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My prejudices about horror movies put at shame – again

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I’m a squishy. Hence I don’t like horror movies a lot. Or at least that’s what I always have claimed. I’ve never bought into the idea of voluntarily exposing myself to movies intended to make me feel uncomfortable, nauseous and depressed.

Admittedly I’ve watched a handful of horror movies over the last year that have been to my liking, films such as Buried, The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby and before that Let the Right One In and Pan’s Labyrinth, which both are favourites of mine. But each time I’ve come across a scary movie I’ve liked, I’ve also told myself that it was just the exception to confirm the rule, a temporary expedition into a territory I generally dislike.

This weekend it happened again: I watched a movie with a “horror” label attached to it that pulled me right into it from the start and spit me out two hours later – touched, scared, delighted and upset at the same time.

And I think it’s about time that I start to reconsider my stance on the genre. It seems as if I’m not quite as fragile as I’ve imagined? It’s obvious that he genre has a lot more to offer than shock value.

Scary and touching
The movie that took me out of my prison of prejudices is The Orphanage, which I would describe as a combination of ghost story and drama with a couple of jump-scare scenes added to spice it up a bit. IMDb actually doesn’t use the word “horror”, but calls it “drama, mystery and thriller”.

However I’m not in doubt about which genre it belongs to.  It’s dense with a scary atmosphere. (My mother, who is a 68 year old die-hard horror fan and has seen a ton of movies still called it one of the creepiest films she’s seen up to this date).

At the same time you’d be surprised at how little blood, gore and visual shock that has been used to create the dread. The atmosphere is built on anticipation instead of exposure. It grows in the shadows in the corridors of the old house, where unknown entities dwell behind locked doors. It grows in the secret and dark corners of people’s minds.

And it also reaches for something else. As thrilling as it is, it’s also very sad, very touching and very beautiful, more than once bringing me to the verge of tears.

The characters
I don’t word too much about the plot, in case you haven’t seen it, but I’ll give you a few of the characters to give you a picture of what kind of fairytale this is.

First there’s the mother who grew up in an orphanage in an old house, who now wants to re-open it to disabled children. Then there’s her son Simón who says that he has invisible friends. There’s also an eerie woman and a child that freaks me out (don’t they always?) but I refuse to tell you who or what they are, that you need to find out for yourself. There’s the father, who appears to believe more in science than in the spiritual world and who drifts away to the periphery of the film. And finally – as it should be in a classic ghost story – there are shadows from the past and a house that almost is an entity of its own.

Orphanage won me over. My days as a horror hater have come to an end. Now if I could find a movie to do the same for me with the western genre…

The Orphanage (El orfanato, Juan Antonio Bayona, ES 2007) My rating: 4,5/5

Written by Jessica

November 20, 2012 at 1:00 am

Posted in The Orphanage