Much like “The Shining” before it, “Orphan” is one of those horror movies that really messes with your head by playing on our perceptions of innocence and trust, only in this case instead of a loving, trustworthy father who goes batshit insane, it’s the sweet, innocent little girl that no one would suspect could be so evil.
“Orphan” is surprisingly entertaining, with plenty of suspense to get you on the edge of your seat, as well as shocks and frights to make you jump for cover. Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) is creepy enough to give us nightmares for a few nights to come at least.
Torn apart by the recent loss of their baby, John (Peter Sarsgaard) and Kate Coleman (Vera Farmiga) decide to adopt to fill the void. When they encounter the seemingly special, angelic Esther at the orphanage, it looks to be a perfect match. However, as the movie’s tag line goes, “there’s something wrong with Esther” and when they bring their little bundle of joy home, things begin to change.
Written by: David Johnson (screenplay), Alex Mace (story)
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard
Running time: 123 mins
Seen at: Oak Tree Cinema, Seattle
Farmiga portrays Kate brilliantly, displaying enough craziness to hint at her troubled past, and she shines in this film, especially when supported by the three children. Sarsgaard, on the other hand, plays an unconvincing John, though to be fair he is just playing the role he was given. Throughout the film, John is presented with the choice of who to believe as strange things keep happening, and Esther’s false innocence gets the best of him every time, despite some situations that make the viewer wonder how he could be so myopic. Of course, one must suspend disbelief for a movie of this nature, but one still wants believable characters.
Without doubt, the toughest role, and best filled, was that of Fuhrman’s Esther. Switching between being the perfect little Victorian princess to the brilliant yet deranged monster is done with an impressive talent for someone of her age, complemented by the old-fashioned clothes she wears. The mannerisms and the way she speaks, and even the way that she carries herself, show off the abilities of this young actress, and the lack of sound and use of subtitles at times really draws you into her world as a deaf child.
Once again referring to that old classic, the setting of the story also reminds one of “The Shining.” It’s winter time, in a house that’s off the beaten path, which gives a sense of seclusion and entrapment. The film doesn’t simply rely on blood and gore or cheap tricks to achieve its thrills. It starts building suspense and momentum early on, slowly revealing more of the story, and the histories, of both Esther and the mother.
If you’re up for a good horror movie, this is definitely one to check out, and it has something for fans of all sub-genres. It may not be a masterpiece, but it’s worth the cash to get the adrenaline pumping, especially if you’re one of those people who enjoys a sleepless night or two. If you’re thinking of adopting a child any time soon, though, you may want to hold off.
(Blast doesn’t have anything against orphans in general, just this one.)