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Orphan

A 2009 American horror film directed by Jaume Collet-Serra

< read all 6 reviews

Tasteless, silly, but intelligently made and entertaining.

  • Oct 19, 2011
Rating:
+3
*** 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 are a few that come fairly close to mimicking its insight and intelligence. One such film is "Orphan", an underrated, appropriately disturbing child-from-Hell movie; ridiculously effective and flawlessly crafted. Sure, the film is tasteless in nature, which lead to much controversy amongst the Adoption Community, but I couldn't help myself when it came to having a lot of fun with the results of this demented horror flick. It's well-acted, believable, sometimes silly, and provides some dark chuckles as well as a few very welcome cringes, which is strange, because I seldom invite those.

I guess the film starts out on the right note, by showing us a nightmare-dream-sequence in which a mother is to give birth to her third child. Her husband accompanies her to the hospital, where she is guided to a wheelchair, in which she begins to bleed. She passes out and wakes up in labor; doctors surrounding her, images distorted, and (gasp) her husband is recording the whole bloody affair with a camcorder. She screams in horror as the pain ends and her child is brought before her; hideously deformed and about as covered in blood as you'd expect it to be. However, the mood set for such a scene as this makes it all-the-more effective; it shares tones of camp and sheer horror equally, and that is a genuinely good thing.

The woman who had this dream was Kate (Vera Farmiga), who perhaps dreamt of such things out of fear and anxiety; as she and her husband John (Peter Sarsgaard) have just suffered the loss of a new baby girl. Kate is having the most trouble; trying to beat alcoholism in order to cope with the situation in the right ways, while John remains the typical supportive and caring husband. They still have two kids, Daniel and Max, but they would still appreciate a third. This is why they decide, one day; to visit an orphanage so that they can, perhaps, adopt a child. They don't have to do a whole lot of searching; John is immediately drawn to a talented, isolated young girl named Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman). She is a brilliant young Russian orphan with a love for painting (which she is very good at), and then some other things to be revealed along the way; some of which include refusing to conform at school, and playing some fine tunes on the Piano.

However, Kate suspects that something may not be entirely right. Esther is not getting along too well at school, and Daniel dislikes the newest addition to the family so immensely that he even goes so far as to make fun of his sister in-school. Max, the young daughter of the family, is far more accepting; if only because she is young, naïve, and unfortunately deaf (meaning that others must communicate to her through sign language, which makes for some particularly interesting scenes scattered throughout the film in some very unexpected places). Other than the approval (and disapproval) of the fellow siblings, there just doesn't seem to be much "right" to Esther, just as there isn't much "wrong". How unfortunate when you can't decide whether something is seriously wrong with your adopted little girl or if she's just going through some short-lived moods; much like a puppy on the first few nights that it has to endure not being at its mother's side.

I guess it isn't my job to reveal just what Esther does to attract the attention of her mother (and not-so-much her father, who is oblivious to just about everything), but some of it comes off as terrible and unnerving, and other times, it is, perhaps, intentionally silly. The film begins and ends a well-staged film; the screenplay is clever at times, the characters are normal enough and surprisingly well-developed, and the horror is fairly genuine, for what it is. I particularly liked the cinematography, which was, to sum it up in one word, flawless; beautiful, surreal, and moody. Of course, the film has a big twist ending at the end of it all; but I wasn't bothered by it since, with a little realization, I was able to accept the fact that it didn't quite cheat. Not the best twist ever, but certainly not the worst. "Orphan" is what you expect and what you want out of a child-from-Hell movie; nothing more and nothing less than what it sets out to be. Of course, "The Omen" is still King when it comes to these kinds of films, but I can't complain when a film is as well-crafted as this one here. At the end of the day, "Orphan" is better than you expect it to be, especially if you go in not expecting too much. What did I expect? Well, I can't tell you exactly; but I wasn't feeling super-enthusiastic. So imagine my surprise; and you might just be able to imagine yours.

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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 . 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 …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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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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