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According to BoxOffice numbers, the Spanish love their Horror movies as those perform very well there. However, Spain hasn't really produced many interesting horror flicks recently. Guillermo Del Toro stands apart with a few critically acclaimed movies in his native Spain, and several American blockbusters such as Mimic 1 (1997), Blade 2 (2002) and Hellboy (2004).
His best film is this one though. Set in 1939 Spain, 10 year old Carlos (Fernando Tielve) is sent to an orphanage in the middle of nowhere after his father, a Republican war hero, died at the end of the civil war. The orphanage is run by a tough but good headmistress (Marisa Paredes) and the kind Professor Casares (Federico Luppi). Carlos at first has a hard time fitting in and quickly becomes the target of the local bully. But then, strange things start happening when the ghost of a child who used to be at the orphanage seems to follow him everywhere repeating that many will die soon. Is that a threat, or a warning?
This film's cinematography and art direction are striking. There is throughout an impending feel of doom that is so well conveyed. The visual effects, especially the design of the ghost, are quite unique, and although mostly slow-paced and moody, the film eventually does shift into overdrive and ends with an explosive finale that is most rewarding. The writing never leaves you dry and even when things slow down, there is enough to sink your teeth into this European fare that feels more like a powerful drama that just happens to have a ghost in it. This is a cool moody ghost story that is sure to intrigue the fans of the genre, and anyone else looking for some stylish chills done differently from the good but otherwise overexposed ghostly Asian treats of today.
- Laurent Hasson