Evil children are creepy. Why? Because they look all cute and cuddly, but then those innocent, buggy eyes turn cold, the curl of the lips reveal something sinister and they are able to do just about anything they want while parents attempt to overlook the fact that their kid is a sociopathic killer. These are the reasons why "bad seed" movies continue to be made, because they are just so much fun to watch.
Orphan, starring Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air) and Peter Sarsgaard (An Education), is a creepy little thriller that has been faulted for its absurd twist ending. The movie is about a husband and wife who, despite already having two children (including Jimmy Bennett, who played the young James T. Kirk in Star Trek), decide to adopt a 9-year old girl named Esther. Esther, from Russia, appears to be extremely innocent and polite, but it soon becomes apparent that she is a sociopath who will stop at nothing to get her way - even if it means murder.
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, the man behind the surprisingly decent (though not great) House of Wax remake, Orphan has a very cold and subdued look that works in the movie's favor. Collet-Serra's style makes everything in the movie look bleak and forlorn, isolating the characters despite their modern setting. When Esther begins her rampage, Collet-Serra doesn't hold back, presenting some R-rated goodness in the form of blood, gore, sex and murder.
Gone are the days when evil children movies are truly shocking, so you have to take them for what they are: a fun, what-if hour-and-a-half of fun. Orphan is no more or less special than a dozen movies like it over the last decade, though the cast and crew do their best to elevate the material. All around, the movie is fun to watch, if not relatively predictable.
A lot has been made about the twist ending, and had I not known that there was an "absurd" twist at the end I may have had a different reaction, but what ends up happening is pretty entertaining. Farfetched? Yes. Completely impossible? No. Messed up and creepy? Certainly. Fun to watch? Absolutely.
The twist ending works well enough for the movie at hand, but Orphan also benefits from a pretty good screenplay, strong acting (young Isabelle Fuhrman gives it her all) and the willingness to push the limits. Not every character I expected to live makes it, for instance.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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