The Orphanage

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
The Orphanage Movie Poster Image
Decent old-school ghost story, Spanish-style.
  • R
  • 2008
  • 105 minutes
Popular with kidsParents recommend

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 13 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Even the lonely ghosts turn out not to be "evil" (though they seem to be vengeful, and capable of causing harm). One, who is hideously deformed, turns out to be not as monstrous as his appearance. There is a sense of motherly heroics and parental sacrifice in the leading lady -- despite the mortal danger. Simon's maintenance troubles and restlessness as an adopted child might not set a positive tone in some foster households.

Violence

An old woman fatally mutilated after being struck by a car (tearing her jaws open grotesquely). A character's fingers caught in a slamming door, causing a fingernail to come off. A bloody leg injury. There is a theme of infanticide and dead children. Nothing is shown, but we get news of children causing a playmate's death, then being killed (by poison) themselves.

Sex
Language

The F-word uttered once (in the Spanish-language, English-subtitled version).

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

An intentional drug overdose (not for recreational purposes).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that even though the R-rating is too harsh, brief but grotesque visuals let us know the filmmakers could do worse if they wanted to. Disturbing imagery includes a mutilated victim of a car collision and a deformed kid with a skull-like face. A suicide attempt figures in the ending. There is a theme of infanticide and dead children. Nothing is shown, but we get news of children causing a playmate's death, then being killed (by poison) themselves. An HIV-positive character is part of the plot, and it's pretty much given as a death sentence.

User Reviews

Parent of a 17 year old Written byTsion February 9, 2013

Fantastic Mystery...Creepy but Not Gory

THE ORPHANAGE is a perfect scary movie for adults and teens who like unsettling myseries without lots of blood, carnage, or violence. The movie is genuinely sc... Continue reading
Adult Written byNeonKennedy November 10, 2011

good movie. It does get a little slow.

This ghost movie was most likely not made for little kids. Dark themes include: a little boy gets trapped in his own house and dies of AIDES, it is implied that... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byMr. Fat Bubble June 8, 2014

A Beautiful Horror

The Orphanage is the type of movie that will leave you breathless. It has the tension and suspense, the subtle paranormal activity without much gore, and the m... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byTwilightluver16 March 13, 2010

sooooo scarey

I watched this movie the other day and it was really scarey!!! The only thing that was not really scarey in the movie was the childs face i actually felt bad fo... Continue reading

What's the story?

A Spanish-made ghost tale, THE ORPHANAGE (original tite: "El Orfanato") happens at a sprawling old mansion, a former orphanage, looming by the seacoast. Laura (Belen Rueda) used to be housed here as a child. Now she's a doctor, and she, along with her physician husband Carlos (kind of odd we never see them do any actual work) buy the building and move in with their own adopted boy Simon (Roger Princep). Simon is dying of AIDS, but the doting parents keep it a secret -- that plus the fact that he's not really their child. Disturbingly, Simon learns these things anyway. He claims his new "imaginary" friends in the mansion have told him. After strange glimpses of disappearing kids, and clues that something terrible happened to the orphanage children after Laura left, Simon vanishes. His adoptive mom turns to psychics and mediums to desperately come up with an answer.

Is it any good?

In the crowded field of movie ghost stories, The Orphanage belongs with the better ones that use mood and suspense, rather than blood/gore/sex/bad taste, to evoke shock value. Even so, sharp-witted viewers of any age might be asking themselves sensible questions, like why didn't this family, uh, check out the tragic history of the creepy old building before buying it? But there's a neat dark-fairy-tale atmosphere, a minimum of gross-outs (except a horribly mangled victim of roadkill), and a really clever way the script turns the Peter Pan plot inside-out, to suit a more modern and ominous story of Really Lost Boys (and girls). Give this one a chance on Halloween, subtitles and all.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what parts of the movie are scariest, and does the (generally) non-gore approach work? Do you agree with Laura's choice at the end? How does this film stack up to other favorite movie ghost tales?

Movie details

For kids who love scary stories

Our editors recommend

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate