Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Orphan Slashes Adoption Rate One Parent At A Time


The thing I like about horror films is the way they test our moral fibre. Not only do they provide bone chilling scares, but horror flicks also remind us of how desensitized we have become as a society. I was reminded of this fact when I watched Jaume Collet-Serra's film Orphan.

Kate (Vera Farmiga) and John Coleman (Peter Sarsgaard) have seen their marriage go through some trying times. After dealing with alcoholism, infidelity, and the death of an unborn child, the Coleman's have come out stronger than ever...or so they think. Unbeknownst to the couple, their relationship is about to be tested again when they decide to adopt a child. After being wooed at the local orphanage by a nine-year-old Estonian girl, Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman), the Coleman's believe their life is now complete. As time goes on, Kate begins to see a darker side to Esther. A side that may cost the Coleman's, and their two biological children, their lives.

There comes a moment in the last act where I thought to myself "oh no, they better not take it there..." This was mere minutes before a major plot point was revealed. It was like the film heard me speaking through the television set and then offered up a scene to quell my fears. I could not help but breakout into a laughter. My laughter had nothing to do with the major revelation; it was all about my own warped limits.

Up to that point I had no problems with everything else I had witnessed. Bloody nightmare sequence at the beginning? Fine with me. Young girl being pushed off the high playground set? She had it coming. Someone being bludgeoned over the head? Rolled right off my back. Yet one allusion to a improper situation and all of a sudden I am up in arms.

Compared to Collet-Serra's last stab at horror, 2005's House of Wax, Orphan is a quite tame in the gore department. There are a few disgusting moments but nothing as excessive as what Wax had to offer. Though the lack of gore may put off some hardcore horror fans, the restraint that Jaume uses in Orphan actually works to the pictures benefit. It also shows that Jaume Collet-Serra is growing as a director.

At times Orphan plays like the film The Good Son. It spends a lot of time developing the characters, though the payoff is never as satisfying as you would hope. Orphan does have several things going in its favour though. Vera Famiga is good as the mother who uses the adoption as a means to abolish previous sins. Her scenes with Peter Sarsgaard work well in regards to establishing the history of their relationship. They were times when I found Sarsgaard's character to annoying at times. Mainly in the sense that he is a little too blinded by Esther's charm. He never doubts her for a minute, even when all signs say he should. This element, and the longer than needed running time, keep Orphan from being a memorable horror film. While it will entertain for a few hours, the only thing truly lasting about Orphan is the reminder of how lapse our personal limits are at times.


  1. I was suprised by this movie. As far as evil children movies go this is one of the better ones. Of course the ending isn't satisfying, how many thrillers can you name where the final revelation lives up to the payoff? But I don't know, I think this guy is a talented horror director, the last 20 minutes of House of Wax being kind of brillant and now this one. One more good one like this and I may start actually anticipating this dude's movies.

  2. God, this thing was EXACTLY like The Good Son. Not a very good movie to be modeled after either. Wasn't a fan.

  3. I thought it was deliciously over-the-top, Vera Farmiga was good and all, but had an ending you could see a mile away, and spiraled into 'holy shit, why does nobody believe me' territory that was ridiculous.

    Nice review, anyway.

  4. @Mike – I am really curious as to what he will be directing next. There is a lot of potential there. Also, good point on thriller endings in general. Very few actually live up to the lead in. I just wish Esther did not become the typical “I can withstand anything” type of killer. Especially when they eliminated the supernatural element…

    @Aiden – I enjoyed this one more than Good Son. Orphan never held back the way the Good Son did.

    @Simon – Yep the lake sequence was a given considering how many times it is referenced. I did not see the twist being what it was though. I was thinking it would go a completely different route.

  5. Really loved this film, especially because it was more of a drama rather than a horror film.

  6. @Miss Topanga - I also liked that this film played up the dramatic aspects more. The film could not sustain its lenght, or my interest, had it been straight horror.


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