Movie Review: Orphan (2009)


In some ways, Orphan is your typical ‘child from hell’ movie.  However, it is also a superior horror/thriller that can keep you at the edge of your seat for a couple of hours.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went to see the film – it had a fantastic poster (see above) and a stellar cast, but it’s also directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, who was at the helm of such classics (not) such as House of Wax (2005) and Goal! 2: Living the Dream (2007).  Well, I came out of it pleasantly surprised and rather impressed.

The plot, of course, is pretty self-explanatory, so I won’t go into it too much.  The adopted child Esther is a seemingly charming 9 year-old girl who dresses weird, has a secretive past and gives one hell of a dirty stare.  Yes, it has a cliched storyline with cliched characters, but don’t let that put you off.  It’s all in the execution. 

Collet-Serra has injected much style and tension into the film, with a strong beginning and a ripper of an ending (which, even though I unfortunately guessed in advance, was still good).  He mixes it up with the voyeur cam and the POV (point-of-view) cam, and in addition to the ‘boo!’ scares, throws in the occasional ‘feint’ scare (where he sets up a ‘boo!’ shock that never comes).  Combined with the cool colour scheme, the icy surroundings and the smooth wooden house, the atmosphere is superb for a horror film.  

Collet-Serra also doesn’t shy away from the violence and the visceral shocks, which was a little unexpected as the incidents all involve young children.  And for those who think the movie will be entirely predictable, think again because not everything will go according to the way such films usually pan out.  It’s these little breaks away from the cliches that kept things interesting for me.  Oh, and there’s a dash of dark comedy as well.  Intentional or not, it was amusing.

The highest praise is reserved for the cast.  Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard are both outstanding as the parents (which you would expect from actors of their calibre), but of course it’s the title character, played by Isabelle Fuhrman, that really lifts the film to another level.  Fuhrman is really a wonderful little actress that manages to captivate the audience whenever she’s on screen.  She demands your attention.  She can be sweet, funny, scary and downright terrifying.  She makes you believe.  I can’t wait to see what she’s in next.

No doubt there are a lot of critics out there that would call Orphan trash – but really, what do people expect when they watch such a film?  It may be a little overlong (122 minutes) and totally unbelievable, but Orphan succeeds at what it set out to do – scare and shock the audience.  Can’t ask for much more than that.

4 stars out of 5!

[PS: they really shouldn’t say things like ‘You’ll never guess her secret’ in the trailers and posters because whenever they do I always end up guessing it!  Keep silent and surprise the audience!]

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