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Orphan

A 2009 American horror film directed by Jaume Collet-Serra

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Maybe Someday...

  • Jul 10, 2011
  • by
Rating:
+2
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 (and too often spoiled) by a corporate media conglomerate has a passing chance at nationwide (much less international) screenings. Thanks to these intervening factors, David Johnson's clever, delightfully vicious script for Orphan (based on an original story by Alex Mace) was reworked into a far less brutal, depraved and satisfying story for mass consumption. Nonetheless, it still has much more bite than most other mainstream American horror films that you'll see nowadays.

Equipped with an adequate pan-Slavic accent, newcomer Isabelle Fuhrman delivers a knockout performance as a cute, creepy Russian orphan adopted by a wealthy couple played by bipedal jellyfish Peter Sarsgaard and the unappetizing, horse-faced Vera Farmiga. Initially adorable and ultimately gruesome, Fuhrman's sly, weighty, volatile portrayal of a calculating sociopath is far more fun than anything else here. Almost immediately, the tiny terror wreaks havoc by exacting violent (and not entirely unwarranted) revenge on bullying classmates, meddling authority figures and her petulant stepbrother (Jimmy Bennett) while manipulating her half-deaf stepsister (Aryana Engineer) and therapist (Margo Martindale). Despite her busy schedule, she still takes the time to terrorize her overbearing adoptive mother. Since her new parents have plenty of baggage to exploit - he's indulged in a fling and she's a former lush - the infantile bedlamite has plenty of mistrust with which to slowly, craftily undermine their uncertain relationship. Though they're little more than bland, mobile props in comparison to their lovable lunatic charge, Sarsgaard and Farmiga are entirely convincing in their roles - he's as credibly spineless as she is disconsolate.

With a gutsy, intelligent director at the helm, even this watered-down redaction of Johnson's earlier treatment could have been ruthlessly effective. Unfortunately, budding Catalan hack Jaume Collet-Serra - whose résumé includes numerous TV commercials, music videos and the heinous House of Wax remake - has no idea what he's doing here. His attempts to shock his audience are at best ineffectual and at worst risibly incoherent, and his composition is embarrassingly clumsy during the momentary occasions when he strays from his formulaic technique. If Collet-Serra had spent more time interacting with his talented cast and discarded the movie's moronic visual flourishes, he might have come away with a minor classic instead of a movie best remembered for its squandered promise.

The film's production values are of mixed quality. Jeff Cutter's cinematography is gorgeous, replete with lush, dark hues. It's nice to note one DP of a horror film who doesn't rush to utilize a blue color filter for every single nighttime shot. On the other hand, John Ottman's score is yet more negligible music for another movie that doesn't need any - mostly tired scare cues and bland ambient exercises. There's far too much product placement: a large Hello Kitty emblem on a child's wall is pleasant enough, but there's no reason why I need to see so much Guitar Hero in a feature film, especially when it it could be better substituted by a television channel. Also, there's CGI fire and smoke in lieu of the real thing, and that's never convincing.

Not much here is actually scary; only a brief, unsightly, thankfully aborted coupling between Farmiga and Sarsgaard horrifies. This picture is best appreciated for the twisted cunning of its little protagonist. When she holds a utility knife to the soft, pink neck of her prickish philistine stepbrother, threatens him with castration and coaxes fluids from both his tear ducts and groin by doing so, there I am on my comfy couch, crying tears of joy that someone, somewhere still has the spine to make me smile. That's why this is so frustrating - in those last forty-odd minutes, most of its script's best punches are pulled as the movie deteriorates into silliness and trite genre clichés. Even when the juvenile hellion's shocking secret is revealed, any discerning horror enthusiast is bound to come away disappointed. As deliciously perverse as the original script was, its transgressions still weren't sufficiently severe. Were these characters developed to full fruition, a few plot holes sealed and the scenarios resolved with a virulence worthy of their implications, this could have been the definitive contemporary successor of that great, diminished American legacy of exploitation and horror films.

Maybe next decade.

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August 12, 2011
I found this to be just okay & a watchable film overall but nothing I would have to own per se. With the exception of the small twist near the end, I felt like I'd seen this one many times before. However, teh acting was above average & it kept my attetion so I wouldn't complain too loudly. Good write-up.
 
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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 29, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Horror Comes In Small Packages...?
      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. …
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 …
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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Robert Buchanan ()
Ranked #30
I'm a bibliophile, ailurophile, inveterate aggregator, dedicated middlebrow and anastrophizing syntax addict. My personality type is that of superlative INTJ.
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Wiki

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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