The Orphanage (2007 film)

The Orphanage (2007 film)
The Orphanage
Movie poster illustrating a woman cradling a baby covered in cloth in a dark room in front of a bright window. Five small hands are seen covering the window from the darkness. Text at the bottom of the poster reveals the original Spanish title, production credits and release date.
Spanish promotional poster
Directed by J.A. Bayona
Produced by Mar Targarona
Joaquín Padro
Álvaro Agustín
Guillermo del Toro
Written by Sergio G. Sánchez
Starring Belén Rueda
Fernando Cayo
Roger Príncep
Geraldine Chaplin
Music by Fernando Velázquez
Cinematography Óscar Faura
Editing by Elena Ruiz
Studio Esta Vivo! Laboratorio de Nuevos Talentos
Grupo Rodar
Rodar y Rodar Cine y Televisión
Telecinco Cinema
Televisió de Catalunya (TV3)
Warner Bros. Pictures de España
Wild Bunch
Distributed by Warner Bros. (Spain)
Release date(s) May 20, 2007 (Cannes)
October 4, 2007 (Spain)
December 28, 2007 (US)
Running time 105 minutes
Country Spain
Language Spanish
Box office $78,638,987[1]

The Orphanage (Spanish: El Orfanato) is a 2007 Spanish-Mexican horror film and the debut feature of Spanish filmmaker J.A. Bayona. The film stars Belén Rueda as Laura, Fernando Cayo as her husband, Carlos, and Roger Príncep as their adopted son Simón. The plot centers on Laura, who returns to her childhood home, an orphanage. Laura plans to turn the house into a home for disabled children, but a problem arises when she and Carlos realize that Simón believes he has a masked friend named Tomás with whom he will run away. After an argument with Laura, Simón is found to be missing.

The film's script was written by Sergio G. Sánchez in 1996 and brought to the attention of Bayona in 2004. Bayona asked his long-time friend, director Guillermo del Toro, to help produce the film and to double its budget and filming time. Bayona wanted the film to capture the feel of 1970s Spanish cinema; he cast Geraldine Chaplin and Belén Rueda, who were later praised for their roles in the film.

The film opened at the Cannes Film Festival on May 20, 2007. It received critical acclaim from audiences in its native Spain, winning seven Goya awards. On its North American release, The Orphanage was praised by English speaking critics, who described the film as well directed and acted, and noted the film's lack of "cheap scares", so New Line Cinema bought the rights to the film for an American remake.



In Spain, Laura (Belén Rueda) returns to the dilapidated orphanage where she grew up, accompanied by her husband, Carlos (Fernando Cayo), and their seven-year-old adopted son, Simón (Roger Príncep). Her plan is to reopen the orphanage as a facility for disabled children. Once there, Simón claims to see a boy named Tomás, whom he befriends and draws as a child wearing a sack mask. A social worker, Benigna Escobeda (Montserrat Carulla), visits the orphanage, telling Laura that she has Simón's adoption file, which includes the fact that Simón is HIV-positive. Incensed at Benigna's intrusion, Laura sends her away. That night, Laura finds Benigna snooping around her coal shed, but Benigna escapes before Laura can confront her. Later, Simón teaches Laura a type of scavenger hunt game that Tomás taught him. The game involves hiding a person's possessions, with the player who recovers his final possession winning a wish. While playing the game, the clues lead to Simón's adoption file with an angry Simón saying his new friends told him that Laura is not his real mother and that he knows he is going to die.

During a children's party at the orphanage, Laura and Simón argue, and Simón hides from her. While searching for him, Laura is confronted by a boy in a sack mask with the name "Tomás" embroidered onto his shirt. The boy traps her in a bathroom, and when she escapes she finds that Simón is missing, and searches for him throughout the house and outside. The hunt leads her to a cave where she trips and injures herself. At a medical center, the police psychologist, Pilar, suggests to Laura and Carlos that Benigna may have abducted Simón. That night at home, a bedridden Laura hears unexplained banging in the walls.

Six months later, while searching in a snowy city in Northern Spain, Laura and Carlos spot Benigna pushing a baby carriage downtown. As Laura calls out to her, Benigna is suddenly hit and killed by a speeding bus. Laura rushes to Benigna's carriage, but finds only a doll wearing Tomás' sack mask. The police search Benigna's home and find evidence revealing that Benigna worked at the orphanage long ago and that she had a son named Tomás who was at the orphanage. He wore a sack-like mask over his head due to his deformity and was housed away from the other children in a separate room. Tomás was accidentally killed by the children of the orphanage who stole his mask near a beach cave, which is accessible at low tide. Embarrassed, Tomás hid in the cave, resulting in his death by drowning. In desperation, Laura goes to a medium named Aurora (Geraldine Chaplin), seeking clues to her son's disappearance. With clues from the medium, Laura searches the orphanage grounds and discovers the remains of the orphans she grew up with who were killed by Benigna and stored in sacks of bone and ashes that were hidden inside the coal storage outside the house.[2]

Unable to cope with the situation, Carlos leaves the orphanage as Laura promises him she will be done in two days. Laura recreates the original orphanage layout and attempts to contact the ghost children. She soon begins to see them around her when she initiates a game of "Uno, Dos, Tres, Toca la Pared" [One, Two, Three, Knock on the Wall; similar to Red Light, Green Light in the United States], which she used to play while growing up at the orphanage. The ghosts lead her to a hidden door within a cupboard under the stairs (La Casita de Tomas; Tomás' "little house" which Simón referred to just before his disappearance). This door leads to a hidden basement room. In the room, she sees Simón alive and hugs him in a blanket. As the ghost children vanish, Laura finds that the blanket is empty and the body of the deceased Simón, wearing Tomás' mask, lies behind her. She realizes that she had inadvertently caused Simón's death (she had accidentally blocked the hidden door to the basement where he was playing, trapping him inside), and that the unexplained noises she had heard were Simón trying to get out. At one point Laura had heard a loud crash which had been Simon falling through the stair railing, and onto the ground below, breaking his neck. Laura carries Simón's body upstairs and swallows many handfuls of Trankimazin capsules, begging to be with Simón again. Laura's wish is granted as the ghosts of the dead children appear and Simón returns to life in Laura's arms. Simón then tells Laura that his wish was for her to stay and take care of all the orphans. Later, Carlos walks alone over to the memorial for Laura, Simón, and the orphans which stand outside the orphanage. Carlos returns to the orphans' old bedroom and finds a St. Anthony medallion, that he had given to Laura. He hears the door opening; as he looks up he slowly smiles.


  • Belén Rueda as Laura, the wife of Carlos and mother of the adopted Simón. Laura returns to the orphanage that she spent some of her youth at to turn it into a home for disabled children.
  • Fernando Cayo as Carlos, the husband of Laura and father of adopted Simón.
  • Roger Príncep as Simón, the young adoptive son of Laura and Carlos. Simón meets new imaginary friends in the orphanage and eventually threatens to run away with them.
  • Geraldine Chaplin as Aurora, the medium brought in to help find Simón when the police can't find him.
  • Mabel Rivera as Pilar, the head of the police psychologist who eventually leads out the truth of who Benigna really is.
  • Edgar Vivar as Balabán, the man who puts Laura in contact with Aurora and directs the spirit session in her house.
  • Montserrat Carulla as Benigna Escobeda, appearing first in the film as a social worker who sneaks around the orphanage at night. When she is seen young in the film, she is portrayed by Carol Suárez.[3] Production companies working with Bayona tried to urge him to keep this character alive until the end of the film.[4]



The first draft of the script of The Orphanage was written by Sergio G. Sánchez in 1996.[5] Sánchez was not sure why he chose to write a genre film for the screenplay, as he explains, "I ended up writing a film in the style of those I liked as a kid, movies like Poltergeist, The Omen, and Rosemary's Baby which I ruined on the first VCR we owned at home."[6] Sánchez revealed the literary influences underlying his writing of the script, such as The Turn of the Screw and Peter Pan.[7] Sánchez originally wanted to direct the script but he was repeatedly turned down by various Spanish production companies.[7] While Sánchez was working on the short film 7337 in 2004, he met with director Juan Antonio Bayona and offered him the script to direct.[6][7][8] Bayona accepted the opportunity because he felt that a fantasy themed script like that of The Orphanage would allow him freedom as a director, saying the fantasy genre was a great tool for learning as it "allows manipulation of space and time as we wish or the use of certain camera moves with an immediate efficiency".[9]

Bayona cut parts of the script, including the outcome of the other orphanage children, because he wanted to focus on the character of Laura and what happens to her.[9] To create the film as he wanted, Bayona had to double both the film's budget and the amount of filming time.[10] To accomplish this, Bayona received help from fellow film director Guillermo del Toro, whom he had met at Festival de Cine de Sitges when del Toro was presenting his film Cronos (1993).[10] Del Toro offered to co-produce the film as soon as he learned about it.[10] For the rest of his crew, Bayona worked with his regular team that he worked with on commercials and music videos.[11]


On discussions with casting between del Toro and Bayona, Bayona wanted to have Belén Rueda in the lead.[10] Del Toro admired this choice as he appreciated her as an actress and that Bayona was casting her against the genre.[10] Bayona admired her after seeing her performance as Julia in Alejandro Amenabar's The Sea Inside.[12] Bayona had Rueda watch The Innocents and Close Encounters of the Third Kind to prepare for the role.[13] Another role Bayona desired for the film was to have Geraldine Chaplin as the role of Aurora the medium.[10] Bayona stated that he wanted the film to have "the mood of 70s Spanish cinema and Geraldine starred in one of the best movies of that decade, Carlos Saura's The Secret of Anna, as the ghost of the mother. It made sense to have her play the medium."[12] Bayona was nervous about filming with Chaplin. To break the ice, on the first day of shooting with her Bayona hid under a bed and grabbed her leg when she knelt down in the dark.[12] Chaplin's scream in the film is her genuine surprise of her being grabbed.[12] The role of Simón by Roger Príncep was one of the first test-screenings for the role.[8] Bayona went through over four-hundred children over two months before making his choice.[8] Edgar Vivar was cast for role of Balabán. Bayona knew Vivar through his work on the Mexican television series El Chavo and sent him an invitation for the role through e-mail.[14]


Production on The Orphanage began on May 15, 2006 in Llanes, Asturias.[10] This location was chosen due to the area's diverse natural settings that include beaches, caves, cliffs, forests, a small village, and the Partarríu Manor where the orphanage scenes take place.[10] The orphanage was an old colonial house from the end of the nineteenth century.[10] Bayona wanted to use certain cinematographic techniques that were impossible to achieve in the house, so several parts of the house were reconstructed in sound stages.[10] After four weeks in Llanes, the team moved to Barcelona to finish up the last ten weeks of filming in sound stages, making over 80% of the film there.[10] Bayona showed the films La residencia and The Innocents to his director of photography on the film, to make special notice of the Scope lensing used in both films.[2]


Juan Antonio Bayona, Belén Rueda and Guillermo del Toro dressed in black on a stage from left to right.
Juan Antonio Bayona, Belén Rueda and Guillermo del Toro at a French premiere of The Orphanage in Paris on 28 January 2008.

The Orphanage premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 20, 2007. The film was positively received with a ten-minute ovation from the audience.[15] The film's Spanish debut took place at the Sitges Film Festival on October 4, 2007 where it opened the festival.[16] The Orphanage had a wide release in Spain on October 11, 2007 and was immensely successful in Spain after an $8.3 million four-day launch from 350 screens. The film was the second highest-grossing debut ever for a Spanish film and was the biggest opening of the year, making it even larger than the worldwide success of the Spanish-Mexican film Pan's Labyrinth.[15][17] It opened in limited release in the United States on December 28, 2007 and had a wide release on January 11, 2008.[1] It opened in Mexico on January 25, 2008 and earned over $11,000,000 at the box office.[18]

In Spain, the film was nominated for 14 Goya Awards, including Best Picture and ended up winning awards for Best Art Direction, Best Director of Production, Best Makeup and Hair, Best New Director, Best Screenplay - Original, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Special Effects.[19] The Orphanage was chosen by the Spanish Academy of Films as Spain's nominee for the 2007 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, but ultimately did not end up as one of the five final nominees in that category.[15] The Orphanage was picked up by Picturehouse at the Berlin Film Festival for American distribution.[20]

Home media

The Orphanage was released on DVD and Blu-ray on April 22, 2008 for a Region 1 release by New Line Cinema.[21] Both discs featured the same bonus features.[22][21] A Region 2 version was released on DVD by Optimum Releasing on July 21, 2008.[23]


In 2007, New Line Cinema bought the rights to produce an English-language remake with Guillermo del Toro as producer.[20][24] On remakes, director Bayona noted that "The Americans have all the money in the world but can't do anything, while we can do whatever we want but don't have the money" and "The American industry doesn't take chances, that's why they make remakes of movies that were already big hits".[25] On 4 August 2009, Larry Fessenden was announced as the director of the American remake.[26] Fessenden was later announced that he will not be involved with directing the remake, stating "Working on the script with Guillermo was a very exciting experience, but then I got into a casting miasma and that's where the thing is; I think they're gonna do it another way, actually. So I think I'm out of it. Hopefully they'll still use my script, but I'm not sure I'm directing it anymore".[27] In January 2010, Mark Pellington replaced Larry Fessenden as director of the project.[28]


The Orphanage was received very well by American critics on its original release. The film ranking website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 86% of critics had given the film positive reviews, based upon a sample of 146.[29] At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film has received an average score of 74, based on 33 reviews.[30] Critics praised the film for its lack of cheap scares. Film critic for the Chicago Sun Times Roger Ebert approved of the film claiming it to be "deliberately aimed at viewers with developed attention spans. It lingers to create atmosphere, a sense of place, a sympathy with the characters, instead of rushing into cheap thrills".[31] Bill Goodykoontz of the Arizona Republic echoed this statement noting, "Bayona never lets The Orphanage descend into cheap horror. The scares here are expertly done and, placed in the context of Laura's state of mind, well-earned, perhaps even explainable (or not)."[32] Peter Howell of the Toronto Star wrote, "The year's best horror picture is also one of the simplest. The Orphanage makes little if any use of digital tricks to present its numerous terrors."[33] The casting of Chaplin and Rueda was praised while the role of Carlos was called dull. Goodykoontz noted the role of Carlos, saying "Cayo is rather pedestrian as Carlos, but he isn't given that much to do".[32] Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune shared this opinion saying, "Rueda has a great pair of peepers for this assignment. When she looks one way and then the other, while skulking through the hallways of her childhood home, every nerve-wracking whatwasthat? registers, and how. Cayo is pretty dull by comparison, but Chaplin certainly is not."[34] Liam Lacey of The Globe & Mail praised Rueda stating, "The strongest appeal of the film is the brooding, intense performance by Spanish actress, Belen Rueda."[35] The Orphanage listed as one of the top 10 best films of 2007 by several critics, including Lawrence Toppman of the Charlotte Observer, Marc Doyle of Metacritic and Tasha Robinson of The Onion.[36] Anthony Lane of The New Yorker included the film on his top ten list of 2008.[37]

There were few negative reviews, and those that were negative were not in agreement. A negative review came from Lacey of The Globe & Mail, who felt that at "[the film's] core, it seems intended as a sympathetic drama of a bereaved mother, who may have slipped into madness. What's even more disquieting is the persistent undercurrent of exploitation - the mixture of grief and jarring shock effects and the pitiless use of a disfigured child as a source of horror."[35] A.O. Scott of The New York Times claimed the film to be a "diverting, overwrought ghost story" and that it "relies on basic and durable horror movie techniques".[29] Jack Matthews of New York Daily News found the ending of the film to be one of the worst of the season, but praised the acting of Belén Rueda.[38]


El Orfanato
Film score by Fernando Velázquez
Released 2007
Recorded 2006
Genre Film music
Length 71:11
Label Rhino

In 2007, the film score was composed by Fernando Velázquez and released on compact disc by Rhino Records in Spain. The score for the film was nominated for film awards including the Goya Award for Best Score.[39] The soundtrack has not been released locally in North America or the United Kingdom and is only available by import.[40]

Track listing

All music composed by Fernando Velázquez.


  1. ^ a b ""The Orphanage (2007)"". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-10-28. 
  2. ^ a b "Sypnopsis & Production Info > Download Production PDF > Interivew J.A. Bayona - Director" (ZIP). Retrieved 2009-06-29. 
  3. ^ "Allmovie > The Orphanage > Cast". Allmovie. Retrieved 2008-10-27. 
  4. ^ "The Director Interviews". Filmmaker Magazine. 2007-12-28. Retrieved 2008-10-27. 
  5. ^ "The Orphanage - Juan Antonio Bayona interview". indieLondon. Retrieved 2008-10-27. 
  6. ^ a b "About the Screenplay". Picturehouse. Retrieved 2008-10-27. 
  7. ^ a b c Brian Tallerico. "Deadbolt Interview". The Dead Bolt. Retrieved 2008-10-28. 
  8. ^ a b c "Quint interviews Juan Antonio Bayona and Sergio Sanchez about the nifty horror flick The Orphanage". Aintitcoolnews. 2007-10-12. Retrieved 2008-10-28. 
  9. ^ a b "Interviews: Juan Anthonio Bayona". Picturehouse. Retrieved 2008-10-27. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "About the Production". Picturehouse. Retrieved 2008-10-27. 
  11. ^ "Sypnopsis & Production Info > Download Production PDF > About the Production" (ZIP). Retrieved 2009-06-29. 
  12. ^ a b c d "The Orphanage Q&A with director Juan Antonio Bayona". FutureMovies. 2008-03-13. Retrieved 2008-10-28. 
  13. ^ Brian Tallerico. "Deadbolt Interview". The Dead Bolt. Retrieved 2008-10-28. 
  14. ^ "'El orfanato', regalo de vida para Vivar ['The Orphanage' gift of life for Vivar]" (in Spanish). El January 27, 2008. Retrieved July 8, 2009. 
  15. ^ a b c "'El Orfanato' left off Oscar shortlist". thinkSPAIN. January 16, 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-27. 
  16. ^ ""The Orphanage, by J.A. Bayona, to open the festival"". Sitges Film Festival. 2007-06-21. Retrieved 2008-10-28. 
  17. ^ Conor Bresnan (2007-10-17). ""Around the World Roundup: 'Ratatouille' Squashes Competitors"". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-10-28. 
  18. ^ ""2008 Mexico Yearly Box Office Results"". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2000-03-23. 
  19. ^ "The Orphanage Awards". Allmovie. Retrieved 2008-10-27. 
  20. ^ a b De Pablos, Emiliano (2007-09-07). ""New Line mulls 'Orphanage' remake"". Variety. Retrieved 2008-10-28. 
  21. ^ a b Jason Buchanan. "Allmovie > The Orphanage Widescreen DVD". Allmovie. Retrieved 2008-10-27. 
  22. ^ Jason Buchanan. "Allmovie > The Orphanage Blu-Ray". Allmovie. Retrieved 2008-10-27. 
  23. ^ "Optimum Releasing: Orphanage, The". Optimum Releasing. Retrieved 2008-10-28. 
  24. ^ ""The Orphanage (Remake)"". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-28. 
  25. ^ ""J.A. Bayona: “The important things are emotions, not awards”"". Sitges Film Festival. 2008-10-09. Retrieved 2008-10-27. 
  26. ^ Kit, Borys; Zeitchik, Steven (4 August, 2009). "'Orphanage' remake finds a director". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 13 August, 2009. 
  27. ^ "Excl: Orphanage director out". Arrow in the Head. November 19, 2009. Retrieved November 25, 2009. 
  28. ^ McNary, Dave (January 2, 2010). "'Orphanage' finds helmer". Variety. Retrieved January 12, 2010. 
  29. ^ a b "The Orphanage - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. IGN Entertainment, Inc. Retrieved 2008-10-28. 
  30. ^ "The Orphanage (2007): Reviews". Metacritic. CNET Networks, Inc. Retrieved 2008-10-28. 
  31. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 28, 2007). "The Orphanage ::". The Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2008-11-03. 
  32. ^ a b Goodykoontz, Bill (January 10, 2008). "The Orphanage". Arizona Republic. Retrieved 2008-11-03. 
  33. ^ Howell, Peter (December 26, 2007). "'The Orphanage': Dark look into make-believe". Toronto: The Star. Retrieved 2008-11-03. 
  34. ^ Phillips, Michael (December 28, 2007). "Movie review: The Orphanage". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2008-11-03. 
  35. ^ a b Lacey, Liam (December 26, 2007). "Ghost story exploits, but doesn't scare (subscription required)". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2008-11-03. 
  36. ^ "Film Critic Top Ten List". Metacritic. CNET Networks, Inc. Archived from the original on July 30, 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-28. 
  37. ^ "Film Critic Top Ten List". Metacritic. CNET Networks, Inc. Retrieved 2009-01-10. [dead link]
  38. ^ Matthews, Jack (June 3, 2008). "Spain's 'Orphanage' has phantom end". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2008-11-03. 
  39. ^ "The Orphanage (2007): Reviews" (PDF). The Gorfaine/Schwartz Industry Incorporated. Retrieved 2008-10-29. 
  40. ^ " El Orfanato (OST): El Orfanato, Das Waisen: Music". Retrieved 2008-10-29. 

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