Directed Jaume Collet-Serra
"If I find out that you're lying, I'll cut your hairless little prick off before you even figure out what it's for. Do you understand me?"
They don't call me the jaded viewer for nothing.
I am totally being honest here. I called the twist in the Orphan once they introduced her character which was 30 or so minutes in (once I saw her paintings). I've seen alot of these type of movies and I'm good at picking up on the hints and clues. I knew going in there was a big reveal at the end. So through a level of Sherlock Holmes-ing, I kinda figured it out.
But that doesn't take away how good the movie is. Oh its not the twist or the scares or the suspense or tension of the movie which were all candy cane sweet, but its Isabelle Fuhrman's performance which is by far one of the best performances by a kid I've seen in a horror movie in quite a long time.
Kids in Hollywood movies always play...well kids. But in Orphan, Fuhrman plays a well mannered fashionista with a twisted mentality and WITH a Russian accent. And she pulls it off effortlessly. How does a little American kid actor pull this off? I'm speechless. Seriously, her performance is Oscar worthy. Truly remarkable.
I've been tardy when it comes to seeing mainstream American horror because I've just given up hope on the Hollywood system taking chances on creative scripts, pushing the boundaries and making Rated R flicks. So yeah, it took me this long to watch this. But now that I have maybe there is still hope. Maybe.
A husband and wife who recently lost their baby adopt a 9-year-old girl who is not nearly as innocent as she claims to be.
The opening scene of a bloody baby should have been a clue this was no ordinary kids horror movie. Like the Sixth Sense, clues are all over the place for you to figure out the twist (the professional paintings, piano playing, her speech and dress). But if your a jabroni, you might be oblivious from these things. But instead of rehashing the story which is summed up above let's just go over the hit points on what was good and what was bad on a scale of 1 to 10.
Like I said before, Isabelle Fuhrman's performance is top notch, high level stuff. So convincing in her acting I am still clapping. The 9 year old Esther is given so much life by Fuhrman you begin to think she isn't even acting. She speaks with a tad of a Russian accent making it so believable. And to top it all off, everybody knows sign language! Fuhrman goes from lovable, gothy kid to master manipulater and deceiver and her performance during the course of the 2 hours is outstanding. She turns good, then bad, then good in so many scenes and always pseudo winking to the audience. We know she's bad and we can't do anything about it. So perfect.
The performances of Vera Farmiga as Kate, our mommy are good as well as Peter Saarsgard as John the oblivious father. Max (Aryana Engineer) is quite a cutie pie as a deaf sister and brother Daniel (Jimmy Bennett) are solid as well as they play the "we know Esther's evil but we can't do anything about it" fodder.
The level of evilness displayed by Esther grows throughout the movie. From a pigeon, to a playground "accident", each built up some level of WTF as we went along. As Esther covers up her deadly deeds, the rest of the movie is the adults trying to figure out what's the what. Once Esther takes her vengeance to adultland, all hell breaks loose. Each kill scene becomes so vicious, it was a no holds barred hardcore-ness I haven't seen in a Hollywood production in quite a long time. Hammers, knives, arson and a quick game of Russian roulette take this to a new level of awesomeness.
I really couldn't believe I was seeing this on screen. No cutaway scenes. They showed it all. Kudos to Jaume Collet-Serra for showing us everything full frontal.
So what's wrong with Esther? Well then there's the reveal. Even though I called a variation of it, I kinda knew what the what was. It really is a twist I've never seen before in movie. The explanation is perfect for a movie like this and it works. Some may find it dumb or kinda stupid but its based on something. And if you can give me a reveal that doesn't make me slap my forehead in disgust and go WTF?!?! then you've kinda accomplished your job. Let's say her transformation was handled very slick and cleverly. That ending gave me the wiggins.
My gripes for the movie are just how perfect each of the character's problems or circumstances were set up. Mommy was an alcoholic, daddy pulled a Tiger Woods. It was easy for Esther to manipulate and set them up. Max being deaf was the most blatant of all as she was handicapped to do anything about Esther's evil. Also, logic problems erupt in the form of the orphanage records and the institute. Seemed a little off.
I sometimes hate movies where only one person knows the truth and all others think he/she is crazy even though all the evidence points to the contrary. For once I'd like to have seen Fox Mulder go to Scully "See there are UFOs! Just Believe!" It's right in front of you.
But that's how the characters and these type of movies work and you just have to deal.
All in all, Orphan plays its genre to a tee. Like The Children or The Omen, it follows the conventions and pits our hero (or heroine) against our killer kid. The beauty of these killer kid movies is the taboo of hurting a child. This is what I wrote for The Children review.
"The overall moral theme that gets grappled is one that encompasses all these killer kid films. Would you be able to kill a kid or *gasp* your own child to save your own or another child’s life? Many of the characters struggle with this and the paternal and maternal instinct are so ingrained, their logic becomes illogical and more emotion. Many might not be able to view such a film where kids wink with such evilness, especially parents."
The Orphan plays this theme out perfectly and is definitely one of the best horror movies of 2009.
Hammer to the cerebreal
Various splatter and gore
The reveal of course
The Jaded Viewer's Final Prognosis
This will get a solid 3 spinkicks and will be in high consideration as one of my 10 Best Horror Movies of 2009. When you look back on 2009 in horror, Orphan will be on many top 10 lists for sure. And now you know why. Definitely see this flick or get a hammer in the head.
Check out the trailer below.