The Orphanage ends so well that it redeems the movie, which is pretty even in its success-to-failure ratio. The Spanish/Mexican production continues the vein of horror-versus-children resources of its producer Guillermo Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth and The Devil's Backbone.
The Orphanage holds childhood values close without being smart about children. By not letting viewers side with the actions of Simon (Roger Princep), a young child whose mom Laura (Belen Rueda) moves the family into the former orphanage where she grew up, the material isn't humanized enough to dignify its unpleasantness.
See, not only does Simon not know he's an orphan, he doesn't know he's HIV positive and he's possibly having delusions about a deformed friend who claims Laura isn't really his mom and that he's going to die. When Simon goes missing, Laura has no alternative but to delve into her son's mystery world for answers.
Director J.A. Bayona handles this with frightening know-how. He spins visuals out of the corruption of sacred ideals and knows how to make a scary face linger in the consciousness. But it's The Orphanage's final kindness that's most affecting. If Bayona applied this story and these ideals to three-dimensional characters, he'd have realized the film his climax deserves.