Another Creepy Kid
Does mother know best? In Orphan, mom Kate Coleman certainly does. Her maternal radar blips fairly early, signaling something must be wrong with little Esther, the shining, too-good-to-be-true, orphaned girl she and her husband John just adopted. As days pass, Kate realizes their decision has imperiled her family. Predictably, nobody believes her.
Orphan is the latest addition to the gallery of ďcreepy kidĒ horror films, such as the stellar The Omen. But unlike Damien, thereís nothing supernatural or mystical driving Estherís machinations. And, unlike The Omen, Orphan fails to get the heart pumping or the adrenaline flowing, despite having all the expected cinematic elements of the genre, including unnerving camera angles, high contrast, spooky lighting, a sinister atmosphere; and ominous music.
After the loss of their baby, Kate and John Coleman (Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard, respectively) decide to adopt a child. At the orphanage, they meet nine year-old Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman). A little on the prissy side, Esther displays impeccable manners, a talent for painting, and an angelic face. Kate and John are instantly smitten. However, Esther has some difficulties settling in at home and at school. The Colemanís real children, Daniel and Max, are afraid of her -- plus her classmates donít like her.
Several unexplained incidents and accidents occur which cause Kate to regard Esther with suspicion. Who is she? Where did she come from? What is behind those penetrating eyes and that knowing smile? Certainly much more than one would expect of a nine year-old child. To protect her family, Kate decides to investigate Estherís past.
Despite my disappointment, I canít write Orphan off as a complete dud. There are bright spots that deserve mention, especially the compelling performances given by Fuhrman and Farmiga in what are essentially one-dimensional roles. I donít know how the twelve year-old Fuhrman did it, but she summons the qualities of maturity, keen intelligence and malevolence then concentrates them into a fierce countenance and laser beam gaze. Her commitment and focus impressed me. And Farmiga is painfully believable as a desperate mother. She creates layers of subtlety and depth in her characterization here. Director Jaume Collet-Serra also deserves a nod for setting the perfect pace for unfolding this story, and in the later scenes, for increasing the tempo to up the tension.
Orphan reveals a nifty twist ending, one I didnít see coming. Itís a little disturbing and pushes the bounds of credibility, but Fuhrman sells it.
(Released by Warner Bros. Pictures and rated ďRĒ for disturbing violent content, some sexuality, and language.)
Review also posted at www.moviebuffs.com.