The Orphanage (2007)

The OrphanageLaura is a woman who once was adopted from an orphanage in Spain, and is now returning to the place with her husband Carlos and their seven-year-old son Simón. It’s been 30 years since Laura was adopted from there, and the orphanage is now closed. She plans to reopen the place and turn it into a facility for disabled children. Simón claims he has befriended a boy named Tomás, whom he draws as a child wearing a creepy-looking sack mask. This mysterious friend also tells Simón a secret Laura and Carlos have kept from him: that he is adopted. This revelation makes Simón angry, and he and Laura starts arguing which ends with her slapping him across the face. Even though she immediately regrets this, the damage has already been done, and he runs away. When looking for him, she encounters the sack-mask child who locks her inside the bathroom, and after managing to escape she is unable to find Simón anywhere. At night, banging sounds can be heard from within the walls of the orphanage, and old secrets from the place slowly starts unveiling.


The Orphanage (El orfanato) is a gothic supernatural horror film from 2007, and the directorial feature film debut of J. A. Bayona. The script was written in 1996 by Sergio G. Sánchez, and it caught Bayona’s attention in 2004, and he then went on to ask his long-time friend Guillermo del Toro to help him produce the film. The movie was well received, and won seven Goya awards. New Line Cinema bought the rights for an American remake, which was later cancelled.


As many classic ghost stories go, it’s rich in emotional struggles and relies more on visceral impact than jump-scares. There is a deliberate slow pace that feels rewarding more than protracted, offering a steady build-up of mystery and suspense. The movie manages to unravel the old orphanage’s mysteries in a way that keeps you engaged, while the dusty rooms and forsaken grounds all offers a sense of disquiet and foreboding, along with the sinister presences from the past that start making themselves known and reveal their secrets. Belen Rueda does a good performance as Laura, a woman devoured by loss and a desperate yearning for the truth.


A sense of sadness and despair is what appears to be deeply rooted within the story of The Orphanage, aided with spooky surroundings and, of course, the obligatory medium and séance scene. With a masked child appearing to be an imaginary friend (they’re always bad news in horror movies, we all know that), noises behind the walls, restless spirits of children and something terrible from the past that remains to be revealed, it’s all a recipe for a grounded ghost horror movie that treads along a safe path while still being able to held a steady course for an intriguing viewing experience. It’s not breaking new ground, but what it does, it does well.


So overall, The Orphanage offers a fine gothic ghost story, often more poetic than horrifying and more atmospheric and sad than scary. A perfect watch if you want an old-fashioned ghost movie that’s both creepy and beautiful.


The Orphanage


Director: J.A. Bayona
Writer: Sergio G. Sánchez
Original title: El orfanato
Country & year: Spain, 2007
Actors: Belén Rueda, Fernando Cayo, Roger Príncep, Mabel Rivera, Montserrat Carulla, Andrés Gertrúdix, Edgar Vivar, Óscar Casas, Mireia Renau, Georgina Avellaneda, Carla Gordillo



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Case 39 (2009)

Case 39Emily Jenkins is a social worker who has been assigned to the case of 10-year-old Lillith Sullivan. It appears that some kind of emotional struggle has appeared between the little girl and her parents, and Emily suspects child abuse. She gets her suspicions well confirmed when Lillith’s parents actually try to kill her by putting her in the oven, Hansel & Gretel-style. The parents are, of course, placed in a mental institution while the most likely traumatized girl is sent to a children’s home. But she begs for Emily to look after her. And with her heart totally melted by this unfortunate, innocent little girl, Emily manages to get the board’s agreement of looking after her until a suitable foster family comes along. After Lillith moves in with Emily, strange things begin to happen. Maybe this little girl isn’t so innocent after all…


Case 39 is a supernatural horror thriller from 2009, directed by Christian Alvert. Upon its release, the reviews and overall reception was rather poor, and it barely managed to cover the budget of $26 million with a gross of $28.2 million. It was often being described as unoriginal and frightless, and thus, the expectations upon viewing it was rather low as I remember. Still, we found it to be a rather decent and suspenseful thriller, despite its unoriginality and lack of actual scares.


Like many “evil children” movies, the performances of the actual child actor is paramount for the viewing experience, and Jodelle Ferland (from Silent Hill and Tideland) does a very fine portrayal of the evil Lillith. While the movie totally lacks an actual mystery as it becomes quite apparent that the child is, in fact, evil incarnate, it still manages to be suspenseful enough to hold the entertainment value. The most creepy parts of the movie might be the very start, when Lillith is still with her parents and we get to wonder if there really is a case of domestic abuse here, or if it’s something else, only to be provided with a scene of the parents actually trying to bake their own child in the oven. Of course we know already at this stage that there’s something wrong with the child, but it’s still a pretty messed up scenario, especially considering that there have been cases of this actually happening in real life, like this rather grim case from 1984 where the parents claimed to have been “cooking Lucifer”. I wonder if this movie was a little inspired, perhaps.


As you can imagine, the movie centers around how Emily is gradually coming to realize what we, the viewers, already knew from the get-go: that Lillith is evil and also responsible for many of the horrible things happening around her, especially concerning another one of Emily’s cases with a young boy. Yeah, it’s often clichéd and not devoid of some tired jumpscares, but on the whole it works. So I’d say that Case 39, while suffering from predictability and very standard cinematography, redeems itself with a good construction of characters and gradual buildup of tension and suspense.


Case 39


Director: Christian Alvart
Writer: Ray Wright
Country & year: Canada, US, 2009
Actors: Renée Zellweger, Jodelle Ferland, Ian McShane, Bradley Cooper, Callum Keith Rennie, Adrian Lester, Kerry O’Malley, Cynthia Stevenson, Alexander Conti, Philip Cabrita



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Shutter (2004)

ShutterSmile to the camera!


We follow the young Thai couple, Tun and Jane, as they are on their way home after spending an evening with some friends. Their existence gets turned upside down when they accidentally hit a woman on a dark road. While Jane wants to check on her as she was also the one being behind the wheel, Tun panics and orders Jane to stomp the pedal and just leave the woman behind. Jane is soon to struggle with guilt, night terrors and never seems to be able to smile again, while Tun does his best to forget the whole thing and move on with life. Dream on, bud.


Tun is a freelance photographer and starts to see glimpses of a pale, creepy woman through the lens and eerie white shadows in his pictures which screams bad vibes. These are analog pictures, by the way, before the era of digital cameras took over. To get some answers other than “your camera is broken”, Tun and Jane speak to a photo expert who sells fake ghost photos to a glossy magazine. He also shows them an album which he claims is a collection of real shit, taken by polaroids and still images from security cameras, which is quite impossible to fake. Quick info for Gen Z; polaroid was a camera which gave instant physical pictures rolling out of the camera seconds after taking them. We see a collage of some creepy vintage photos, and some of them you might even recognize. I get a little nostalgic by especially seeing the classic image of The Grey Ghost Lady of the Willard Library, one of the first of its kind I was exposed to when I was hunting for this stuff in the darker corners of the web in the early 2000s, way before social media. Good old times.


All photos here are taken from the web and the film gives a credit at the end by addressing – The producers would like to thank in advance the owners of any spirit photographs or photo representations that were not properly credited for their use in this motion picture. –


Anyway, things get progressively worse and bleak for the couple as they get haunted with visions, more night terrors and more spooky stuff that appears in the photos. Tun develops a chronic neck pain while his friends from his schooldays mysteriously drop dead by jumping off buildings. Huh… As Jane starts her own little investigation, she stumbles upon some clues that expose a dark, disturbing past of their hit-and-run victim.


This is the debut film of the talented duo Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom (sorry if I butchered their names). The movie was released at the peak of the J-horror craze during the hot trend of displaying pale, skinny, scary Asian ghostly ladies with glitchy body movements with their long black hair obscuring their face followed by a series of jump scares. A gimmick that got more and more old to the level of almost parody until it fizzled out with bad sequels and remakes. It was easy to assume that Shutter was just another J-horror, even though this one is from Thailand. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that they reinvented the wheel here, but what makes this one stand out is the idea of the phenomenon of capturing ghosts on camera, a concept which has always intrigued me. It’s also a damn good horror flick which is still solid twenty years after its release, and one of the very few movies in the ghost film genre that still fills my heebie-jeebies meter scale up to ten.


Although there is a ghost lurking here, the film relies more on solving a mystery as the suspense and tension builds up to the maximum. The director duo has a great understanding of the more subtle ways to trigger the deepest primal fears of the audience by exposing them to the unknown, a pretty rare skill we don’t often see. James Wan with his two first Conjuring films, Scott Derrickson’s Sinister and Hideo Nakata’s Ringu are maybe the only ones than can match. As minimal as the effects are, the scares are probably the most inventive I’ve seen in the genre, which still slaps most of the similar and modern horror films to shame. The scene where Tun is alone in a photo studio where the lights turn off and his camera starts to flash on its own is one great example of how simple, yet effective Shutter is. A razor sharp sound design also does the trick and the fitting soundtrack during the opening credits already sets the tone. A modern classic.


The film has been remade not just one or two times, but actually three times: Sivi (2007) from India, which has been seen by hardly anyone, Click (2010), also from India, which looks more like a cheap version from Asylum, and the American Shutter (2008). I’ve only watched the last mentioned, which I don’t remember much of other than it gave me a good night’s sleep. And in order to not get confused, Shutter is also released with the undertitle The Original.




Directors: Banjong Pisanthanakun, Parkpoom Wongpoom
Writers: Banjong Pisanthanakun, Parkpoom Wongpoom, Sophon Sakdaphisit
Also known as: Shutter: The Original
Country & year: Thailand, 2004
Actors: Ananda Everingham, Natthaweeranuch Thongmee, Achita Sikamana, Unnop Chanpaibool, Titikarn Tongprasearth, Sivagorn Muttamara, Chachchaya Chalemphol, Kachormsak Naruepatr



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She Creature (2001)

We’re in Ireland, and the year is 1905. Two carnies, Angus Shaw and his infertile wife Lily, runs a fake mermaid show where Lily plays the role of a beautiful and enchanting mermaid. One evening, during one of their shows, a mysterious fellow named Mr. Woolrich appears and privately calls them out on their act, while at the same time appearing strangely relieved that Lily was, in fact, not a real mermaid. They offer him a ride home, where it’s revealed that he’s got a mermaid captured. A real one. Naturally, Angus wants to use this creature as part of the freak show, but Woolrich strongly warns against it. Not easily deterred, Angus later brings a few colleagues back with him to abduct the mermaid, and smuggles her aboard a ship in order to take her to America. Lily tries to object to this idea, but to no avail. And onboard the ship, the mermaid soon reveals her darker side…


She Creature is a 2001 made-for-TV horror film, directed by Sebastian Gutierrez (the title of this film was originally Mermaid Chronicles Part 1: She Creature, but there was never any part 2). It’s the first in a Cinemax film series called “Creature Features”, which were all paying tribute to the films of American International Pictures, where the titles are reused without being actual remakes. In this case, the title is borrowed from the 1956 film The She-Creature.


She Creature was shot in 18 days, and is a typical B-budget movie . It’s filmed in a style that resembles the old monster movies, and with taking place in the Victorian era there’s also some really atmospheric cinematography reminiscent of the old Hammer films. With the renowned Stan Winston as producer it also should come as no surprise that the special effects are pretty decent. The mermaid is also portrayed in a rather convincing way, possibly much due to the fake mermaid we witness early on at the freak show. The mermaid Lily plays there is so obviously over-the-top fake, that when we get to witness the real mermaid in a tank of water the contrast makes it come off as believable. The real mermaid does not sing, she does not talk (except from making a few sounds), and appear more like an intelligent animal with human features rather than any “little mermaid” by Hans Christian Andersen. This is no Ariel, that’s for sure…


Much of the atmosphere comes from the Victorian scenery and settings, fitting like hand in glove when constructing a horror tale with a blend of fantasy and gothic mystery. She Creature is by no means any masterpiece, but it’s a fun and slightly cheesy little throwback to the monster movie era with moody cinematography, good production design and some really cool CGI-free special effects. Overall, it makes for a pleasant little pearl of a gothic and aquatic creature feature film.


She Creature She Creature She Creature


Writer and director: Sebastian Gutierrez
Also known as: Mermaid Chronicles Part 1: She Creature
Country & year: USA, 2001
Actors: Rufus Sewell, Carla Gugino, Jim Piddock, Reno Wilson, Mark Aiken, Fintan McKeown, Aubrey Morris, Gil Bellows, Rya Kihlstedt, Hannah Sim, Jon Sklaroff



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Visitors (2003)

Georgia Perry (Radha Mitchell) is a stubborn and strong-willed young woman: she’s decided to travel around the world in her 44-foot sloop, all by herself (well, almost…she’s got her cat for company). Being used to spending time at sea, and also spending time alone, it goes pretty well at first. She’s used to enjoying her own company, and the cat provides just enough social comfort. Then, the solitude starts taking its toll…while starting with small and insignificant things like starting to talk to her cat…which isn’t uncommon…I mean, who doesn’t talk to their feline companion once in a while? Except, of course, the cat starts talking back to her. A big red flag for her mental well being there, all right. But when she also starts hearing strange noises, and a mysterious fog appears which brings with it a whole array of deceased family members who have suddenly decided to drop in for a visit, it’s time to take it seriously. Is this just a severe case of cabin fever, or is something else happening at sea?


Visitors is a psychological thriller directed by Richard Franklin (most known for directing Psycho 2) where nearly all of the playtime happens out at the big blue ocean. While it’s not a truly scary film, it does have a few chilling moments with creepy atmosphere and some interesting scenes. Georgia’s “ghosts” aren’t only appearing during nighttime, either, but in bright daylight as well, adding to the feeling of claustrophobia as there’s no escape. In a haunted house, you can always run outside…but what can you do if the haunting happens in a boat, far out at sea? Nothing of course, unless you want to jump aboard and drown yourself.


While Visitors is an okay thriller, it’s not faultless, and there are some rather questionable CGI effects which diminishes the creepy atmosphere a bit. There’s also some scenes that are chugging along a little bit too slowly. Still, overall the movie is an okay watch, mostly for its deep dive into human psychology and the effect of being alone over a long period of time, in surroundings where there’s no one and nothing for miles upon miles. It’s strange how the ocean can appear to be so open, but still so claustrophobic…no matter where you turn, there’s no rescue, nowhere to find refuge.


If you’re looking to get your toes wet with a movie that provides a good amount of action, I guess something like Deep Rising would be a safer bet. Visitors is a slow-burning thriller with some creepy scenes and atmosphere, and people that can relate to the idea of being all alone, while haunted by your inner demons, will probably appreciate this movie the most.




Director: Richard Franklin
Writer: Everett De Roche
Country & year: Australia, 2003
Actors: Radha Mitchell, Susannah York, Ray Barrett, Dominic Purcell, Tottie Goldsmith, Che Timmins, Christopher Kirby, Jan Friedl, Soula Alexander, Roberta Connelly, Michelle McClatchy,



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The Skeptic (2009)

Responding to a 911 call, a police officer enters a large house and finds a dead woman inside. She appears to have died of fright, clutching a set of rosary beads. This woman is Bryan Beckett’s aunt, who is a lawyer and confirmed skeptic, who considers everything paranormal to be nothing but pure hogwash. Upon visiting his deceased aunt’s home and subsequently moving in (mainly in order to take a break from his shattered marriage) people around him starts giving vague hints, trying to tell him that moving in might not be a good idea. After ignoring other people’s warnings that he shouldn’t do so because the place is haunted, he starts experiencing strange things which puts his skepticism to the test. There is also something about the place that bothers him, like a strange connection he can’t really figure out. When things go a bit out of hand he seeks medical help, but instead finds himself teamed up with a young psychic who wants to help him reveal the house’s trouble past – or that of the skeptic’s own mind.


The Skeptic is a supernatural horror thriller, directed by Tennyson Bardwell. I remember back when the movie was released, that it got a bit of flak for being “outdated” and for not being especially heavy on the fear factor. And, yeah…that’s pretty much true, and doesn’t come as a big surprise considering that the director/writer wrote the first draft of the script in the 1980s. It’s an old-fashioned ghost story that does not rely on CGI-apparitions or jump scares. The slow-burn ghost story got passé already during the 80s, where psychological horror movies became obsolete compared to the more physical and in-your-face kind of horror that shocked audiences anew. The plot also appears overly simple: a man doesn’t believe in ghosts, said man moves into a haunted house, and starts experiencing what can be perceived as supernatural occurrences. So, ironically, I was a little bit of a skeptic when first viewing it…but was pleasantly surprised over seeing how something that appears to be very cliché-filled actually ended up being both a little chilling and engaging. The atmosphere is sometimes thick as a brick, but the suspense isn’t always lingering as much as one could have hoped for. It’s slow, sometimes a bit too much for its own good, but makes up for it with polished production values and the ability to offer a few chills here and there.


In a movie like this, it’s often best to not give away too much of the plot, as the viewing experience is best when knowing as little as possible. Overall it was a pleasant surprise, but it’s most suitable for people who enjoy a classic haunted house story of the old-fashioned sort.

The Skeptic


Writer and director: Tennyson Bardwell
Also know as: The Haunting of Bryan Becket, The Haunting
Country & year: USA, 2009
Actors: Tim Daly, Tom Arnold, Zoe Saldana, Edward Herrmann, Andrea Roth, Robert Prosky, Bruce Altman, Lea Coco, Sara Weaver, L.J. Foley, Paul Tietjen, Steve, Fletcher, Christina Rouner,



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The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007)

The Poughkeepsie Tapes (2007)In a serial killer’s now abandoned home, investigators reveal a large amount of VHS tapes that contains his “work” in chronological order as he’s been filming the murders and abuse of his victims. This is the most disturbing collection of evidence the homicide detectives have ever seen, and reveals an in-depth documentation of a serial killer’s reign of terror.


Made in a “mockumentary” (faux documentary) style, this is a somewhat creepy and unsettling movie. It’s the first horror movie John Erick Dowdle’s directed, and later he became known for “Quarantine” (2008), “Devil” (2010) and “As above so below” (2014). The movie contains a very realistic tone throughout, with “interviews” and “footage” that are made to be believeable and helps putting the dark and grim atmosphere in place. In many ways it reflects “true crime shows” so well that you could probably have fooled someone who didn’t know it’s a faux documentary.


The murders and torture of the victims of the serial killer (who has been nicknamed “the water street butcher”) is somewhat toned down despite being quite chilling. There isn’t large amounts of blood and gore here, but the “footage” shows enough for you to know exactly what’s going on, along with detailed descriptions by the investigators. It’s not a movie that’s gory or straight-out scary, but it’s definitely creepy and unsettling.


Serial killers have always fascinated a lot of people. What can make a (seemingly) normal person commit such atrocious acts? How can they manage to keep from being caught over such a long time? And how many serial killers are still on the lose around the world? Those thoughts can be more frightening than occasional nightmarish thoughts about monsters and bogeymen…serial killers are real, and they’re out there. The FBI estimates that there are about 25-50 active serial killers operating through the U.S. at any given time (which is also referenced in this movie, actually). Many have asked if the movie is based upon a real serial killer, whereas the director has answered that it’s not, but inspired by several. In Poughkeepsie there was actually a real serial killer, Kendall Francois, who killed eight women in the period of 1997-98.


If you’re interested in a well-made serial killer mockumentary with a quite realistic tone, you should check this one out.



The Poughkeepsie Tapes


Director: John Erick Dowdle
Country & year: USA, 2007
Actors: Stacy Chbosky, Ben Messmer, Samantha Robson, Ivar Brogger, Lou George, Amy Lyndon, Michael Lawson, Ron Harper, Kim Kenny


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Session 9 (2001)

Session 9 (2001)Danvers State Mental Hospital is an old asylum that has been empty since 1985. An asbestos team lead by  Gordon (Peter Mullan) and Phil (David Caruso) is hired to do the preparations for the renovation of the old building. With a bonus payment of 10.000 dollars hanging over their heads if they get the job done within one week, the working environment becomes filled with stress and bickering. This is nothing compared to what the asylum has in store for them, however…


Down where the most crazy of the patients were held, one of the workers finds an old sound recording of the interview with Mary Hobbes, a woman with three personalities: “The Princess”, symbolizing her innocence, “Billy”, who is her protector, and “Simon”, whom the doctor tries to come in contact with. Even though Mary’s story belongs to the past, it’s not without consequence for the asbestos workers.


“Session 9” is a psychological thriller that’s at times a bit slow, but builds up to something really creepy. While not perfect, it’s a pretty well-crafted horror movie that manages to keep the suspense up while keeping jumpscares and cgi-effects at a minimum. It’s a movie that plays primarily on the psychological horrors: knowing that there’s something scary there but it isn’t something you can see or touch. The ending puts everything together in a really creepy context, and is prone to give quite a chill.


Session 9


Director: Brad Anderson
Country & year:  USA. 2001
Actors: David Caruso, Stephen Gevedon, Paul Guilfoyle, Josh Lucas, Peter Mullan, Brendan Sexton III, Charley Broderick, Lonnie Farmer, Larry Fessenden, Jurian Hughes, Sheila Stasack


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