The ghosts of so many other arty supernatural Spanish-accented thrillers crowd the room in The Orphanage that you may feel at first like you’re at a séance presided over by Guillermo del Toro. Don’t discount that sixth sense so quickly — this tale of maternal obsession from Spanish director Juan Antonio Bayona and screenwriter Sergio G. Sánchez is indeed produced by del Toro, the Mexican spook-freak who made Pan’s Labyrinth and all that Hellboy jazz.
But don’t let memories of the others — and The Others — lull you, either. This clever, clue-strewing Peter Pan’s Labyrinth begins classically enough, when Laura (Belén Rueda), her husband, and their adopted son (Roger Príncep) move into a scenic old pile that was once the orphanage where Laura herself lived as a girl. The boy keeps saying he sees not-exactly-dead people. Then an ominous former housekeeper appears, the son goes missing, a medium is called in (the ever-fascinating Geraldine Chaplin), and Laura descends into a kind of telepathic madness on behalf of wronged children.
You’re either in the mood to go along with the puzzle pieces or you’re not. I’m not usually a puzzle-piece fan myself, not when it’s clear that the filmmaker rigs the moves. But I couldn’t help but fall for the repurposed real estate, and cheer for the lady strong enough to break through walls when she senses a child is waiting. B