|Orphan (Blu-ray Disc, 2009)|
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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 one. At the orphanage, they become enchanted with a little girl named Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman). At first, she appears the child from heaven: she immediately bonds with Max, and learning sign language to communicate with her (Max is deaf). But strange things start happening around Esther...
This is what "The Good Son" could have been, had it been better written and acted. Yet, even though it rectifies the main fault I had with that movie (nothing the psychotic Macauley Culkin character did was really evil enough), that comes at a price. Children (specifically Esther) act violently in this film, and at times it crosses the line between suspense-building and unsettling. While I'll agree that having a child commit this crimes gives the film an extra punch, some (though not all) of the scenes left me feeling dirty and violated.
Still, all in all, this is an impressive thriller. The most important part of a thriller is a good villain, and Esther is truly frightening. At age 12, Isabelle Fuhrman has quite the capability to scare the living hell out of anyone. She's right up there with Jennifer Jason Leigh and Eihi Shiina, or more applicably, Jacob Kogan from "Joshua," which coincidentally also starred Vera Farmiga. The other cast members acquit themselves well too. Vera Farmiga is in top-form as Kate, though she's been here before (in fact, she plays almost the exact same character as she did in "Joshua"). Peter Saarsgard, a talented actor from the independent film circuit, plays a type, but he does solid work. However, the script calls for him to be dumber than is realistically plausible, and Saarsgard can't make us believe that his character is really that oblivious. The child actors are great as well. Jimmy Bennett is solid in an unspectacular part of Daniel.But Arayana Engineer is perfect as Max. She's adorable, and although very young, Engineer draws our sympathy like a magnet. I never stop rooting for her actually.
Apart from the amorality of some of the scenes, not everything that director Jaume Collet-Serra does works. He attempts to create scares where they have no place, and the failures of these elicited laughs from the audience. Speaking of laughs, there is a bit of humor in the film, and that works. However, one of the scenes is so over-the-top that it's unintentionally hilarious.
I first saw Orphan in the movie theater and was thrilled to finally buy it on DVD. As far as horror movies go it is pretty tame since it isn't very gory, at least by my standards. Anyway the movie has some things going for it. The sexual tension in the movie is central to the plot especially between Esther and John. The twist at the end of the movie does pretty much explain it and makes the movie a little less creepy. My favorite part is when Esther executes the bird and then explains to her little sister that it's in heaven. Another cool part is when she opens the safe and grabs the revolver, wielding it like a skilled criminal would. I really thought that the brother was a real jerk to her and same with that Brenda character and her friends. I felt a tinge of sadness when Esther was being bullied in the hallway, especially by her own brother. Despite being a murderous, violent, homicidal and psychopathic little girl, I can't help but feel bad for her.
The DVD has some interesting stuff including a disclaimer PSA reminding that it is just a movie and that there are orphans who need parents. The Special Features include deleted scenes and an alternate ending but that's it. The movie site has some cool stuff but can take little while to load. Either way the movie itself is pretty good but the DVD could have used a little bit more in terms of features.
A creepy film about the orphan from hell who sweet-talks her way into an adoptive family's home. All Esther wants is a little love, and she won't let little things like multiple murders get in the way of that. Sure the third act could be considered ludicrous, but if you just roll with the flow it's pretty damned entertaining in a disturbing way.
PQ detail on the Blu is excellent, almost 3D like in outside scenes. Stubble, pores, makeup, clothing fabric, all razor sharp. The color palette here is appropriately muted, feeding the creepy, depressing nature of the film. Dark scenes came through very well. AQ is very effective as well. While not a non-stop action barrage, the flames lick around you, the jump scares make you jump, the gunshots are loud and the popping sounds of repeated claw hammer vs. skull are wonderfully reproduced.
Disappointingly the extras are a bit on the light side including only a featurette on Esther and other killer kids and some deleted scenes with an alternate ending. The disc is BD-Live enabled though the only thing I could find on the movie was the downloadable theatrical trailer. There's also a Child Welfare warning at the beginning of playback, to reassure people that there probably aren't too many Esther's floating around real-life adoption agencies (or I would hope so at least )
ORPHAN is a creepy movie for those who liked THE BAD SEED and THE GOOD SON. It is very well-acted. You care about the characters --- both good and bad --- and come to understand their motivations. This is a welcome change from the usual interchangeable cardboard characters in many horror films. Not excessively gory; it earns an R rating for two sex scenes, one very explicit. Aside from its entertainment value as a horror film, parents of elementary school age kids who are considering adopting an older child should pay close attention to the early scenes of the film. Everything the nine-year-old adopted daughter does (until she starts killing!) is typical behavior for a child in this situation, and the mother DOES overreact. Pay attention to the girl's lying, cursing, manipulation, choice of clothing, sibling rivalry...even the seductive behavior toward the adoptive father. The adoptive mother finds these behaviors shocking, but they are neither evil nor exaggerated for the film. They are to be expected in ANY older-child adoption; if your family can't handle it, then adopting from foster care is NOT for you! Of course, in a typical situation these behaviors will diminish with counseling, love, and discipline. If your adopted child commits murder, then you are NOT overreacting and something IS seriously wrong!
When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I thought "Oh God, another one of those movies." But I was surprised that after I'd gone and seen it, I'd actually thoroughly enjoyed it.
Isabelle Fuhrman is the "orphan"; that is, 9-year-old Esther who seems a little strange and morbid despite the adopted parents instance attraction to her. When violent events began taking place that are connected to Esther, the parents began to suspect that there is more to the little girl than appears.
Fuhrman definitely was the right choice for the role of Esther; she has an attractive face and her youth doesn't strain her acting abilities which were very convincing. I won't lie though; the movie was very grisly, and even I had to turn away from the screen a few times. Even the twist ending really shocked me, and I'm not easily shocked. I really think that despite how it looks, give it a shot, because it wasn't a bad little movie. It was well acted, well thought out, and seriously creepy.