The Orphanage appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. New Line rarely botches their transfers, and this was another strong one.
Sharpness looked very good, as I noticed virtually no signs of softness. Even during the flick’s wide shots, matters stayed crisp and concise. Jagged edges and shimmering failed to occur, and edge enhancement also failed to mar the proceedings. In addition, source flaws were absent; everything looked clean and fresh.
With its gloomy setting, the palette of The Orphanage stayed pretty subdued. The flick provided occasional splashes of bright colors, but it usually went with virtually monochromatic elements. Given the visual design, the hues seemed good. Blacks came across as deep and dense, while shadows were excellent. Low-light shots seemed smooth and well-defined. Overall, I really liked this consistently excellent presentation.
When I examined the audio of The Orphanage, I found both Dolby Digital EX 5.1 and DTS ES 6.1 soundtracks. If any significant variations differentiated the pair, I couldn’t discern them. I thought both mixes sounded very similar.
Much of the mix stayed quiet since a lot of it revolved around spooky atmospherics. The movie represented these elements with good localization and packed them together in a tight manner. The surrounds added a good kick and made this an involving track that used the various channels to creepy effect.
The quality of the audio satisfied as well. Speech was crisp and natural, without edginess or other issues. Music sounded robust and dynamic, and effects worked along the same lines. Those elements seemed full and accurate, with good low-end punch. I found a lot of good material in this strong track.
A small roster of extras fills out the set. Four featurettes appear. When Laura Grew Up: Constructing The Orphanage runs 17 minutes, 37 seconds as it combines shots from the set, movie clips and interviews. We hear from director JA Bayona, producer Guillermo Del Toro, writer Sergio G. Sanchez, executive producer Sandra Hermida, acting coach Laura Jou, cinematographer Oscar Faura, special effects artist David Marti, visual effects supervisor Jordi San Agustin, sound designer Oriol Tarrago, composer Fernando Velazquez, and actors Belen Rueda, Fernando Cayo, Mabel Rivera, Edgar Vivar, Andres Gertrudix, Montserrat Carulla, Roger Princep, and Geraldine Chaplin. “Constructing” examines the story and characters, cast and performances, Bayona’s approach to his first film, sets and locations, effects and makeup, sound and music, and closing thoughts about the flick.
A few aspects of “Constructing” satisfy, especially when we see rehearsals and hear how the filmmakers evoked good performances out of the child actors. However, much of the program sticks with generic praise for the flick and all involved, and the whole thing feels rather promotional. That makes it a spotty product.
Next comes the 10-minute and 16-second Tomas’ Secret Room: The Filmmakers. This five-part collection involves Bayona, Del Toro, Rueda, Rivera, Carulla, Velazquez, San Augstin, storyboard artist Pau Lopez, and visual effects artist Lluis Castells. We get info about all the first-time filmmakers at work here, recording the score, the sets, digital effects, and the opening credits. As with “Constructing”, this area includes a smattering of good notes, especially in the last two components about effects and credits. Unfortunately, the clips are way too short for much detail, and they stay fluffy a lot of the time. They’re decent but not especially satisfying.
Horror in the Unknown: Make-up Effects fills nine minutes and 22 seconds with remarks from Marti and special effects artist Montse Ribe. They talk about the various practical elements they created for the film such as the deformed Tomas, a corpse puppet, and a mangled face. They cover their work in a concise and informative manner in this interesting piece, and plenty of good behind the scenes shots make it even better.
Finally, Rehearsal Studio: Cast Auditions and Table Read goes for three minutes, 42 seconds. Bayona tells us how he worked the rehearsals and we see some clips from those sessions. I’d have liked more footage from those periods, but this still ends up as an intriguing little piece.
In the Still Gallery, we get six subdomains. The DVD offers “The Cast” (14 images), “Make-up Effects” (29), “Set Design and Locations” (92), “Black and White Photography” (28), “Production” (18) and “Conceptual Art” (17). All of these offer useful elements, and I particularly like the way the DVD presents the stills. They come as thumbnails we can select, or we can choose a “slideshow” option to run them for us. I wish more DVDs made their galleries so user-friendly.
Under Marketing Campaign, we find a few different elements. We locate US and Spanish teasers as well as US and Spanish trailers. The area also includes “Poster Explorations”. That domain shows us 12 advertising concepts created for the film.
A few ads open the DVD. We get clips for Pan’s Labyrinth, Amusement, The Sickhouse, Otis and One Missed Call. These also appear in the DVD’s Sneak Peeks area.
While I can’t say that The Orphanage represents the best ghost story I’ve ever seen, I think it mostly provides a satisfying affair. It falters at times but it usually delivers the expected chills and scares. The DVD gives us excellent picture and very good audio, but it doesn’t offer a particularly strong set of extras. Nonetheless, the movie deserves a look, at least as a rental.