Basement Films: A Movie to Watch in the Dark

Sean Strain

Do you like ghost stories? I’ve always had a fascination for them since I was a little kid. I remember when I was in elementary school that I would always check out ghost books from the library. The librarian playfully chastised me for filling my head with all these horror stories, but if you haven’t been able to discern this from my blog, I like the horrific and the morbid.

My favorite set of ghost books to check out were the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books. You probably remember them; they were a collection of folklore and urban legends with artwork that looked to be a mesh of black and white films with surrealist artwork and slasher films. Though me and my friends never sat around a camp fire and tried to scare each other with the stories, we simply laughed at them. The stories were creepy, but they also many aspects of ridiculousness. I mean, there was a story about a child finding a toe in the ground and taking it home to put in soup. Who does that?! There was nothing in the stories to ground us emotionally into them.

Yet, well done ghost stories can give us that creepy feeling and actually be frightening. One good movie with ghost story elements is  The Orphanage, a Spanish ghost movie that takes place in the titular orphanage. The movie centers around Laura, a woman who seeks to remodel the orphanage she once grew up in to reopen it for use again. She is aided by her husband Carlos and their young son Simon. Simon claims to be in communication with phantom children around the property who want to take him away and it seems that they do indeed whisk young Simon away when he disappears after a fight with Laura.

The fear of losing a child is one that many can sympathize with, even if they do not have a child of their own. Laura seems to lose her grip on reality and a hold of her marriage as she desperately searches for her son even though several months have gone by. This is probably what makes the film truly creepy as we also have no idea where Simon is and we fear along with Laura for his safety and truly are frightened by the supernatural forces that are set against her. This emotional connection keeps the movie from being another ridiculous ghost story.