Sunday, July 26, 2009

"Orphan" review

Orphan (2009)

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Writers: David Johnson Alex Mace

Vera Farmiga... Kate Coleman
Peter Sarsgaard... John Coleman
Isabelle Fuhrman... Esther
CCH Pounder... Sister Abigail
Jimmy Bennett... Daniel Coleman
Margo Martindale... Dr. Browning
Karel Roden... Dr. Värava
Aryana Engineer... Max Coleman

A couple decides to adopt a demon child. They head to the orphanage to seek out the most introverted, deranged kid they can find. They stumble upon Esther, a shy girl who likes to paint stories instead of hanging out with the other kids. She also likes to incessantly sing "The Glory of Love". Clearly, this girl is the embodiment of pure evil. But her prospective parents can't read between Esther's psychotic lines so they take her home to meet the family. In short order, Esther is causing havoc everywhere she goes but her new father just can't accept the fact that Esther has been spawned in Hell. Her adopted mother feels the weight of the world on her shoulders as she tries to figure out where Esther came from and how to stop herself from getting drunk dealing with all this maniacal daughter stress. Esther has come to stay even if everyone else must die.

"Orphan" is a movie full of secrets. I can't write this movie review without revealing most of them. So here's my short review before I reveal any spoilers: I liked it. "Orphan" is a creepy, sleazy horror flick that does a great job of keeping the suspense going throughout most of the movie. It doesn't waste a lot of time having Esther pretend to be a good little girl. Since we already know she's evil just by looking at the poster, "Orphan" jumps right in by letting Esther off the chain and be the demonic little girl we know she is.

Now back to Esther and her big secret. Stop reading now if you want to keep it a surprise. If you're going to check out this movie, it would be better if you didn't know.


Still with me? OK.

Esther is a very polite, mature little girl. She always seems to know what to do to push all the right buttons in people. Where does Esther come from? Throughout the movie, the mother is trying to figure out the origin of Esther. Near the end of the movie, she gets the call about Esther she's been waiting for.

Esther is not a little girl. She is a 33 year old woman who suffers from a rare disease which makes her look like she's nine years old. Her modus operandi is to worm her way into households, tear the family apart and make a play for the dad. When the dad rejects her, (judging by her body count it seems like every dad rejects her), she vents her anger by hacking up the family.

When this twist was revealed, "Orphan" takes a very sleazy turn. One scene has Esther putting on makeup and dressing up in black to try to seduce the dad. Even though he was drunk, he still couldn't give into her prepubescent charms. Esther storms off and reveals all the tricks she's used to hide her appearance. Fake teeth, breasts taped to her chest, etc. Then she goes on the attack as only a rejected psychotic dwarf can.

As an exploitation fan, I thought this twist was demented enough to make "Orphan" a memorable mainstream horror flick. But upon reflection, it may actually take away some of the shock value of the movie. Most of the movie we think we're watching a nine year old girl commit acts of deceit and violence. When they explain it away by saying she's a escapee from a mental ward, it actually lessens the impact of the horror she's inflicted on people. Now Esther makes sense where before she was a violent enigma.

But Esther's secret makes the movie fun too. It's not often you see a movie this warped in theaters. I had a good time watching Esther run wild over her new adopted family. "Orphan" is worth checking out.

SCORE: 3 out of 4 creepy Esthers


Michael Whiteacre said...

I love this movie. You hit its appeal right on the head. And the parents are played by two of my favorite actors. I'm actually shocked that it got made and then yielded a decent-sized release.

Anonymous said...

This was a pretty good movie! I was surprised.
Thank you, Dr. Gore!

wairimu said...

GREAT MOVIE! I was so blown away! The little girl/woman was such a good actress....!