The Spanish film The Orphanage (El Orfanato) has been marketed in the U.S. as a movie that Guillermo del Toro worked on in some capacity: similar to Pan's Labyrinth, but with more elements of horror. I found this campaign to be terribly misleading, even disappointing in light of my expectations. (Misleading marketing for a movie? You could have knocked me over with a girder, to quote Dorothy Parker.) The Orphanage is instead more of a slow-paced suspense film with supernatural trimmings, centering around a mystery that the main characters cannot solve even though the audience may have figured out a few clues. Although del Toro is credited as a producer on the film, it's directed by J.A. Bayona and has very little in common with Pan's Labyrinth, except that both feature children with rich fantasy lives.
Laura (Belen Rueda) and Carlos (Fernando Cayo) move to an old country estate with their son, Simon (Roger Princep). The mansion used to be an orphanage where Laura lived as a girl, until she was adopted. Now the couple is renovating it as a home for special-needs children. Odd things start occurring, though, before they can finish the job. An old woman who says she's a social worker warns Laura that she's keeping an eye on them because of Simon's chronic illness, and knows information that the parents have not yet told their child. And Simon discovers a whole slew of new invisible friends, some of whom sound extremely spooky and even dangerous. They play a special game that you know isn't going to end well. On the day of the grand opening for the renovated orphanage, Simon disappears without a trace. Has he been kidnapped, and is he still alive? Laura is determined to root out the truth and find her son, and will try anything.