By Jack Rico
Rated: R for disturbing violent content, some sexuality and language.
Release Date: 2009-07-24
Starring: David Johnson, Alex Mace
Official Website: http://orphan-movie.warnerbros.com/
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Spanish helmer Jaume Collet-Serra begins ‘Orphan’ like your usual thriller, with scare alerts and false alarms, but it then becomes savagely violent and because it’s source is an innocent child, that savagery is heightened to a surreal peak that makes one twitch and uncomfortable. The first hour is a pure frightful delight, but it’s second half discombobulates into a typical, laughable yet unpredictable Hollywood fare.
So you have an idea of the story, some have compared this film to ‘The Good Son’ starring Macaulay Culkin, but the similarities stop at the first half. ‘Orphan’ is the mother load of all evil child movies. It’s sick and beyond anything you’d expect. The script has parts where it is absurd and ridiculous, but what about ‘Friday the 13th’ and ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ movies and we all love it, don’t we? Orphan is actually better than those films. The first half is as good as any suspense movie as I’ve seen since The Strangers, regrettably the rest of the film cannot be defended. What it could have been.
In this premise, the tragic loss of a couples’ (Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard) unborn child has devastated them. It has taken a toll on both their marriage and Kate’s fragile psyche as she is plagued by nightmares and haunted by demons from her past. Struggling to regain some semblance of normalcy in their lives, the couple decides to adopt young 10 year old girl. At the local orphanage, both John and Kate find themselves strangely drawn to a young girl named Esther. Almost as soon as they welcome Esther into their home, however, an alarming series of events begins to unfold, leading Kate to believe that there’s something wrong with Esther – this seemingly angelic little girl is not what she appears to be. Concerned for the safety of her family, Kate tries to get John and others to see past Esther’s sweet facade.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra is known in the circles for making the horror remake ‘House of Wax’ co-starring one rich and young Paris Hilton. This is by far a better offering than the aforementioned. The protagonists Peter Sarsgaard and Vera Farmiga are well-cast in the role, however, the manner in which the movie handles the other children, Daniel and Max, are perturbing. The film uses them as pawns in a demented game of danger and peril.
The climax is rather startling, combining the logic of the situation with audacity in exploiting its terror. Yet you have to hand it to ‘Orphan.’ You want a good horror film about a child from hell, you got one. This film is not for minors and I say this with all frankness, do not take children to see it. You’ll thank me for it later.