Friday, July 24, 2009


If you'd like to get your year's quota of WTF? moments in one film, cut to the chase and go see Orphan - unquestionably the best sick pleasure of late. There's been concern in some quarters that this movie is doing a terrible disservice to the cause of adoption and, having seen Orphan, I will admit that if I'm ever in a position to adopt a nine-year-old Russian girl who dresses like Little Bo Peep, I will definitely think twice. So in that regard, Orphan has put a dent in my stance on adoption. Was closing my heart even just a little worth the tawdry thrills that this Dark Castle production has to offer? I sure hope so because I loved every trashy, irresponsible minute of Orphan.

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, who previously directed the entertainingly grisly 2005 House of Wax remake (also a Dark Castle production), Orphan is one wicked little movie. From the trailers, you might think - whether for good or bad - that this is going to be a standard killer kid film along the lines of The Bad Seed (1956) or The Good Son (1993) but Orphan is something else altogether. I mean, it is the same as those films in that a junior psychopath with a deceptively innocent facade spends the film's running time manipulating and scheming and even resorting to murder but Orphan is so much more gung-ho about being twisted than any other film of its type (I commend Dark Castle for going with their darkest material to date). The script by David Johnson (based on a story idea by Alex Mace) is a marvel of nastiness. And on a level of lesser concern, it's also a marvel of boneheaded logic - for instance, the orphanage where the Coleman's (Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard) find Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman, in a performance that's destined to go down as a cult favorite) should've really looked deeper into where Esther came from before placing her in any family's home. Instead, a concerned nun (C.C.H. Pounder) visits the Coleman's at their home weeks (!) after the adoption to suggest to the Coleman's that, ah, maybe they ought to seriously look out for this kid that's now a part of their family - living with their two young children, one of whom is deaf. Hey, thanks for the heads-up, lady! But if anything, gaffes like this help what otherwise would've been an impossibly grim movie to be taken as the lurid, over-the-top entertainment that it is.

To be sure, Orphan is not for the easily offended. There isn't a high body count, or much gore, but the psychological games that Esther plays with the hapless Coleman family are vicious. I don't want to go into spoiler territory - not so much to avoid tipping anyone off as to the secret of Esther's background (it's good but I don't think the movie will be ruined if one found out ahead of time) - but because I'd hate to take the surprise out of Esther's more outrageous deeds. If you like bad kids, Orphan is the best thing is come along in years.


Bob Ignizio said...

First Roger Ebert gives it 3 1/2 out of 4 stars, and now you're raving about it. Guess I'll have to see this one.

Jeff Allard said...

Definitely check it out, Bob! Personally, I'm shocked that such a dark, nasty thriller was able to come out of a major studio. There's no question that the film's logic is for shit but Esther is such a great villain that a few gaps in credibility don't seem worth getting in a snit over.