Review: Orphan

orphan posterOrphan (2009)

R / 123 min

Mystery / Thriller / Horror

Starring: Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra


 

Movies that feature evil, demon-possessed, children are abundant in the horror movie genre.  It’s a common trope that has been done numerous times before.  With that being said, Orphan, directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, already stands at a disadvantage.  Collet-Serra had to keep things fresh in order to get people interested in Orphan.  So did he succeed?

The premise behind Orphan is that of a family who has lost a child through childbirth, and they want to adopt a kid to fill in the gap.  The mother, Kate (Vera Farmiga), and the father, John (Peter Sarsgaard), both have their fair share of problems that they are dealing with.  Kate is an alcoholic, and because of this, there youngest daughter, who happens to be deaf, Max (Aryana Engineer) almost died while playing in an icy pond.  They also have another son Daniel (Jimmy Bennett) who seems to have his troubles too.

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The story begins with Kate and John going to an orphanage in order to search for a new adopted child.  They end up finding a peculiar girl painting by herself named Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman).  At first sight, she is completely adorable and acts like an innocent little angel.  They all grow a connection to each other and they decide to take her home and make her a part of the family.

It’s when Esther arrives at their (rather large) home that we begin to see the the quirks that surround her.  She is always dressing proper, begins to grow an odd attachment to Max, and she seems to be clinging to a little black bible.  It’s immediately clear that Esther is not the prim-and-proper girl that everybody thinks she is.  There is something different about her, and it’s easy to see that things are only going to get bad.

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Unfortunately, it takes a long time for things to star kicking in.  It’s a slow climb to the third act of the movie, where things start to go down.  During these slow parts, we see Esther’s transition into the family, and the weird relationships that she builds with everybody.  She has an attachment to Max (as stated earlier) and John.  She, for some reason, despises Kate and wants to go out of her way to break her down.

This is probably the point where I should point out the acting in this movie.  The kids pretty much steal the show.  Jimmy Bennett and Aryana Engineer are probably the stars of the show, as well as Isabelle Fuhrman who plays a chilling performance as Esther.  Probably the more chilling part is the things that the little kids had to do in the movie.  Esther is manipulating them to her will and she really forces them to witness some pretty brutal things.  There’s just something about watching a little kid have to witness a cold-blooded murder that makes for some disturbing scenes.

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Both Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard didn’t do their jobs as well though, especially Sarsgaard who really seemed like he didn’t put any life into John.  Their characters are largely uninteresting and they just don’t seem to put that much into their characters.

The third act of the movie was probably the highlight of the whole experience.  This is when we see Esther really start to go crazy and reveal who she really is.  She’s brutal, cold-blooded, and basically a manipulative little brat.  You end up hating her by the end of the movie and the most satisfying scene is when we see the final confrontation between Kate and Esther.  I won’t spoil anything, but let’s just say Esther deserves what comes for her.  The movie probably would have been better if they kept a couple of scenes from the first part and then left the third act like it is.  The movie was pretty long, probably longer than it should have been given the dragging first half.

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I should also mention that the twist that comes towards the end comes out of nowhere, and just seems ridiculous.  However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that it is still surprising as ever.  It throws the story for a loop, and it also makes for a darker story.  It also makes sense when you look back on previous events that take place in the story.

Orphan provides a chilling and creepy story that really gets enriched by a dark twist at the end.  It’s the twist that keeps the overused horror trope of the devil child interesting.  The movie suffers a little bit from some acting and length, but this doesn’t take away from a great ending that builds tension and nervousness.  There is some great moments in this movie that still warrant a watch.

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