Movie Name: Orphan
Studio: Dark Castle Entertainment
Release Date(s): July 24, 2009
MPAA Rating: R
Kate Coleman (Vera Farmiga) is trying to get over the loss of a baby in childbirth. With her husband John (Peter Sarsgaard), she has decided to open her world to an orphan girl named Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman). Born in Russia, Esther comes with challenges, but Esther might be hiding more than either Kate or John expect. As Esther seems to turn everyone against Kate, Kate fears that John and her children Danny (Jimmy Bennett) and Max (Aryana Engineer) are in danger…but no one will believe her.
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, Orphan is a horror thriller. The movie faced complaints from adoption agencies when believed the movie preyed upon adoption fears. The movie was released to mixed reviews but a strong box office return.
I like “bad seed” movies because it creates the ultimate problem…what do you do with an evil kid? Kids by definition are supposed to be innocent and pure and to not believe a child is almost a sin. Orphan plays with the formula due to a twist. As a result, a ******spoiler alert****** exists for the rest of the review.
The story for Orphan is kind of fun, but it is also one of those completely frustrating stories. I always hate “frame” stories where no one believes the main character, and Orphan’s whole story is based on this. It is kind of fun that almost everyone (except the father) discovers Esther is evil before they all realize they know and that Esther is manipulating them.
The movie’s big twist comes at the end, but I guessed it before the reveal with a number of clues left in the movie. Despite this, it still was a fun twist with a shocking last quarter of the movie. Though the whole cast is rather strong, Isabelle Fuhrman does a great job as the scary Esther who manages to be even scarier once the it is revealed that she’s actually a woman in her thirties…it could have easily been cheesy, but it kind of works…and her ability to manipulate also makes more sense.
The movie does do too much alluding to what is going to occur. It is constantly giving hints to things that will become important later in the movie. Kate’s fear of the icy lake? Yep, that is going to play out, etc., etc. That is Orphan’s downfall. It underestimates the audience and as a result it sometimes lacks surprises.
Orphan has faults but is a fun popcorn type movie. If it were simply an evil kid movie, it probably wouldn’t work, but the twist makes it watchable (and watching twice is fun to see all the tells). With a rather definitive ending (an original ending had Esther living), I doubt we’ll see Orphan 2…but Hollywood loves to recycle (so I’m imagining a straight-to-streaming sequel starring Dean Cain and Tori Spelling).