to see. It was his clever little way of getting his mom to do something she didn't seem to want to do. Lest you doubt this theory, note how the flower she finds in this game is dead and withered. This is because it had been put there by Simon many months prior before his death. I firmly believe that Laura knew subconciously somewhere in her mind where that door knob led to but was too scared to admit it to herself. They make a point of showing how the knob is the same as the one for the main closet door, so Laura surely must have recognized it on some cognitive level. Like her husband says earlier in the film about a similar thing Simon does, "you invented the game because you were afraid to ask about it." 'It' being the truth he already knew.
Now there's also that little problem of the whole psychic ghost hunting exploration of the home. We heard ghosts with our own ears, right? Wrong. It is my belief that this was a complete hoax and the 'ghost hunters' were completely full of shit, as most ghost hunters and psychics are. They were merely capitalizing on and praying upon an impressionable damaged mind. They could have easily researched the orphanage and found out about its dark past and then had fake ghost voices saying things relative to this past. As Laura's husband mentions after they leave, "Enrique was upstairs for one hour, playing around with the cables, can't you see it could be a set-up?" They pulled the wool right over Laura's eyes. Notice how the psychics make no mention of Simon or his whereabouts. This is because they have no idea about him as that wasn't something they could research. Don't ya think if they were really picking up those spirits from inside the home they would've also picked up and heard from Simon, who was lying dead right underneath their feet?! Also take note of how choreographed and perfect the whole session is, with the monitors coming back on almost on cue as the fat dude counts from 10-1. I call bullshit.
This next point is kinda sketchy and I admit I may be reaching a little, but remember that scene where the psychic is talking about wounds needing to be healed and she compares her arm to Laura's and they both have odd marks on them ; sores on the psychics and a red mark on Laura's? I had the thought that perhaps, in an effort to further convince Laura of her so called abilities and further relate to her and make her buy into the bullshit, she put fake sores on her arm to make it look like she had AIDS, which she probably figured Laura did as well given her son was HIV positive, not realizing Laura was his adopted mother. This is kind of silly and I feel like i'm not quite hitting it on the head, though. Many people have asked what the mark was on Laura's arm. If you freeze frame, you will see it's merely a fresh mark from when the psychic pinches her just prior to comparing arms, not a scar from a past suicide attempt as i've heard thrown around out there.
Another question is about Laura's health status. Some have suggested that she too is HIV positive, a claim I can't help but agree with. In her youth she was in an orphanage which seemed to be chock full of kids with disabilities and problems, surely she must have something that was unspoken about wrong with her too, right? If she is HIV positive, that would explain why she was not only forced to adopt but also why she adopted an HIV positive child. She's not gonna bring a child into this world with that problem nor is she going to infect her husband, but adopting such a child that's already out there is a different story. Again, just my opinion. I've heard some people suggest that Laura was seen as a motherly figure by the other kids because she was normal, unlike them, but truthfully they only see her in this light nowadays because she has grown old and into an adult while they have stayed children given the fact that they didn't live to become adults.
Here's some other questions i've heard asked over and over on the Imdb boards, which i'll do my best to answer in support of my theories.
-How did Simon know about all the dead kids in the first place, if their spirits didn't come to him?
Simon saw the pictures and drawings of all of them in Tomas' room and, like he had been known to do, made them his new imaginary friends. The names are even written on the drawings.
-Why didn't Simon just scream when he was banging to get out of the basement?
Cause it's a fucking movie and if he had screamed, the movie would be over and the whole idea of it would be ruined. Suspend a little disbelief, will ya!
-How did Simon know about his HIV status/adoption if his parent's did tell him and if we're assuming it wasn't Tomas who told him, like he claimed?
Simon saw Laura stashing away the papers Benigna brought, which included both of these things, and then went ahead and read them and created the game because he didn't know how else to confront Laura about it. Note how the shot of Laura hiding the papers is from someone elses point of view ; it could only be Simon's.
-Why do the doors slam shut by themselves in the house and why did that window shatter in the perfect place at the perfect time?
I'd attribute both of these to the simple fact that the filmmaker needed to make us believe the house was truly haunted, in order to sell the twist. Thus, things like these were thrown in to convince us of this fact. Also, it is an old creaky house, so I suppose doors could close on their own and windows could possibly even shatter. I guess it's not totally far fetched, but I think there's just gonna naturally be inconsistencies. This was marketed as a ghost film, after all.
-Who did Laura see in the cave and who did she feel in bed with her, when it turned out it wasn't her husband?
Again, these are both imagined in Laura's fragile state of mind. The bed only felt warm because her husband had just been in it moment's prior.
And now, for one question I couldn't really come up with an answer for just yet...
-How did Simon get in the basement room if the door knob was hidden away for Laura to find?
I couldn't say for sure, but perhaps he left the door slightly ajar during this time? That's all I can come up with for that.
All in all I feel the movie was marketed wrong as it evokes more tears than it does fears. But don't get me wrong, it's a scary movie when it wants to be, it's just a hell of a lot more than a horror movie. Then again, I think this false marketing was probably just what it needed to throw us all of. In which case, it was brilliant.
Think I pretty much covered all I wanted to say. I've spent quite a while making sense of it all and i'm pretty confident there's no question I can't answer in support of my theories, so try me if ya got any issues with it! And state some of your thoughts in the comments section below. Now who wants to buy me a PS3?