I bought this movie the week it was released, and planned on watching it on or near to Halloween, simply because it was something new and I wouldn't have to watch something I already owned on the biggest holiday of the year.
However...I had a wedding to go to on Halloween night (yes, it was a costume-required wedding - fun!) and was too tired to commit to the movie afterwards, thinking I may fall asleep. So I ended up turning out all the lights in the house and watching the '68 version of Night of the Living Dead - again.
So...I finally watched Orphan a few nights ago, and I really have to say I enjoyed it quite a bit.
The hubby liked it as well, and he didn't fall asleep- so that's a good sign.
I've read alot of reviews that said it derailed about halfway through from a creepy thriller to a downright nutty debacle of horror. I can't agree there. There's no teenagers getting hacked up, no horrific curse to overcome, and not a zombie or vampire to be seen.
I liked the rather slow build up. It was unnerving at first. You just knew something was wrong with the girl from the minute you see her in the orphanage. And the twist near the end, if you want to call it that, did take me by surprise.
By casting good, reputable actors in the film, it upped it's class factor immediately. And the plotline wasn't really good girl gone bad. It was more like bad girl gone ballistic.
Kate (Vera Farmiga) and John (Peter Sarsgaard) have been through some recent bouts of bad luck and bad decisions. They lost a third child to a stillborn death, Kate has been dealing with depression and alcoholism, and John has resorted to affairs to keep occupied. We learn all this within a few minutes of the film's start, so we can come to grips with why they would even need or want to adopt a child into this situation. They have overcome their various woes and have decided to adopt an older child to give it the love they had saved for Jessica (the stillborn child)... Huh? Whatever.
They already have two other children. A son Daniel, (Jimmy Bennett) who resents the decision they made to adopt, and a daughter (the beautiful little Aryana Engineer) Max (short for Maxine...yeah, I know), who is deaf from an accident by the pond in the yard - apparently Kate was supposed to be watching her but was in a drunken stupor. Typical class-act parents. Where are Children and Youth Services when you need them?
So they go to the orphanage, run by Sister Abigail (CCH Pounder). The Sister tells them to look around, and John happens upon a young girl painting, alone in a room. He starts up a conversation with Esther (the very good Isabelle Fuhrman) and feels she is quite special.
Yeah, she's special alright. After they bring her home she proceeds to kill a bird in the yard and pushes a classmate off the playground slide, fracturing the girl's ankle. But even though Max has seen what happened, she has the sense to be enough afraid of her that she covers for her, saying the classmate slipped. Daniel doesn't have the time of day for Esther, and at dinner one night even goes as far as saying she is NOT his sister.
And let's face it folks, Esther is one weird bird. She wears frilly dresses all the time and ribbons around her wrists and neck that she never takes off. In fact, when someone does try to remove the neck ribbon, she throws a Rain Man-caliber fit.
Her classmates hate her. She seems well above average intelligence, saying things that quite often begets someone of her age. Playing one parent off the other is like an Olympic-level sport for her, and she could win the Gold Medal. And she owns her brother and sister, scaring them into complete submission to her will.
Sister Abigail calls to check up on her, learns of the schoolyard accident, and for some reason then finds it pertinent to tell Kate that Esther tends to always be around when things go wrong. Something that would have been good to know BEFORE the adoption took place, don't you think? Anyway, Esther overhears Sister Abigail talking about her and proceeds to make that problem go away with a hammer. She forces Max to help her hide the body.
Things start escalating, and by that I mean Esther starts threatening Daniel that she'll "cut his hairless little prick off" if he tattles on her foul deeds. She burns down the treehouse - where she hid the bloody hammer - while Daniel is inside. He escapes, but ends up in the hospital, where Esther then tries to finish him off by suffocating him.
Meanwhile, John and Kate (okay, I just realized the parent's names were John and Kate...as if we don't hear enough of that phrase in pop culture. Ugh!) begin arguing incessantly, with John coming to Esther's rescue at every turn, not realizing the evil incarnate that occupies his home. And Esther has made Kate seem like such a neglegent, horrible mother that John tells Kate she needs to go back to rehab.
Kate knows something is very, very wrong, and tries to convince John they need to look into Esther's past a little closer. He disagrees, so she does it on her own.
Needless to say, what she finds out ends up being the twist - if you can call it that. I would call it an almost unbelievable resolution. Esther's past makes Charles Manson look like Santa Claus. And by the time the dad gets his head out of his ass and figures things out, he's blindsided too far to help wrangle his world back together.
While seemingly implausible near the end, it still was a fun ride. Clichéd in some ways, but still entertaining. Isabelle Fuhrman's Russian accent is totally passable and unmistakably creepy. I still couldn't call it a horror film, per se...I'd opt for the term 'suspense thriller' perhaps. But Esther is one sick individual. I can't place her above Damien from The Omen, but she's right up there with Macaulay Culkin in The Good Son.