These feelings effectively inform the various suspenseful set pieces of The Orphanage. An extended sequence where the medium Laura has hired has a haunting encounter with the children ghosts proves especially unnerving. Choosing to capture this interaction through security camera footage partially obscures what's happening to her and that's exceedingly frightening. The mind reels with what kind of horrors she's experiencing in that room. Meanwhile, the fact that an expert of the paranormal is being so overwhelmed by these spirits makes one petrified over how Laura could possibly stand up against these ghosts.
Of course, by the end, The Orphanage pulls back the curtain to reveal that it's not really a straightforward spooky ghost tale. While the movie has been playing the ghost children as scary entities for so much of its runtime, the final scene of The Orphanage renders these deceased adolescents as tragic figures. Even the Tomas, who is adorned in an unnerving mask, turns out to be a victim of a prank gone awry rather than a slasher film villain. It's a bold move, one that gives The Orphanage the rare tearjerker ending in horror movies. Many of these films end on a note meant to unnerve the soul. The Orphanage, meanwhile, concludes on a brutally melancholy note.
The execution of this plot turn isn't quite flawless. Most notably, an early scene of Tomas attacking Laura and locking her in her bathroom feels out of place. It works for making the audience think Tomas will be a traditional slasher movie villain, sure. But such brutal actions don't fit in with the actual characterization of Tomas and the other kids. That particular scene feels like a ham-fisted red herring rather than an organic set-up in disguise. Still, the big about-face in Orphanage's final minutes mostly works quite well and wraps this tale up on a memorably creative note. It's interesting to see fragments of Bayona's work in The Orphanage but the film proves plenty intriguing on its own entriely divorced from Bayona's filmography.