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The Carletonian

This Week at SUMO: The Orphanage and The Descent


Why are little kids so scary? After watching “The Orphanage,” I don’t think I can leave Burton on Halloween. Seeing one masked child after watching this movie would give me a heart attack; I don’t know what seeing a neighborhood-full would do to me. I also had to keep the light on in my closet last night. Guillermo Del Toro’s earlier film, “Pan’s Labyrinth,” was terrifying– and it wasn’t even a horror film. When he puts his talents towards scaring an audience, he really does it well.

The orphanage is Laura’s former home. She returns with her husband and son, Simon, who is adopted and HIV positive, but unaware of these facts. They plan to turn the broken-down house into a warm home for disabled children. Simon makes a whole bunch of invisible friends at the old, haunted house. He draws Tomas with a burlap sack over his head—which should have been the first clue to, you know, move. In a game reminiscent of the one in Pan’s Labyrinth (I would not want to grow up in the Del Toro household) Simon must search around the old house, exchanging one treasure for another. Laura is astonished that Simon could engineer such a game himself, but we know better. When a mysterious old woman turns up, lurking behind Laura in a dark shed with a shovel, we know the horror movie has begun. Simon goes missing, and the rest of the film must unravel not only where he has gone, but also what happened at the orphanage years ago.

The movie has some terrifying scenes, but much of the time the pace is slow. It’s not quite a horror movie; or rather it is more than a horror movie. I liked that the film was more refined and restrained. But if you’re looking just to be terrified, maybe rent “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” instead. I have to say I was a little disappointed with the mystery; its twists weren’t nearly as shocking as I had hoped. Also, my friends who didn’t want to look at the screen during certain moments found the subtitles problematic.

I couldn’t appreciate this world of 18-22 year-olds we live in more right now. We don’t see children around very often—I’d say go see ‘The Orphanage” on Saturday, after the trick-or-treaters have returned home, just to be safe.

The Descent

When I first saw ‘The Descent” back in 2006, my girlfriend at the time spent the entire film with her head buried in my arm, eyes clenched, with her hands over her ears. I had forgotten about this girl for the most part until writing this review, so I have SUMO to thank for the painful memories. However, I did benefit from this reminiscence in that it made me realize that “The Descent” was the only time I had seen my girlfriend scared. I had seen her mad, upset, sad, pissed, unreasonable, and irrational, but never afraid. Take this personal anecdote not only as a testament to my narcissism, but also to the way that the film wedged its way into my consciousness.

A blend of natural and extraterrestrial terror, “The Descent” follows six women as they attempt to spend quality time together spelunking in a dank, dirty cave. As a side note, the movie is refreshing in that it never borders on exploitation of its female protagonists, achieving a gender equality not often seen in mainstream cinema. That is not to say that the women in the film aren’t scared out of their minds, but you must take into account that they are in a cave. Barricaded in. With pale, blood-thirsty demon creatures pursuing them. Where do these monsters come from exactly? If you really care, not only are you reading the wrong review, but you will most likely hate this movie.

What’s truly remarkable about “The Descent” is that it succeeds in its intense claustrophobia. Perhaps its Gollum-esque badguys are a bit laughable, but I haven’t felt as uncomfortable or closed-in since my mom locked me in my closet in pre-school for calling my sister a ‘penishead.’ The drama is also greatly intensified by unexpected backstabbing, kinda like when my best friend in elementary school said I was ‘fat’ at recess. Okay, so you may have learned more about me than the film from my review, but know that under the surface (no pun intended), this low-budget thriller provides more than enough scares to make up for a date with a girlfriend who will soon hate your guts.

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