Growing up is a scary thing. To realize one’s childhood is behind them can affect people in different ways.

That is one of the themes of the new thriller “El Orfanato,” which comes to theaters next month. Directed by music video aficionado Juan Antonio Bayona and written by first-time screenwriter Sergio G. Sánchez, “El Orfanato” fell into the laps of this unknown Spanish duo by way of Academy Award-nominated writer/director Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”), who is credited as a executive producer of the film.

“Guillermo has been a very good friend of mine,” Bayona told me during a phone interview. “He was there to protect us and the production. He is a very smart guy.”

Already being hailed as this year’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” and being compared to the 2001 ghost story “The Others,” “El Orfanato” made it debut in May at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.

The film follows the story of one-time orphan Laura (Belén Rueda), as she returns with her husband and son, Simón (Roger Príncep), to the orphanage where she grew up. Purchasing the institution with plans to reopen it, the family’s dreams are hindered when Simón goes missing inside the orphanage. Laura believes his disappearance has something to do with the imaginary friends he speaks to.

The idea of being separated from your family, Sánchez says, has always been something that has instilled fear in him ever since he was young.

“I was very sickly when I was a child,” Sánchez said. “My mother was also very old, so I was I always worried that she was going to leave me or I was going to die. That was a childhood fear of mine. In reality, it was fear of fear itself.”

For Bayona, the movie is about keeping one’s faith during a time of loss and unimaginable scenarios.

“There is great depth in this film,” Bayona said. “It is a belief between fear and human emotion. I think ‘El Orfanato’ isn’t a place, but a state of mind.”

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