Starring: Isabelle Fuhrman, Peter Sarsgaard, Vera Farmiga
Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra (“House of Wax”)
Written by: David Leslie Johnson (debut)
Make some room Damien. There’s a new evil kid on the block and she doesn’t care that you’re the spawn of Satan. In fact, Esther, the demented adopted daughter in the thriller “Orphan,” doesn’t care for much else other than bludgeoning people to death and looking oh so sweet doing it.
Call it my one guilty pleasure of the year. It’s really surprising how entertaining “Orphan” is in all its preposterousness.
Directed by Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra, who’s first film was an inadequate remake of 1953’s “House of Wax” with Paris Hilton, “Orphan” follows the Coleman family (Peter Sarsgaard and Vera Farmiga play the parents, John and Kate) as they come to terms with the death their a child and eventually open their home to a young girl they adopt from an orphanage.
Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) impresses John and Kate from the start with her sparkling personality, winning smile, mature nature, and artistic talent. She almost seems too good to be true, so the Colemans sign the paperwork and take Esther home to live with them and their two children Daniel (Jimmy Bennett) and Max (Aryana Engineer, one of the cutest little girls you’re bound to see in any movie this year).
It takes a good hour for Collet-Serra to set up the tension before unleashing Esther, which is bold of him to do since most thrillers usually jump right into the action. The waiting, however, pays off as we get a sense of who the Colemans are as a family. As they begin to suffer later, you can actually feel for them as real human characters instead of as victims of Esther’s lunacy.
In other similarly themed movies, shocking scenes are usually censored especially when the wrongdoing is at the hands of a child. In “Orphan,” however, there is nothing Collet-Serra decides to pull away from. There are extremely upsetting scenes in the film that are excessively violent. With Fuhrman behind it all, it’s more disturbing and effective.
“Orphan” is not just a kiddie slasher film. There are some genuine scares despite Collet-Serra overusing some substandard camera tricks and baiting the audience like children in a funhouse. Sure, it may slink back into clichés at times, but you could do a lot worse in the genre.