Director J.A. Bayona imbues the picture with a subtle, chilling atmosphere, while the script crafts likeable, mature characters that we easily become invested in. Belen Rueda deserves a lion's share of the credit for delivering an utterly wonderful performance in the lead role. She is an actress of grace and incredible emotional depth. Thanks to the script, and her performance, the film is as beautiful a tale of loss and motherhood as it is a haunted house fable.
The scares are very subtle, reliant almost entirely on mood and old-fashioned suspense. More modern supernatural horror could take some cues from films like this one, that don't need a single jump-scare to unnerve and spook their audience. And the twist ending is well articulated and simply heartbreaking, casting the film in a new light that lends it a unique and distinct voice. A haunting, beautiful ghost story in the finest tradition, and further proof that Spain knows how to deliver the goods.
My Rating: 8/10