Despite a few bloodcurdling shocks, this handsome Spanish ghost story from producer Guillermo del Toro follows in the suggestive, richly romantic tradition of the old Val Lewton chillers. Statuesque beauty Belen Rueda (The Sea Inside) is mesmerizing as a woman who has moved into the country home where she once lived as an orphan. Her young son reports encounters with invisible children and eventually disappears himself, leaving the mother distraught and increasingly open to supernatural explanations. The plot tangles near the end as screenwriter Sergio G. Sanchez begins to fudge the mother's history at the orphanage, but I was coaxed away from the movie's literal meaning by its intuitive grasp of the genre's seductive power: as in some of the best ghost stories, dread of the other side is tempered by deep longing for those who've crossed over. Juan Antonio Bayona directed. In Spanish with subtitles. R, 100 min.
By J.R. Jones