J.A. Bayona’s debut is a creepy, effective little ghost story from Spain (executive produced by Guillermo del Toro, fresh off PAN’S LABYRINTH). This one involves a once-adopted woman whose husband and adopted son move with her to the abandoned orphanage in which she grew up. Her son, afflicted with both HIV and apparent imaginary friends, is on medication and things get pretty freaky when he is interacting with children who aren’t there. The film, thankfully, never strains too hard for effect, nor does it lapse into show-off mode or cheap scares. Nevertheless, this is one of the creepiest and most effective “horror” films I’ve seen in some time. Slow, methodical, chilling, and ultimately touching, this is a surprisingly intelligent and involving thriller from one of the best countries in the movie business. Well-done.

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