Starring Belen Rueda, Fernando Cayo and Geraldine Chaplin. Directed by Juan Luis Bayona.
Running Time: 105 mins.
Rated: Rated MA 15+ (strong supernatural themes).
This is an eerie ghost story reminiscent in many ways of that other fine Spanish ghost story, The Others, with Nicole Kidman. This time the focus is on Belen Rueda as Laura, who spent her younger years in the orphanage and has now returned with her devoted husband and seven year old adopted son in order to open it up again to young children. While everything seems sunny, the little boy is sick and plays with invisible friends. One day he discovers another 'friend' in a cave by the seaside. At a masked party for prospective clients, the little boy seems to menace his mother and then disappears.

The film builds its atmosphere, relying on lighting, editing and suggestion rather than by any effects.

When a former employee, looking particularly sinister, visits, suspicions are aroused and various clues, including some home movies of the time when Laura was a girl reveal a new story.

It is Laura who has to hold the film together. She becomes increasingly morbid and frantic about her son as the months pass. Finally, she consults a medium (Geraldine Chaplin) who, against the advice of her rational psychologist and of her husband, tells her that she must first believe and then she will see. The rest of the film is what she sees, what she discovers and what she decides to do.

As with eerie films like The Innocents, The Sixth Sense and The Others, we enter into the mind of someone who has 'other world' experiences where it is hard for the audience to know what is real and what is not - and create their own film, so to speak.

This is a very good example of this kind of horror by suggestion film.

Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.

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