Devastated by the loss of their unborn baby, Kate (Vera Farmiga) and John (Peter Sarsgaard) decide to adopt a child. At the orphanage, both feel drawn to a little girl (Isabelle Fuhrman) named Esther, and soon the couple take their new daughter home. But when a dangerous series of events unfolds, Kate begins to suspect that there is something evil lurking behind the child’s angelic exterior.
Although the horror genre is by far my favorite film genre nowadays, the same thing cannot be said for when I was young. As a matter of fact, I was scared to death of practically every horror movie. I remember still to this day, seeing some sort of Chucky parody on some television show late at night when I was about six, and being absolutely terrified of the doll. I had nightmares about him for a long time and every time I started to watch a horror movie, I had to turn it off because I just couldn’t take it.
But one movie scared me to my core just by looking at the poster – that movie is Jaume Collet-Serra’s Orphan. Who is that little girl on the poster? And why does she look so mean and evil? These were just a few of the numerous questions that I was asking myself when I saw that poster. But as you can imagine, I never actually ended up watching the film. Until now. And boy am I glad that I did.
This is a genuinely unnerving movie that somehow manages to be incredibly fresh and diverting, despite the fact that it very easily could have fallen victim to terrible horror movie tropes. Usually, the “creepy kid” trope in horror is annoying and tired. It’s been done time and time again and it never actually works. Orphan reinvigorates this trope and makes it genuinely creepy.
It’s weird because when we first meet Esther, we can see right from the start that she is an innocent young girl that wants nothing more than to get adopted by a happy and welcoming family. She wants to live a normal life with normal people. She wants to grow up with siblings and live her life.
That’s why whenever we see the story unfold and as we learn more about Esther and her past, it’s truly disturbing. Esther is not just a fun-loving girl after all. It’s quite apparent that she is hiding something and she is in fact, not as innocent as she seems.
Isabelle Fuhrman’s performance is truly unsettling and at times, it can be extremely hard to watch. In most horror movies, the scariest aspect of the film is typically a serial killer, a ghostly spirit, or a monster. But not Orphan. Here, we are scared of a nine-year-old girl, and it always works.
The best performance on display here however has to be from Vera Farmiga, who feels like she could snap at any given moment in this story. Her character gets put through the wringer quite a bit and she has to put up with a lot of terrible things. She feels like a ticking time bomb and when things get far too out of hand, Farmiga shows her fiery and emotional side, and it wowed me.
Plus it contains, without a doubt, one of the most amazing and unexpected twists I have ever seen in a horror movie. There was one point in the film where I thought I had the whole thing figured out, but I was completely wrong. Once the big twist was revealed, I truly couldn’t believe my eyes and ears. This is a horror movie done so, so right. Here’s hoping that the forthcoming prequel film will expand upon the storyline in new and exciting ways. One can only hope.
Overall Grade: A
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing violent content, some sexuality, and language
Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Release Date: July 24, 2009
Running Time: 123 minutes