Posts Tagged ‘Entertainment’

Returning home just now, I found my husband watching television. This isn’t particularly striking or unusual; rather, it was the image of Jason Donovan trying to breathe through a bowl of bugs which caught my immediate attetion. I stopped, stared, put down my shopping. After a moment, a snake was added to the mix. It’s worth noting that the bowl was actually on his head, like a giant glass diving-helmet, and as this new length of pululating reptile was dropped into the already-seething mixture of moths, cockroaches and other such anthropodian delights, Donovan physically staggered, lurching about¬†the jungle clearing like a panic-stricken wildebeast.

After a minute, the bowl was removed. Gasping, spluttering, Donovan brushed frantically at his face and clothing, sending a cascade of insects scuttling away into layers of leaf litter (the snake, miraculously, vanished without trace). One ear was bleeding. Laughing uproariously, two hosts Рthis being, after all, reality TV Рcongratulated him on surviving such a thoroughly gross experience. Dazed and more cheerful than is perhaps reasonable, Donovan staggered off, shortly to be replaced by a slender woman singing karaoke in a glass box. Once during every song, buckets of oil, straw, cockroaches, dung, moths and/or pollen were tipped on her from above, the purpose of which Рthe hosts gleefully announced Рwas to distract her from singing. (The less said about this, the better.)

The show, for those who are morbidly curious, is called I’m¬†A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here!. Even were one to ignore the fact that it airs on Channel 10 in the middle of Sunday afternoon, it dosn’t take more than a half-second of viewing for¬†the words ‘downswing of a mediocre career’¬† to come to mind.

After an ad break, Donovan was interviewed¬†about his reasons for coming on the show. ‘Well,¬†you know,’ he said, ‘I¬†think it’s good for my kids to see their dad¬†doing something….interesting.’

Very interesting,’ said¬†the hosts, not without irony.

All of which begs the question: is this a step down from Neighbours, or Рjust maybe Рa step up?

At my Long-Suffering Husband’s insistance, we rented The Invasion last night. I’d read more than one dud review and was therefore sceptical, but the end product, if not blindingly original, was at least well-executed and entertaining. Based on¬†Invasion of the Body-Snatchers, the premise is¬†classic sci-fi horror: humans infected by an alien host become little more than emotionless copies of their former selves, spreading malaise through the populace while a few savvy¬†protagonists fight back. Morally, the film queries the fundamental nature of humanity,¬†asking whether our innate predeliction for violence could ever be removed without rendering us a different species. In this respect, the¬†execution is strongly reminiscent of¬†the main plot-arc of Angel, Season Four,¬†which culminates, in the penultimate episode Peace Out, in an almost identical scenario:¬†a declaration of world peace after an alien, assimilatory force takes control on a global scale, followed by the¬†successful¬†application of a vanquishing panacea. In both instances,¬†our heroes are left with uncertainty as to whether restoring the human race was actually the right choice; and in both instances, this¬†uncertainty is validated by the fact that the¬†invading¬†force was comparatively benign, leaving the memories and personalities of the populace intact, but removing all¬†aggression.

It’s worth taking the comparison further. Jasmine, the assimilatory power in Angel, requires¬†the¬†loss of two human lives to enter the world. While manifest, she consumes¬†approximately ten lives every few days, but these are willing victims whose deaths involve a painless, beatified moment of transcendence. In The Invasion, the only alien violence is¬†towards those who are immune or still human; it is implied,¬†but not¬†demonstrated, that the former are¬†killed, while the latter are purposefully rounded up and infected. Similarly, Jasmine’s acolytes seek to kill the¬†few who resist; the remainder are peaceably converted.

Within the context of both narratives, the heroes are justified for several reasons: there is no freedom to reject the change; hostility is shown to outsiders; deaths are accepted as part of the process; and in each instance, the alien/assimilatory claim that those changed are still fundamentally human is challenged by the emergence of a hive-mind, not quite on par with, say, the Borg, but nonetheless profoundly different to the usual human experience. On the other hand, Jasmine and the Invaders also seek justification: any deaths they cause as part of assimilation are minimal compared to the daily injury humanity wreaks upon itself, and are in any case a one-off; human personalities remain; all religious differences are eradicated; and global violence has, effectively, ceased. Post-victory, it is these arguments which cause our protagonists to doubt the wisdom of their choice.

Objectively, it’s an interesting moral dilemma. As a species, we prize personal freedoms even when they grant individual licence to be unpleasant, vindictive and ignorant, because we struggle to¬†find a workable moral basis from which¬†to allow positive freedoms while disallowing¬†their negative counterparts. This is further compounded by the fact that, particularly as regards culture and religion, we’re far from a universal definition of ‘positive’ freedoms – sexuality is a particular sticking point, both in terms of orientation and practice. Even more challenging is the fact that¬†freedom of and from religion becomes innately problematic if sublimated to a set of universal human rights: as things stand, and as they are likely to remain standing, it is impossible¬†that¬†any such code not infringe on individual belief, which opens a whole new can of worms. Inevitably, our greed for¬†personal freedom denies the idea that, as part of the bargain, we might have to change our minds; and yet, day¬†to day, this is exactly how the world works. It’s a system we simultaneously laud and resent, finding balance in the margins and grey areas: small wonder, then, that the idea of some powerful, all-encompassing assimilatory force sweeping in and wiping the slate clean both lures and terrifies.

Historically speaking, we’re rightly mistrustful of any human agency attempting what Jasmine¬†and the Invaders almost succeed at, Hitler, Stalin and¬†Robespierre having demonstrated what atrocities such plans necessitate in the hands of our own¬†kind. But when we put an alien or¬†external agency in charge, the hypothetical becomes more serious: not only are we removing the possibility of the new order being destabilised by human malcontents, as such dissention cannot actually¬†exist, but we’re voiding ourselves¬†of blame.¬†Proportionally,¬†our main fear is a kind of technical genocide: if none of the social, cultural or behavioural hallmarks of humanity remain – or at least, if lack of violence and passion¬†irrevocably alters their application – then has humanity been destroyed? It’s an uneasy thought, as well as¬†discomforting: that our¬†innate selves are fundamentally tied to our aggression. Even if this is one factor among many, to lose it would be to absent a¬†crucial aspect of ourselves. Which begs the (much harder) question: in a world where, potentially, we can be a less-violent other species, is being human for the sake of¬†being human¬†actually a defensible choice?

The problem, as with all hypotheticals, is that we have no test scenario: along with violence, we don’t know what else we’d lose. Anecdotally and, to a certain extent, culturally, there’s a belief that our aggression stems from the same place as our creativity and passion: that without anger, we couldn’t love, or dream, or hope. Emotionally – and we are emotional creatures – it’s a compelling fear, and one which, on an intuitive level, is hard to combat. In an odd way,¬†it’s a bit like the dilemma of the criminal justice system: let a guilty man walk to save innocents, or condemn innocents to be sure of incarcerating the guilty? Ultimately, I’d opt for the former: for better or worse,¬†I’d rather keep our flaws than lose our virtues, and so – I believe – would most of us.

Narratively, however, we still need reassurance on this point: which is why both Jasmine and the Invaders are selected against by subtle, but deeply intuitive, markers. Beneath her human face, Jasmine has the appearance of a monster: only those with immunity to her powers can see it. The metaphor is one of rottenness, internal corruption; if she isn’t truly beautiful and¬†conceals the fact, then she cannot be¬†trusted, and¬†so – horrifically, in one sense –¬†we feel better about her destruction. Similarly, dogs don’t like the Invaders: they bark, whine, growl, attack and are subsequently killed for their trouble.¬†After tens of thousands of years¬†of co-evolution, it’s deeply ingrained in the human psyche to trust the intuition of dogs: as part of our family pack, they warn us of threats. You’d be hard-pressed to find a story in which¬†our canine companions¬†happily lick the hands of attacking aliens; and so, because we¬†trust the wordless sense of dogs, we know the enemy are Bad.

In the end, we justify our species by providing a pro for each con: love for anger, passion¬†for rage, creativity¬†for cruelty. But that, to¬†paraphrase Terry Pratchett, is the fundamental essence of humanity: where the falling angel meets the rising ape, we are what’ve always been.¬†

Half angel. Half devil. All human.

As computer games go, it’s a simple premise: collect a menagerie of different animals, level them up and fight a series of identically-staged, increasingly-difficult battles with your favourites. Every instalment boasts the same¬†story arc: young protagonist befriends helpful professor, sets out on cross-island journey, fights villains and ultimately becomes League Champion. The stuff dreams are made of, if yours happen to particularly one-dimensional. There is no great dialouge, plot, characterisation or underlying moral. The¬†battle¬†options are¬†limited to decision trees, two functional buttons and a D-pad – exactly the same setup as the original black-and-white Gameboy of eighties fame.

So why is Pokemon still so fucking addictive?

The best explanation is digital sorcery: a devious balance of intangible, acquisitive elements. You collect rare, interesting animals Рanimals with special powers, animals that can evolve into other, equally interesting animals. Data is revealed with each new find, and the ultimate, possible goal of a Full Set is, I believe, something which calls to our inner obsessive.

As a game mechanism, levelling up has its own inexplicable power. It’s an end in itself which, for some people, borders on the addictive: you gain a level in order to improve, so that you can gain yet more levels. Why this formula holds such hypnotic sway over me and others is perhaps the deepest mystery of our times – just take a glance at the World of Warcraft community. In Pokemon,¬†levelling¬†up¬†appears in a pure, uncluttered form, to the point of constituting the whole game – and therein, methinks,¬†lies the reason for its¬†success.¬†

Riddle¬†me this: what do Barbie dolls, teddy bears, Leggo and cardboard boxes have in common? Answer: a simple interface. These are all favourite childrens’ playthings, not because of the number of add-on features, but exactly because their mode of use isn’t prescriptive. A Barbie doll will always be a Barbie doll, but within those limits, imagination¬†makes any game possible. This principle of creative simplicity is, I believe,¬†an active ingreedient in the best videogames, albeit present (due to the nature of the medium) in an altered form.

Thus: games like Pokemon are addictive because, within the simple parameters of the game system, endlessly imaginative combinations become possible. I can only¬†take one path¬†through the story, but the way I conduct my battles, what elements I preference, the creatures I choose and which attributes I value are infinitely customisable. There is a terrible attraction to minutiae in such instances: I’ve never liked maths, but will happily spend my free time calculating DND stats and arranging the best possible combination of weapons and armour in Final Fantasy. It’s¬†not the same kind of free-play offered by a Leggo set, but they are cousins, and the former design elements have arguably gone on to inspire their digital equivalent.

Alternatively, I’m just a grown¬†geek who enjoys Pokemon. There’s no particular justification, but damned if it isn’t fun.

Surfing online yesterday, I ended up reading about Generation Y and our relationship to digital technology. We are (said Wikipedia) Digital Natives, having grown up¬†with video games, computers,¬† the internet¬†and mobile phones, compared to Generation X (Digital Adaptives), the Baby Boomers (Digital Immigrants) and the war-era Builders, or Silent Generation¬†(Digital Aliens).¬†Strange and old-timey as the phrase ‘I remember when’ makes me feel, I do remember¬†life before the internet, digital cameras, flatscreen TVs and¬†mobile phones, however barely.¬†There was¬†a dot matrix printer and early Mac in my Year 1 classroom; a favourite passtime was¬†removing the twin perforated strips¬†from the¬†printer paper¬†and twisting them into a concertina-worm.¬†In Year 4,¬†good students were allowed to play Sim City 2000¬†at recess or lunch, begging coveted knowledge of the¬†godmode password – which unlocked unlimited resources and¬†special building options – from¬†a privileged few. Apart from the pre-installed features on our¬†old family Osborne computer, the first¬†game I ever bought was Return to Zork. Up until that point, I’d thought the graphics on Jill of the Jungle and Cosmo were far out; but this reset the whole scale.

My mother’s first mobile phone was a brick, bigger than the average landline receiver and three times as heavy. Digital cameras didn’t start becoming commonplace until the mid-nineties; previously, you paid for film and took random shots of the family pet to use up the end of a roll before development. When¬†it finally became clear that traditional cameras were being outmoded, there was a rash of media¬†worry about the economic and social consequences – not from a technological perspective, but because¬†Kodak and others were forced to lay off thousands of photo lab staff. I remember when laser printers were new and fax machines a strictly corporate affair. But ancient as all that reminiscing makes me feel, it’s nothing to the realisation that my own children won’t know a time before Tivo, Facebook, 3-D graphics, game consoles with internet access and iTunes. Hell – they won’t even¬†know about VHS, walkmans, discmans and¬†cassette tapes, unless someone tells them. Generation Z is already¬†partway there. ¬†

All of which shouldn’t surprise me, if I’d ever stopped to think about it. But most people¬†tend to assume, however unconsciously,¬†that certain types of knowledge remain static: that no matter what social, political or technological developments occur in their lifetimes, everyone will always know what came first,¬†because they do: it’s just paying attention, isn’t it? But when technology becomes outdated or old customs are cast aside, they don’t stick around and explain themselves. Outside of history lessons or personal curiosity, the next generation just¬†won’t¬†realise – and to a certain extent, it’s wrong to expect they will. Not everyone cares about history, although perhaps they should; but even then,¬†not¬†all of it¬†is relevant. Does Gen Z actually need to know about non-digital cameras in order to function? Are we really taking consoles for granted if we’ve never seen 8-bit graphics? More relevant than such minutiae, surely,¬†is an awareness of social privilege, and the fact that we have no innate entitlement to the status quo.

But people will get bogged down in details. Often, older generations interpret this non-knowledge of younger people¬†as deliberate¬†impudence, and subsequently refuse to become complicit in the new technology. Others find it intimidating, or assume that the only obvious applications must be personally irrelevant or childish,¬†pertinent only to younger people. There’s some truth to the saw about old dogs and new tricks, particularly¬†given the vast removal of digital technology from anything in my father’s Builder generation, and¬†individuals shouldn’t be forced beyond their comfort zones. But in many cases, it’s simply hard to perceive how a new tool can help when the use for which it’s intended is similarly foreign. When my parents first started to talk about getting the internet, I remember thinking, with typically childish conservatism, ‘What use could it possibly be?’ Because until you’d seen the concept up and running, it was¬†almost impossible to¬†comprehend. (After all, the creator of television intended it for educational purposes, and¬†envisaged no scope as an entertainment outlet.)

There’s always going to be new developments, and it’s silly to expect that everyone keep up with the technocrati. Ultimately, we need to keep our own knowledge in perspective, because not all information is timeless. There’s something wonderful in the ability to witness change, and at the current rate of technological advancement, those of us in Gen Y are ideally placed to realise exactly how far we’ve come in how short a time. But until another half-century has come and gone, we might do well to impose a moratorium on tech-history anecdotes.

After all, ‘I remember when’ doesn’t sound nearly so authoritative without bifocals and false teeth.

Ever since a friend introduced me to Penny Arcade back in Year 10, I’ve been a devout gaming/geek webcomics fan. At one point, I was checking seventeen different strips on a daily basis; realising this was insane, I scaled back to fourteen, where I settled until my first year of college. Probably, this would’ve continued, except that the internet connection in my new room was mysteriously broken, and took three weeks, umpteen phonecalls and five consultations with university IT support to fix. By that time, the amount of banked strips had reached critical mass; I didn’t have enough time to catch them all up, and so I pared back to a bare ten, farewelling 8 Bit Theatre, GPF, Nodwick¬†and others with a heavy heart.

Since then,¬†different strips have come and gone – Machall¬†and Demonology 101 have run their course, while Dresden Codak is a new favourite – but my affection for the¬†genre has remained. As has my admiration for the creators of my favourite strips. After eight years of being exposed to their humour, social commentary and general musings, watching the changes in art style and hearing snippets of personal data, they somehow feel more like acquaintances than¬†anything else, people I could bump into and share a laugh with. This is, perhaps, the big difference between webcomics and traditional print media: connection to the creators. I grew up on Snoopy and Garfield, but couldn’t have picked Charles M. Schultz or Jim Davis out of a crowd; I knew nothing about them, their lives or interests beyond an intangible sense that it must somehow¬†influence what they drew and why they drew it.

Not so Fred Gallagher, Scott Kurtz, Jerry Holkins and¬†Michael Krahulik, Greg Dean, Randy Milholland and Tatsuya Ishida. Perhaps more consistently than any other¬†creators, these guys have been with¬†me¬†through the most formative years of my life. I’ve changed since I started reading them, and they’ve changed, too: since my readership began, two have been married and three have had their first children. I’ve left school, gone to university, moved states and tied the knot – but even on my honeymoon, I was still checking comics along with email.

It’s strange to think of¬†geeks grown up¬†– at least, so mainstream society would have us believe. There’s¬†still a strong bias against the idea that you can play video games, enjoy fantasy or sci-fi¬†and read comics as an adult without being just as immature as you were at¬†fourteen, because of the perception that these are childish persuits. As a kid, I¬†was a geekling born to normals; and¬†worse, I was a girl, which made¬†it harder for my parents to¬†notice. Had I been male, perhaps my compulsive interest in dinosaurs, Mario and Transformers would have fit a pattern, rather than seeming incongruous¬†compared a similar fixation on My Little Pony. The penny finally dropped when, after years of playing every console and computer game my friends possessed and¬†saving hundreds of dollars pocket money for a colour Gameboy, I woke up one Christmas to my very own PlayStation. Since then, I’ve never looked back – but had I not stumbled on a group of like-minded webcomic geeks, things might have turned out differently.

One of the greatest trials in growing up is figuring out who you are, not just in relation to other people, but on your own terms. Without friends who shared my interests, I never would have discovered webcomics; but without webcomics, I might have lost confidence in the idea that I could succeed that way, too. Because that’s the other thing I learned: that quirky, geeky, interesting, creative people can, with sufficient effort and support, earn a living through what they love. Although I read books, watch films and listen to music, I’m¬†not privy to the everyday struggle¬†and success of the creators. The end product just appears, disconnected from any personal genesis: like a magic trick, it entertains and inspires, but the mechanics¬†are¬†deliberately¬†concealed. Authors like Neil Gaiman lift the veil through individual blogs, but back then, it was webcomics that got the message through.

Unlike Peter Pan (or today’s lost boys), geeks can grow up. And if webcomics are anything to go by, they can be happy and creatively successful into the bargain.

Thanks, guys.  

I’m not quite sure what mindset leads an individual to¬†digitally erase the protagonist from one of the world’s most renowned comic strips, but damned if I don’t want in. ¬†

The resulting creation – Garfield Minus Garfield – is hilarious on several different levels: the absurdity of the idea, the knowledge of what (or who) is missing, and the fact that Jon Arbuckle is clearly¬†weirder than a bucket of mixed frogs. It’s this last point which really startled me: the idea that, once you remove Garfield from the picture, Jon’s comedic value switches from clowning to pathos. Maybe the presence of a sentient, anthropomorphised cat¬†distorts reality to the extent that Jon, by contrast, can only ever appear as a punchline – more akin to Odie than Garfield, who ends up the only ‘person’ we sympathise with.

But Jon hasn’t actually changed. Half the dialogue has been erased, but not half the conversation – because Garfield doesn’t talk. Instead, his internal commentary, often on Jon’s behaviour, has ceased to be the focal point of the strip, with the result that we now see Jon as he actually is: a bizarre, lonely man with a fetish for pairing socks. Which, in an odd way, should shame all those people – myself included – who laugh at normal Garfield strips. Jon Arbuckle clearly needs help, and what do we do? Mock him.

Thinking about it, there’s almost a Fight Club-esque¬†relationship between Jon and Garfield. Like Tyler Durden, Garfield lives the life that Jon – our story’s Ed Norton – only dreams of. He sleeps in, finds contentment in simple pleasures, breaks the rules, has luck with the ladies, picks on Jon, gets¬†along with the Arbuckle family, and generally has a good time. Sometimes, Garfield speaks for Jon. And, like Tyler Durden, when considered objectively, it seems more likely that Garfield doesn’t actually exist:¬†that all we’ve been watching¬†is the Jekyll/Hyde transformation of a deeply¬†unhappy man. Liz the¬†vet, Jon’s long-time almost-paramour, even looks like Helena Bonham-Carter. ¬†

Of course, Jim Davis and Chuck Palahniuk might disagree. But who asked them?

There are two types of people in the cinema-going world: those who like M. Night Shyamalan films, and those who don’t. It’s not an issue on which there’s much, if any, middle ground. With the possible exception of The¬†Sixth Sense, his films, while mainstream releases, have a tendency to polarise in the manner of arthouse flicks: either they’re revelations, or rot.

I used to be one of the unenlightened. Watching Signs on the big screen, I snorted with laughter. The Village left me irritable – what the hell kind of ending was that, anyway? I’d¬†been frightened out of my young life¬†when Haley Joel Osment¬†confessed to seeing dead people, but at that point, I didn’t even realise the films were by the same guy.¬†Had friends not taken me in hand, my opinion might never have changed, but after The Village, they sat me down and asked, in exacting tones, exactly why I was disappointed.

After twenty-odd minutes of flustered debating, we hit upon the crux of my frustrations, viz: the film had been marketed as horror. Although the first half of the narrative fit this pattern, the character relations, plot twist and conclusion took an entirely different turn, which lead me to believe that the whole was a botched attempt. So, my friends asked. Was the problem with the film, or just with what you thought it was meant to be?

I opened my mouth, closed it again, and thought back. I’d gone in expecting to see a horror film, and so had watched for narrative markers appropriate to the genre. They’d been there early on, but then vanished entirely, which left the possibility that I’d been actively misinterpreting the film, imposing my own assumptions on how it should work, and judging it wanting. It was a strange realisation, but the more I¬†considered it, the more¬†it made sense. Hadn’t I thought the same thing about Signs? It was as if I – and, for that matter, Hollywood – had been looking for The Sixth Sense in every subsequent Shyamalan film,¬†when they weren’t really horror at all.

With Lady in the Water, I made a conscious effort to¬†ignore the marketing and test my hypothesis: to watch with no expectations and an open mind.¬†Might I¬†see something I’d missed before?

I¬†could, and did. Near the end, I realised what should’ve been obvious all along: Shyamalan’s films are always about people. The pseudo-horror setting is simply his preferred vehicle for storytelling, a background mechanism designed to threaten, not the audience, but his characters. Thus menaced, the point of their reaction isn’t fright, but inter-development: how they draw together, and how they mend. Because healing, faith and self-acceptance are big themes in Shyamalan’s work. In both The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable,¬†supernaturally gifted¬†protagonists come to terms with their powers, not in order to save the world, but to help the people in it. Quietly and with inner strength, the heroes of Signs and Lady in the Water regain¬†their faith, two broken widowers made whole. And in The Village,¬†a community of emotionally¬†scarred people are forced to confront their injuries by the actions of three who are physically wounded: a dying man, a blind girl and her mad brother.

The subtlety of Shyamalan films simultaneously acts as their blessing and curse. Early scenes deliberately set up the false horror that, inevitably, constitutes their sales pitch, but the plots become introverted. It is as if the film is a train travelling towards a junction: the audience expects to travel one way, and instead is taken another. What we protest is a percieved error Рturn back, turn back! Рwhen, in fact, our course was planned from the outset.

Except for The Sixth Sense, which he didn’t produce,¬†and Wide Awake, which he neither produced nor appeared in, Shyamalan has, at 37, written, produced, directed and appeared in all his films. Given the excellent characterisation,¬†scripting, cinematography and production values, it’s hard not to be impressed. But more impressive still are the moments of beauty and revelation which¬†characterise his work: the idea that even though we are all flawed, we can¬†fix ourselves.

I¬†saw The Orphanage on the strength of a David and Margaret review. A Spanish supternatural horror film, it follows on the heels of Pan’s Labyrinth: both¬†movies were¬†produced by Guillermo del Toro – which role, it seems, suits him better than that of director, if Hellboy and Blade II are anything to go by – and feature an eerie take on innocence.

After spending her early childhood in an orphanage, Laura (Belen Rueda) grows up to adopt Simon (Roger Princep) with her husband Carlos (Fernando Cayo). Wanting to open her own home for disabled children, Laura returns to the orphanage of her youth Рnow empty Рand begins to prepare for the arrival of her charges. Simon, ignorant of his adoption, has always been accompanied by invisible friends; but the arrival of an ominous third, Tomas, soon after their arrival, worries Laura.

As Simon begins to show knowledge of things his parents have kept hidden, Laura grows increasingly disturbed and disbelieving, until, on the day her children are due to arrive, Simon vanishes. Frightened by a series of strange occurences within the house, Laura begins a long and desperate search to find her son, distancing herself from Carlos and, in the process, unravelling the secrets of the orphanage.

From the stylised opening credits to the final reveal, The Orphanage doesn’t miss a single beat. Like a Celtic knot or a piece of music, significant ideas are woven seamlessly throughout the narrative, placed so naturally that their reappearance seems more a haunting echo than a deliberate ploy. There is nothing heavy-handed about this film: Laura’s grief and slow spiral towards understanding, the way she is helped (or hindered) by the authorities, the breakdown of her relationship with Carlos – and, perhaps most importantly, the sheer,¬†ghostly¬†presence of the house are all breathtakingly achieved. The music and cinematography combine to create an eerie captivation, while the script and acting are perfectly balanced.

Let’s be clear, however: The Orphanage is a horror film, on which premise¬†it delivers magnificently. Moments of sheer, gut-wrenching terror are juxtaposed against drawn-out tension, violent fright, fey chills, mystery¬†and an ethereal sense of the¬†otherworldly. Although not as downright horrific as The Ring, The Orphanage is certainly of a similar ilk, and will leave you just as breathless. The only snag is its limited release; but for those willing to look¬†beyond mainstream cinema for their kicks, consider this the perfect opportunity. ¬†

Easily, The Orphanage is one of the best films¬†I’ve seen in¬†the last few years, and deserves every accolade it revieves.