It took me WAY too long to see Orphan. Released a week before The Collector (check out my review of that one here), I made the mistake of seeing that God awful piece of crap instead of seeing this smart, beautifully-filmed suspense thriller (it’s hard for me to call this a horror film). Orphan is an example of the varying range for Dark Castle Entertainment, which started as a company specifically to remake old William Castle films, Tales from the Crypt-style, and has actually moved past making “fun” horror films (I think the last one was House of Wax) and more into the thriller territory. The last Dark Castle horror film, The Reaping, was so awful that I regretted watching every minute of it.
Trailers for Orphan give the impression that it’s a 2009-edition of The Good Son, replacing Macauly Culkin with Isabelle Fuhrman. A crazy kid who’s just born bad, and kills/beats up other kids. Actually, the film ends up being much more than that and, even though it’s not supernatural (I’m not ruining anything – there’s not even a hint of the supernatural throughout the entire film), still manages to bring something new to the “scary kid” genre.
Read the rest of my review after the jump!
Kate Coleman (Vera Farmiga) is still reeling from the stillborn death of her third child. Her love life with husband John (Peter Sarsgaard) is strained, at best. Her kids are trying to forgive her for her past alcoholism, but things just aren’t always happy in the household. The Colemans have been talking about adoption, unwilling to risk another bad pregnancy. At the orphanage, they meet Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman), a way too mature for her age nine-year-old Russian girl who seems sweet and friendly, but is a little different. She dresses as if she’s from another time. She doesn’t get along with the other kids. Anyone who gets on her bad side seems to end up either dead or injured … mostly dead.
Reading about Orphan online, it appears as if many things in the script never made it to the screen and, honestly, some of that stuff seems pretty interesting, including a more descriptive explanation of Esther’s past, and some more violent deaths. However, even with all that was excised from the final product, the film does feel a little long at 123 minutes. There are some scenes that seem redundant and repetitious. Certain scenes and aspects of the film seem to take longer to happen than they should. Really, about 20 minutes could have been removed from the film with very little important lost.
That’s not to say the film is boring, but it does take its time getting where it needs to go and the ending, despite shocking a lot of people, does seem a little obvious. You’re more than likely going to figure it out before all is revealed.
The acting and the direction are where this film shines. Farmiga has always been a very strong actress and, as the lead of this film, she plays a deeply flawed protagonist and brings the type of class that you don’t normally see in a horror film. The best of the bunch, however, is Fuhrman. We’ve seen some great child actors in the last couple of years, but Fuhrman is absolutely amazing in her role, to the point where I questioned if the twist of the film was actually true in real life as well (it’s not).
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, who previously directed House of Wax for Dark Castle, the film is absolutely beautiful to look at. Snow-filled landscapes and gorgeous photography help set the tone of this film. Apparently originally supposed to be set during the fall, I can’t imagine this film as anything other than being set in the winter time. The cold weather, the ice and chill in the air, the gray skies – it all lends to the mood and the amazing cinematography at play.
Orphan is probably nearing the second-run part of it’s movie run, where you’ll find it at the local discount cinema. I highly recommend catching the film on the big screen if you’re looking for an intelligent scare, and if you’ve got the patience to get to it.
Paul’s Awesomeness Score – 7 out of 10!