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Orphan

A 2009 American horror film directed by Jaume Collet-Serra

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Horror Comes In Small Packages...?

  • Oct 29, 2009
Rating:
+2
 Peter Sarsgaard as John Coleman, Isabelle Fuhrman as Esther and Vera Farmiga as Kate Coleman in "Orphan."
 
The taboo subject of killer tykes on the loose have always been touched on by filmmakers; “The Good Son”, “Joshua”, “Pet Semetary”, the Korean film “Hansel and Gretel”, “The Bad Seed” are good examples. Even Troma came up with the utterly awesome “Beware: Children at Play” (in my opinion is the one that really pushed the envelope) and “Grace” which was a grand spectacle of utter discomfort. These films have all delved into an idea about a young child bent on creating mayhem and/or murder. I guess there is really something very frightening when it comes to portraying innocence that has become perverted and this formula has become very popular in the horror genre. Director Jaume Collet-Sera’s “Orphan” is another film that explores such a premise.
 
John and Kate (Peter Skarsgaard and Vera Farmiga respectively) is a young couple with two children who has been through a lot recently. Kate is a recovering alcoholic whose application has led to the near-deafness of their daughter. They have also suffered the pain of stillbirth, and the two have decided that they still have more love to give. The couple opts to adopt a child this time to join their existing kids, Daniel (Jimmy Bennett) and Maxine (Aryana Engineer) to make a larger family. Visiting a local orphanage, Kate and John meet a charming, well-mannered, talented Russian 9 year old named Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) and decide to adopt her. After a period of adjustment, Kate begins to suspect that something sinister maybe about their new adopted child. John dismisses her misgivings because of her past history with alcohol. When people begin to go missing and accidents begin to occur around Esther, Kate becomes more suspicious of her new daughter. Meanwhile, Esther still charms those around her with her unusually mature and intelligent demeanor.
 
                Vera Farmiga as Kate, Peter Sarsgaard as John and Isabelle Fuhrman as Esther in "Orphan."
 
“Orphan” is an easy movie to find entertaining. The film’s screenplay may be very one-dimensional with elements so familiar that horror fans can predict Esther’s manipulations from a mile away. Esther’s textbook manipulations are so clichéd, and offers nothing that we haven’t seen before in the “killer tykes” on the rampage genre. Her manipulations are all set on intimidating the other kids in the film and turning one parent against the other. Of course, the antagonist has to be able to charm the unsuspecting folk while going about their business of murder. However, the film does keep moving at a pace that overloads the senses that manages to partly hide its plot missteps and holes with gasps and jump scares. Also, I have to say that Isabelle Fuhrman plays a wicked kid on a murder spree. She is quite creepy and convincing as the film’s main antagonist. The thrilling elements come from Fuhrman’s performance as an angelic-looking girl who has the ability to use a handgun, able to bludgeon people and even break her own arm at her leisure. Just who is this kid anyway? Why is she so damned smart and the people around her so damned dumb? 

                  Peter Sarsgaard as John Coleman and Vera Farmiga as Kate Coleman in "Orphan."
 
The film does have a good twist albeit a bit far-fetched. I thought while it was a decent attempt to add a little more “meat”, I thought it lacked credibility. I find it hard to believe that Child Services wouldn’t investigate everything before they take a supposed orphan in. Also, as wild and bold, Esther’s murderous escapades were, I question some of the ways she covers things up with the hammer and other things. Much as I can buy into the way she tricks Maxine into covering for her, I thought some other key plot elements required a large suspension of disbelief. I found it hard to buy into the fact that Esther could skip that many dental appointments and that her adoptive parents (or the nuns in the orphanage) never saw her in a state of undress. Despite the things that Kate may have done in the past, I thought John’s disbelief of her concerns were a little too overplayed. I would have began to reconsider my doubts after the burning tree house no matter how imbalanced my wife may be; after all, Esther is an adopted child and not my own flesh and blood. Plus, any mother would have found a way to get the truth out of her kids. 

                    Isabelle Fuhrman as Esther in "Orphan."
 
Esther is a character very reminiscent of the ones in the film “The Bad Seed” and “Joshua” (which curiously also stars Farmiga). In this film however, it doesn’t hold back in staging graphic violence around kids. The film also touches on a sensitive elements as it partly sexualizes Esther, and this would have made for some good horror fodder but the film restrains itself. There is also the idea of kids watching adults in uncompromising situations that approaches the areas of sleaze. Sadly, it pulls its punches and sticks to its clichéd plot mechanics.
 
The performances are good and convincing for the most part. Farmiga is very talented in portraying her wide-eyed, hysterical character and looks very sexy when needed. Her character has suffered a lot of stress and the actress does portray Kate as the sympathetic mother who is trying to protect her kids. Peter Skarsgaard was decent as the husband who wants to keep things together. However, some characterization felt a little too convenient as to fit the goals of our sinister Esther.
 
“Orphan” had the potential to really be a good film, but the restraints it imposed on itself made it a pretty clichéd movie. It isn’t a bad movie but it is just so darned familiar that I felt like I’ve seen all of this before. The film’s final act feels a little too stretched out and Esther’s survival skills to be a little too over-the-top. The film’s twist may have some ‘shock value’ but the groundwork contradicted any credibility. “Orphan” has a lot of contrivances and convolutions, the protagonists and supporting characters are all just set up to be dumb. If one doesn’t care about these things, then “Orphan” may please and maybe even impress the casual movie watcher. As for those so used to thrillers, this movie should have been edited to be shorter and be tighter. The movie does offer up some decent bloodshed that I found appealing and Fuhrman makes a good tyke on a murder spree; for these reasons, I recommend a rental.
 
RENTAL [2 ½ Stars]
 
Horror Comes In Small Packages...?

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December 12, 2010
I didn't realize you had reviewed this one until I just posted mine! LOL I just saw it last night; your review is much more in depth than mine; I was afraid to say too much so as not to spoil it, but you somehow managed to not spoil anything. Great one Woo!
March 11, 2011
where are you at? we miss yah!
March 19, 2011
Sent you a message Woo - my internet has been down BUMMER big time and will probably be a while before it's back on and I miss you guys!!!!
 
October 22, 2010
I kinda liked this one, well at least a little more than you. Excellent review as always WP
 
November 04, 2009
No interest at all, this represents the type of film that appeals to me the least and your review makes it sound even less so.
November 05, 2009
Cenobite kinda liked it as well as Jenny in ammie. I guess on this movie, we are more likely to agree.
November 05, 2009
I think that my dislike for the "Bad Seed " approach comes from my mother's tendency to have called me a "bad seed from a bad seed" when I was a kid. She meant my father of course. She sure knew how to stick it to me. Ever since then I've had a dislike for the evil child horror flick. Hell, I didn't even like the original all that much.
 
October 31, 2009
Although I probably won't but this one, it wasn't as bad as I'd expected it to be. In fact, a tad bit better than the average bullshit that Hollywood creates. Maybe a three star rating in my book? Great review though.
October 31, 2009
Yeh, it wasn't as bad as I thought; But originality plays an important part of how I rate movies. It's rather sad that we have so few good horror from H-wood these days that we can now tolerate "somewhat good" horror movies.
October 31, 2009
Amen to that! Hollyweird has very little in store for me this year or any other for that matter. It would be nice if they actually once made a movie that didn't follow some cookie cutter pattern. That's askling just a bit too much though, right?
October 31, 2009
H-wood has just become too commercial and I think a director should ONLY concern himself on creativity. But when one becomes creative a movie doesn't do well in the box-office...I guess movies have become more for fun than an art form. I guess this is why I began watching foreign movies more than anything.
 
October 31, 2009
Your review pretty much coincides with my suspicions based on the previews. I've been meaning to ask what your early take was on "The Fourth Kind"- looks kinda interesting I thought. They timed it a bit late though, a lot of people looking for a pre-Halloween scare would probably have boosted ticked sales.
October 31, 2009
Dude, I'll be watching THE FOURTH KIND on opening weekend!
 
1
More Orphan reviews
review by . December 12, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
THEY ADOPTED THE CHILD FROM HELL
Desperate to watch something last night, I flipped this movie on.  I really was not expecting much as it seems good horror is hard to find.  I ended up watching "Orphan" - was I disappointed?  Well, it is hard to say; this film completely irritated me at times with it's sometimes lousy dialogue, it's occasional unrealistic scenes, the husband's ignorance - yet it totally engrossed me.            John and Kate Coleman (played …
review by . October 19, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
*** out of ****     Movies about adopted children from Hell make me happy any day. Of course, sometimes a bad one comes along to ruin a potentially good time, but more than often, I walk out of such movies satisfied with the new ideas that the filmmaker has explored, and the new evil kid that they have successfully introduced. I like to believe that "The Omen" popularized the trend of killer kids in movies, and while few can truly outweigh that one in spectacle and quality, there …
review by . July 10, 2011
For that small selection of motion pictures that approach greatness and fall far short of it, this is a particularly notable entry. In the '70s, no major studio would touch something this audacious, and no filmmaker who engaged it would dare to dilute it to satisfy tender sensibilities. However, this is an age in which the whims of hysterical hausfrauen and other gluttonous, shrieking, hypersensitive demographics determine commercial success and failure, in which anything that's not distributed …
Quick Tip by . July 09, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
this movie is a trip. its a pretty good story but the ending is the best part. a total suprise!
review by . December 08, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, and CCH Pounder give excellent performances, but it's the kiddies who steal the show in "Orphan."     Farmiga and Sarsgaard star as Kate and John Coleman, a successful and loving (or so it seems at first) couple with two children and the desire to adopt another when Kate's third child is stillborn. They believe that they've found the perfect child in Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman), a nine-year-old Russian orphan who is sugary sweet, highly intelligent, …
Quick Tip by . July 12, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
WOW i had no idea what this movie was going to be about i dont want to spoil this for any one.
Quick Tip by . July 06, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
So scary!
review by . October 16, 2009
For those of you that like thrillers like "Single White Female," "Fatal Attraction," or "Audition," this is another shocker in the same vein. Although "Orphan" has some genuine thrills and scares, it made me feel a little unclean at times.    When "Orphan" begins, we meet the Colemans: Kate (Vera Farmiga) and John (Peter Saargard), and their children Daniel (Jimmy Bennett) and Max (Arayana Engineer). After the stillborn death of their third child, Kate and John decide to adopt …
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A husband and wife who lose a baby adopt a 9-year-old girl who is not nearly as innocent as she claims to be.Genres:Suspense/Horror and Thriller Release Date:July 24th, 2009 (wide) MPAA Rating:R for disturbing violent content, some sexuality and language. Distributors:Warner Bros. Pictures Distribution See Full Details

A bad seed with a Russian accent, 9-year-old Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) is a nasty little girl with a nasty little plan. Unfortunately, this malevolent tyke has landed in the home of adoptive parents Kate and John (Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard), an unsuspecting couple with two kids of their own and considerable grief over recent family tragedies. It doesn't take long for Esther to make her creepy presence known, as broken limbs on the playground and torched tree houses can attest. Give this movie some credit--the psychological underpinnings are all set carefully in place: Maternal trauma? Check. Backyard pond as emotionally charged danger zone? Check. Feminist parable about husbands not listening to troubled wives? Check. The casting of reputable actors such as Farmiga and Sarsgaard also ups the movie's class quotient; Farmiga in particular has an emotional workout, and this gifted actress strikes few false notes even as the scenario becomes increasingly lurid. (There's some déjà vu here: Farmiga also played a mother realizing her kid was "not right" inJoshua, a much superior film.) Director Jaume Collet-Serra, ofHouse of...
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Details

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Release Date: July 24, 2009
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 2 hr. 3 min.
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures Distribution, Warner Home Video
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