Sunday, 24 January 2010
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Staring: Vera Farminga, Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman, CCH Pounder, Jimmy Bennett, Aryana Engineer
Rating: 4 / 5
Plot: Kate (Farmiga) and John (Sarsgaard) Coleman are slowly rebuilding their troubled marriage and having met the nine year old Russian girl Esther (Fuhrman), during their visit to the St. Marina Orphanage, they are keen to adopt her, despite her troubled and mysterious past, however it soon becomes clear that Esther is not as innocent as she seems.
Review: Okay let’s face it Modern horror is currently in a state of being DOA, especially looking at the release schedule for 2010, which is already shaping up to be a year remakes and sequels, with nothing that seems especially groundbreaking or original. This despair is only really increased when you consider how over saturated the modern horror market has become in recent years, let alone how safe and sterile modern horror constantly seems to be. So I guess it makes “Orphan” that much more of a surprise, despite from the fact that from the outset it looks like nothing special, which probably explains why it slipped under the radar for a lot of horror fans, which is kind of a shame as it’s exactly the kind of modern horror film, that most of us keep hoping that the mainstream will finally start making.
It’s clear pretty much from the start that director Collet-Serra is keen to prove himself as a director capable of directing a film for the mainstream audience, without feeling that he has to restrain his vision, especially when you consider his only other horror credit is the 2005 “House of wax” remake with it’s famous “See Paris Die” tagline, it hardly boded well for this film, that it could holding anything suprising, which is certainly an opinion I questioned, as I witnessed the opening scene of a surreally shot hospital visit, which really makes you question what is real and what is actually part of the dream, while also helping the viewer to understand in some way, the feelings which Kate bottles up inside of her, when she looses her child and fuelling an alcoholic spiral of depression, which she is only just recovering from, when we are snapped back to reality, still haunted by the nightmarish visions of complacent surgeons removing Kate’s child and of the Ariel view of the bloody smear left on the hospital floor as Kate is pushed in a wheelchair through the hospital hallway.
Farmiga is spot on with her performance as Kate, never feeling that she has to overwork any of the aspects of Kate’s personality, especially in regards to her battles with Alcohol which could easily have been portrayed in a more cliché way, but thankfully here it seen as a problem that Kate is only just struggling to keep on top of, with her family situation only looking like it might finally push her over the edge, all the more so as the mystery around Esther continues grows and she finds herself feeling only the more alone, as those around her fail to see Esther for anything more than a well spoken little girl.
When it comes to Esther’s true character nothing is kept from the audience, so we are left with no question as to her true intentions, especially from the early warning signs that there is something seriously wrong with her, as she calmly bludgeons an injured pigeon to death, which her brother Daniel (Bennett) has injured with his paintball gun. However it is the mind games she plays with the family, which prove to be the most intriguing, especially with the manipulative relationship she develops with Daniel’s young sister, the deaf mute Max (Engineer) whose condition could be seen by the more sceptical viewer as a cheap way of writing off why Max, just doesn’t tell her parents the truth about Esther, though this never seems the case, largely because of the mature portrayal of Esther by Fuhrham, whose performance is one of the most surprising aspects of the film, especially when it comes across as a much more mature performance than you would expect, let alone how any of her manipulative actions never feel forced or unnatural, much like when she does allows her aggression to show itself, whether throwing herself against the walls of a toilet cubicle or during one of the satisfying murders she commits throughout, in order to keep her secret. It is the final revel of this secret though, which is the moment that the rug is most defiantly pulled from underneath the feet of the audience, even more so by not being one of the usual write off conclusions, which are typically associated with the “Bed Seed” genre, in which the reason for the evil children is typical attached to the involvement of Satan or some cliché source of evil, even if it is kind of a stretch and certainly works best when it is not too closely scrutinised. Still by the time this revel is made, you are kind of grateful seeing how at this point, Esther’s wackiness has been cranked to the max.
Despite having a low body count “Orphan” does not seem to suffer, thanks largely to the horror being more psychological, but despite this we still get a few decent deaths including a brutal bludgeoning with a hammer and a pillow suffocation, with Collet-Serra certainly making full use of his snow covered setting, especially by combining these shots of violence with the always effective shots of splashes of blood on the snow. Looking at the original script though it would seem that we might have been denied some scenes which might have proved to have been equally effective, such as the girl whom Kate and Jon had originally intended to adopt being found hung in a closet, after their first meeting with Esther, aswell as the character of Daniel remaining dead, which would have been largely welcome, seeing how Bennet’s performance is one of the weakest in the film, coming off largely bratty and too annoying for the audience to actually feel anything for his character.
Although the material might look like well trodden ground, “Orphan” still manages to provide enough unique twists to help it stand out from the rest of its bad seed brethren. It might have started off darker in script form, than the final film, but despite this, it still remains a film worth giving a look, if only for the astonishing performance by Fuhrman, who might have just created in her performance of Esther a character worthy of placing next to the likes of Damian, when they come to write the list of truly evil children.