Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Writer: David Johnson
Starring Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman, CCH Pounder, Jimmy Bennett, Margo Martindale, Aryana Engineer and Rosemary Dunsmore
The child as a evil entity ala "the Bad seed" is a tried and trued formula for both the horror genre and the psychological thriller genre and Orphan is the latest model of this. IT is not your typical version of this kind of film, but at first you believe it is. Though , in the final act of the film it drops a bombshell of a twist that will make you gasp and will make you slap yourself for not figuring out as all the signs were there to point it out to you. This is the 2nd Dark Castle film by Collett-Serra and just like House of Wax this is a film that surprises you and also thoroughly entertains you. It is anchored by 2 great performances in Farmiga and Fuhrman. The film pushes you in one direction, but then pulls the rug out from under your feet and takes you in a entirely new direction. The film also is very Hitchcockian, it sets up the suspense very well and knocks the viewer senseless in the direction the violence takes in the film. The tension is palatable in the film and it really works because you care about the characters in the film. They are not one dimensional, but characters that are fully realized and well rounded with all their strengths and weaknesses.
The plot basics are this, Kate (Farmiga) is recuperating from a horrible miscarriage and to help her recuperate from that , her and her husband, John decide to adopt a older child at a local Catholic orphanage. they meet Esther (Fuhrman), a Russian girl who is very personable and really connects with them. They take her home to meet their other children Max (Engineer), their almost deaf young daughter and Daniel (Bennett). Daniel is hostile to her, but everyone else is warm and inviting to her. Certain incidents begin to happen that revolve around Esther and Kate is beginning to believe that Esther is manipulative and twisted. But John does not believe her and thinks she is dropping back into her post partum depression. Kate contacts the nun (Pounder) who set the adoption wheels in motion and informs her that Esther has a troubled and mysterious past. Esther sees what is going on and takes steps to remedy the situation. While Kate is still apprehensive about Esther and she will soon discover that what is lurking behind her facade is far worse than she could ever dream of.
This is a intense and taut film that really surprises the viewer. The direction by Collett-Serra is done aptly well. He uses the methods of his direction very well. He also films the scenes of blood and carnage very well. One prime example of this is the opening scene where Kate is reliving her miscarriage, it is both bloody and harrowing and really sets up the tenseness that you will feel watching the film. The script is another solid ingredient in the film. The character of Kate is really the main viewpoint of the film and she is handled ably well. You believe that she has many issues, but slowly you come to her line of reasoning as you see what Esther is capable of. Esther is a excellent villain for the film. At first she is personable and engaging, but as you delve deeper into her character you see that something is not quite right there. The scene in which she threatens to castrate Daniel is a great example of this. The cast really does wonders in this film. Farmiga is captivating to watch as you see her fight her bouts with recurring alcoholism and her paranoid fears about Esther. Fuhrman really creates a very memorable horror icon in Esther. She is engaging and yet decadently malevolent. She really steals many of the scenes she is in. Sarsgaard is good as well, but he is overshadowed by the other two performances. The SFX and effects in the film are done brutally well. The one scene involving a arm in a vise is very cringe inducing. This is definitely one of the best horror films to have come out last year and a very original one at that. This will be a film I will continue to revisit.
This one gets 5 out of 5