Juan Antonio Bayona‘s The Orphanage (Picturehouse) “won’t be released until the end of December, and there will be plenty of [similar-type] films before then — including the very big budget I Am Legend,” writes Newark Star-Ledger critic/columnist Stephen Whitty. “But I’m willing to already call this little Spanish film the best horror movie of the year.

The Orphanage director Juan Antonio Bayona following our chat in the Majestic Hotel lounge in Cannes — Wednesday, 5.23.07, 12:25 pm

“Admittedly, it’s not going to be a big hit with the blood-and-guts crowd (although there is one gory shock midway through that left even a Fangoria writer shaken). And its scares have more to do with suggestion than special effects. Then again, that’s exactly why I liked it.

“Watching it at the New York Film Festival, I kept thinking of classics like The Innocents and The Haunting, as well as the Spanish masterpiece The Spirit of the Beehive.”

Damn straight. I said exactly the same thing four a half months ago. I expect many others to join in as the release date approaches.

After seeing it twice at last May’s Cannes Film Festival, I wrote that The Orphanage is “hands down the creepiest sophisticated ghost story/thriller to come along since Alejandro Amenabar‘s The Others.

“If you ask me (or anyone else who’s seen it here) it absolutely deserves a ranking alongside other haunted-by-small-children classics as Jack Clayton‘s The Innocents and Nicolas Roeg‘s Don’t Look Now. It also recalls Robert Wise‘s The Haunting, although the ghosts in that 1961 film were all over 21.”