on 1 December 2009
Lately I find with a lot of horror films the only suspense is guessing who will die next. Usually, it is not that difficult. However, Jaume Collet-Serra has directed a more intelligent film for aficionados of this genre to enjoy.
It starts when recovering alcholic Kate (Vera Farmiga) and her husband John (Peter Sarsgaard) decide to adopt a child. They already have a son and a profoundly deaf daughter but a stillbirth has left an emptiness in Kate's life. They visit a local orphanage run by a group of nuns where they meet Esther (Issabelle Fuhrman), a girl from Russia whose background is largely unknown. The couple fall for Esther's angelic charm so Sister Abigail facilitates a remarkably quick adoption.
Unfortunately, over time it becomes apparent "THERE'S SOMETHING WRONG WITH ESTHER."
Esther begins to terroise other children and then the family. Despite Kate's misgivings John remains blissfully unaware of Esther's psychopathic tendencies and instead blames Kate. Kate meanwhile, tries desperately to protect her own children. A twist in the tale, which you can kind of guess at but not quite, eventually reveals all.
In the best of traditions, this film gradually notches up the tension to its climax. Fuhrman is genuinely creepy as Esther. If I were to make a critism of the film it would be that it could have been edited just a little bit more, and that the concept of a cynical lead male character not seeing what is under his nose is something of a cliche. However, this film packs enough suspense and scary moments to make it worth watching.
on 22 January 2011
I'd watched Case 39 not long before I watched Orphan, which I initially thought might be a mistake as the two plots definitely appear to be borrowing from the same old 'bad seed' horror tropes. To my surprise, Orphan is completely different in tone, style, and ultimately, ending twist.
A married couple struggling to get on with their lives after the miscarriage of their third child gun for adoption as a means of healing the wounds left by that lost little girl - and to help recovering alcoholic wife Kate get her head back into the family. After visiting a small adoption centre, they choose Esther, a polite, charming, creative 9-year-old hailing from Russia. Esther is quirky, old-fashioned and knows her own mind, and the couple initially fall in love with her. It's not long, however, before Kate begins to suspect that all is not right with Esther. Is she spiralling back into her old paranoid depression, or is there really more to the little girl than meets the eye?
For any horror fans looking for a good scare, I grudgingly admit that the Orphan has very few of them. What it does have is a pervasive, unnerving atmosphere, some razor sharp black comedy, and you will be utterly disturbed by the ending. The scenes that precede the twist are get-under-your-skin eerie and perverse, and the twist itself . . . well, you'll just have to judge that for yourself.
What really made this film stand out for me is the acting. The writing is excellent and there is no slack in the script or in the characters and their roles - each one feels important and has a part to play. I hate it in horror movies when a character blatantly only exists to get killed off for the viewer's entertainment, 'slasher fodder' if you will. There's none of that here, and very little in the way of Hollywood cliché. The leading couple's relationship feels very convincing and both Kate and John are just ordinary people. Getting you to care about the people who are potentially in danger is the best way to ratchet up the tension, and Orphan succeeds without a doubt. The young actors playing the couple's two children also deserve credit, particularly Aryana Engineer who plays the deaf-mute youngest daughter. She was cute, charming, and the way her naive character's relationship plays out with 'new big sister' Esther was masterfully done.
Esther herself gets her own paragraph because she is amazing. This is probably the only point where the 'horror' fell flat for me because I wound up liking Esther most of all! Her actress is amazing and I drank up every minute she was on screen. Best 'evil' child ever.
The only reason I'm not giving it five stars is because I did feel the plot was a little contrived in places, with people jumping to conclusions a little too quickly, and disturbing as it may be, the twist itself does require a bit of a stretch of the imagination.
So, while it probably won't terrify you, it should definitely entertain!
on 3 May 2011
If you felt Let Me In was a subpar remake of Let The Right One In then give this movie a go. It's made by Dark Castle, one of my favourite modern horror movie makers. The acting and pacing is phenominal. The characters are well fleshed out and character development doesn't just add to the engagement to the movie but also plays into parts of the plot. It also has one of the best twists ever.
The bluray shines for most of the movie but in some parts the image isn't as crisp as you'd expect, but for the most part it's beautiful. A good, deep modern horror movie, this movie starts off nice and peaceful (except for the creepy opening) but slowly rachetes up the tension and creepy. Information about the characters is given out in little bites like a good TV series, allowing you to figure out what peoples hang ups are all about before eventualy having them revealed. It's a fairly long movie, bit over 2 hours, but the length is filled with substance not just drawn out suspense scenes.
And ontop of all that, it's got a really cheap pricetag, even for an Australian like me with the exchange rate.
Special features include a 14 minute making of, which gets more interesting halfway through when it starts refering to the history of scary kid movies, some of which i'll have to track down. There are a couple of interviews as well with cast and crew, and deleted scenes and alternate ending (which are interesting but it's clear why they were cut as they add little to the movie and would have dragged it), and a trailer.
BUY IT with confidence
on 18 February 2011
Any film opening with a dream sequence is usually on to a loser in my general opinion, and that's what I thought might happen in this case after I took a small gamble picking it up on disc having not seen it before. The film is about a couple who lose a child and later adopt one from an orphanage, the new arrival turning out to be quite a creepy thing with motivations that clearly don't fall within the realms of normality. The dream sequence therefore takes on some meaning; the mother appears to lose a child in birth, and is then granted a monster. Considering the film is two hours it's consistently gripping and builds up an atmosphere of terror, aided by excellent performances from all of the leads. Esther, the orphan of the title, is one of cinema's most frightening individuals (much more so than Freddy or Jason!) and by the end of the story just imagining this demonic person sends a chill through your blood. This is what horror is all about.
The Blu-ray Disc presents a very natural full-HD image with high detail, low levels of grain, realistic colours, and well balanced contrast. Two audio options are provided as uncompressed stereo or DTSHD MA 5.1 surround, both of which are subtle and enveloping. A reasonable number of extras come in the form of interviews, featurettes and deleted scenes.
Overall I think it was worth watching Orphan in HD as opposed to on DVD (especially at the price it's currently available, but even at twice as much I wouldn't have felt cheated): the clarity of the image and the strength of the story really gripped for two hours and this is a great buy.
on 11 January 2011
Let me start by saying that I'm usually a script-writer's dream in that I very rarely see a twist coming. But perhaps because this movie's PR made such a big deal about the Esther's "secret", I guessed this one easily, which was a big disappointment when the big reveal finally came.
However, this was still an enjoyable psychological horror, even though it was essentially a lesson in dishing out cheap scares/jumps by a director that uses all the tried and tested methods.
If you have seen "The Hand That Rocked The Cradle", this is pretty much the same story, except we have a sociopathic orphan in the sociopathic nanny role. There are several scenes and themes which appear unashamedly nicked from that fine early 90s thriller:
(1) When Esther starts bashing up a toilet cubicle out of sheer rage/frustration.
(2) When we as an audience are left exasperated at how the flawed mother twigs that something is very wrong while the hapless father simply feels his wife is losing the plot.
(3) The psycho successfully befriends the daughter to her advantage.
(4) She manages to convince the mother that the father might be cheating
(5) The final denouement in the house with the power deliberately cut.
The character development is pretty good, the acting is excellent overall - the young actresses playing Esther and Max deserve particular praise. Isabelle Fuhrman is interviewed on the Blu-Ray and it's hard to believe it's the same girl as the profoundly creepy Esther.
There's a bit of gore, some of it rather unpleasant but nothing outrageous. There's nothing in the plot development we haven't seen before, and plenty of moments where one has to completely suspend disbelief, but then that's to be expected with such a story.
Don't bother with the Blu-Ray, the quality is nothing special at all, rather grainy in fact so pay less for the DVD. It's a decent enough movie, worth a watch, but I can't go along with those that say it's one of the finest horrors for years - it's ok, half decent, certainly not Orph-al. (Sorry)
This is a movie that surprised me in the fact that I consider most modern horror movies to be boring. 'Orphan' is actually pretty good, not as good as the recent 'The Orphanage [DVD]' but a decent attempt.
Without going into the story too much, the movie would have failed completely if the character of Esther had been portrayed badly. Fortunately, Isabelle Fuhrman is terrific in the role, giving just the right amount of menace and supposed sincerity at the correct time. I also think that Aryana Engineer deserves credit as the deaf Max in a part that could be easily have been overlooked. There isn't really a duff performance here to be honest.
Perhaps the final ten minutes become a little too cliched and maybe the husband could have been more supportive to the wife at times but 'Orphan' is by and large well worth watching.
Kate (Vera Fermiga) and John (Peter Sarsgaard) are a loving family with two happy children, Daniel (Jimmy Bennett) and their younger daughter, Max (Aryana Engineer) who is deaf. Kate has recovered from alcoholism, but suffers trauma from having given birth to a stillborn child. They decide to adopt a nine year old Russian girl called Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) a local orphanage. At first Kate, John and Max take to their new addition to the family who seems delighted with her new home. However, Daniel has reservations from the beginning. This seems like jealousy at first, but soon Max starts seeing some increasingly odd behaviour at school but is sworn to secrecy. Before long she is on a terrible secret. Meanwhile Kate begins to uncover some disturbing truths about Esther that may threaten the very lives of her family...
"Orphan" takes a regular "cuckoo thriller" and executes it in fine style. This includes some tight direction, some outstanding performances by the film's child actors and a very original twist that no one in our house saw coming. Like an Alfred Hitchcock thriller, the film starts with its emphasis in a different direction to where it will be headed - Kate's anguish over her stillborn third child. It's a dream sequence and it also has surreal quality that we won't see again for the remainder of the picture. In the hands of a hack, the scene could very easily have stuck out like a tactless ghost sequence in Coronation Street or Neighbours. Given Jaume Collet-Serra's work prior to this - the terrible if financially successful horror remake "House of Wax" and the forgettable "Goal II: Living the Dream" - a hack's work is exactly what I expected. I am delighted to say he proved me wrong from start to finish, carefully complimenting the clever plot provided by David Leslie Johnson and Alex Mace without being tempted to insert cheap shocks or transparent red herrings.
Far from being a clumsy distraction, the opening sequence helps us understand and, more importantly, sympathize with Kate's need to adopt. After this scene the film wastes no time in getting into the drama proper and the antagonism Kate will face with her new "daughter" works as a great early twist. However, despite an all round good adult cast it is the trio of Jimmy Bennett, Isabelle Fuhrman and, in particular, Aryana Engineer that are at the real heart of the film. This is the young Engineer's first film and was cast on her ability to use sign language - a casting agent saw her communicating with her deaf mother. However, not only is Engineer so convincing in the role as a deaf child, but also one who is thrust into exceptional circumstances. It is largely her performance that makes the emerging threat of the movie's cuckoo so effective. Her character's sense of vulnerability, confusion and courage act as powerful contrasts to Fuhrman's cold and manipulative Esther.
A good thriller/horror works best when the director knows how to play an audience and hits them with the unexpected. Hitchcock knew this and Spielberg timed it to perfection with "Jaws". "Orphan" might not be remembered as one of the greatest suspense movies ever made, but the usually commercial Collet-Serra is clearly willing to take some risks that will throw viewers off the formulaic route. They pay off when they happen, especially with that aforementioned twist, but I think the film's alternate ending (viewable on DVD) would have been a better choice. I don't know how much this was the studio's choice, but two production companies were involved, which might have something to do with the decision to go with an action-packed and non-ambiguous finale. A similar decision was made "Fatal Attraction" and the debate over whether or not this was the right choice continues to this day.
"Orphan" is a slick and clever turn on a familiar theme. Despite being considered a horror it is more in line with pictures like "The Hand that Rocks the Cradle" and "Fatal Attraction" than "The Omen".
Review of Blu-ray disc (even though it says DVD just there ^^^)
Set in winter mainly in and around Toronto and Montreal in Canada, a married couple still grieving after the death of their child at birth adopt a 9 year old girl to compensate, to re-direct the love they want to give - although they already have two other children. The adopted girl Esther soon turns out to be a long way removed from the well-spoken, well-educated painter and classic pianist she appears to be at first. The parents already had other problems anyway, such as infidelity, excess drinking and depression. The story covers the family's rapid descent into a nightmare within their own home, all at the hands of the mysterious Esther.
I had been under the impression that this was a full-on horror flick, but it's not. It's a decent psychological thriller - with a rather slow build-up to a pivotal 'twist' that enables the whole thing to change direction in such a way that heartbeats will rise and blood will flow in its concluding quarter. The cast is on the mediocre side, with the singular exception of Isabelle Fuhrman - who plays Esther - and who passed her 11th birthday during the shooting of the film. She's good in the central role, in fact she carries the film on her own. Esther's mother does a reasonable job at portraying the recovering alcoholic still suffering from depression, but the father - played by Peter Sarsgaard - was miscast in my opinion, being a lot less sexy than his character and events would want us to believe, and for the most part looking as if he would rather be somewhere else than acting in this film.
It's one of those 'evil child' films that crop up every now and again, although there's little or no suggestion that Esther is the daughter of the devil - she's just insane. So it's borderline stereotypical, helped by a good but not exceptional script and boosted by a surprise twist near the end.
As a Blu-ray presentation it's worth it if the extra cost is of no concern to you, but if you do like to keep the spending down, get the standard-def DVD. This is not one of those films that you use to show off your HD television. It's just slightly better than SD, that's all. The extras are par for the course, with interviews with the producers, director and leading actors, along with some deleted scenes - some of which I think should have been retained in the final cut. The build-up to the film's real story was very slow and could have done with some editing early on.
It's good, but nothing more. Psychological thrillers are my favourite genre but this was fairly predictable in the main, the levels of suspense were average and it was more a case of waiting to see what Esther would do next. Worth renting, just, but this is by no stretch of the imagination the kind of film that we will be remembering in 30 or 40 years, unlike such classics as The Exorcist, The Omen, or Rosemary's Baby. It's too one-dimensional, about a scary, crazy little girl, and after a long build-up, when Esther actually starts to do her worst, there's nothing very original about it.
Hats off to Isabelle Fuhrman though. She's next to perfect for the role of Esther, and without her this film might never have been made.
on 24 May 2011
The movie was enjoyable to watch. The filming was a bit shakey - I think some scenes were done with hand held cameras, but it was not that distracting to watch. Neither is the lighting. I find most horrors go for harsh, dark, lighting that makes it hard to see what is happening in the scene. Fortunatley this movie didn't have any of that. I liked the pace of it all and how each event leading up to the main plot developed. It is a pyschological thriller though so dont expect blood, guts and gore straight from the beginging - there is a tension that slowly builds into a dark and twisted horror.
I thought the acting and the story was what made this film so enjoyable. I thought the children played their roles brilliantly. At one point I actually started to empathise with the main protagonist Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman), her character and acting skills make it easy to fall for her angelic charm. I also found it easy to emphasise with the mother Kate (Vera Farmiga), she was also a really good actress. However I just could not take the father John (Peter Sarsgaard) seriously. I found his acting was weak compared to the others and hard to believe how he reacts to his wife as opposed to an almost complete stranger. I understand why the way he is through his script and the story, but I dont think the actor portrays this very well. That is the only critisism I have of the film however. Other than that I think the movie is well worth seeing at least once.
on 22 March 2011
I bought this film for my daughter who loves it, her and her friends must have watch it like a million times.Even know they have seen it so many times they still love it, they think it's the best film they have ever seen!.