Horror | Mystery | Thriller
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
When I first saw the trailer for this I did not think much of it, it just looked like an average slasher with a little girl as the villain. But I was totally wrong, this is a horror, yes, but it is more of a drama/horror than straight horror. Not only does it go for two hours (very rare for a horror film, especially mainstream), but it has a great cast who portray characters with some depth who we actually care about...well, most of them anyway. The story itself is very simple, Kate (Vera Farmiga) and John Coleman (Peter Sarsgaard) have two children, but lost their third child during pregnancy. Therefore, they decide to adopt, and while at the orphanage stumble across a nine year old girl on her own, Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman). Both Kate and John bond with her instantly, and three weeks later she is part of the family. However, it does not take long before Esther's dark side shows, and the only person who sees this is the mother, but who would suspect innocent Esther of foul play? This is the set-up for a suspenseful, dark, disturbing horror film that packs an excellent twist and some truly frightening scenes. There is an excellent scene in a playground, in which Esther stalks a bully through a maze, and a very tense final ten minutes which I shan't reveal! However, these scenes feature some cheap false scares accompanied by a loud sound. These are very tired, and for most horror fans are not the least bit effective. It is a shame they are relied on throughout this movie, because director Jaume Collet-Serra (who directed the 2005 slasher remake of House of Wax) builds up tension very well, but spoils with scares which are hokey and outdated.
That was really my only problem with the film, nothing else bothered me at all. If I were to nitpick, Sarsgaard's John Coleman was written to be a little to naive I think, because it was fairly obvious that Esther was troubled. This is not Sarsgaard's fault, he does a great job, this was the writer's one and only fault.
The acting was outstanding, Farmiga is excellent as the mother. She basically carries the movie, and plays a strong female character who is easy to sympathise with. It is revealed she drunk after the death of her baby which led to an unfortunate accident. Not only does this lead almost everyone else to think ill of her, but leaves her to unravel Esther's past by herself. Fuhrman is simply amazing as Esther, playing a two-sided character so well at such a young age is kind of scary. Going from sweet little angel to scary-as-shite murderess is her specialty, and I can see her in many horror movies to come.
Many people say Orphan loses momentum towards the end and turns into a derivative slasher, but I could not disagree more. I think the end is perfect, with the twist being revealed with perfect timing to allow for a heart-racing finale. It ended perfectly, and even better, in a way which does not indicate sequel (I hate sequel-friendly endings very much).
Although it is not a perfect movie, it is a damn entertaining one, and for a horror movie, is surprisingly intelligent. It does go for awhile, but no scenes drag on, they all have a purpose in developing character and heightening the tension until the very end.
Have you seen it? If so, what's your opinion?