I can describe my reaction to The Orphanage in one word:
Folks, it’s that good. While it wears its inspirations on its sleeve, most notably The Sixth Sense and Poltergeist (especially Poltergeist), this is not a hack job. Writer Sergio G. Sánchez and director Juan Antonio Bayona together create a film with a singular, unique voice, and they have produced one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen.
At work (at least when I’m around), we always end up talking about movies. I don’t remember the full conversation, but I told Phil (a man who shares many of the same opinions on movies that I do – though he's a much bigger James Cameron fanboy than I) that the reason so many scary movies aren’t scary is because there is not a single character to care for. This is why the first big three movies by M. Night Shaymalan worked so well. And it’s why The Orphanage works. Sanchez starts with clichés – the cute kid and the spouse that simply doesn’t believe – and makes them into three-dimensional, honest characters.
I have a five-point scale for scary movies, and I’ll break The Orphanage down on that scale. But first, let me show you my scoring system.
1: Not Scary in the Slightest (as in, not scary in the slightest).
2: Mildly Creepy (a slow shiver that runs up and down your spine).
3: Creepy (that point in the movie where you ask yourself: “Why the fuck did I put this movie on? Why do I always watch these fucking movies?).
4: Downright Scary (the point in the film where you are actually yelling angrily at the film, no matter who is in the room with you: “Oh, you are not actually fucking going in there – are you, lady!? Oh, great: there goes the fucking flashlight…”)
5: Instant Pants-Fudge Factory (the less said about this one the better).
On this scale, The Orphanage starts on 2 and makes it all the way up 5. Rent it, watch it.