Most helpful positive review
Girl Gone Bad.
on June 19, 2015
What can I say about 'Orphan'? I went into this expecting very little since I've seen this done so many times before, at times, with preposterous results (anyone remember the film 'Mikey'?). This one manages to work and surpass expectations. It lays on the suspense, the nail-biting scenes that only the best of the genre are capable of providing. Kudos to the cast for the great performances, although Peter Sarsgaard may come across as a bit stiff (it doesn't help that his character is a bit of a jerk- don't blame the actor) his co-stars steal the spotlight with the stand-out being Isabelle Fuhrman, who plays that conniving little tyrant, that orphan gracing the DVD-Bluray cover who is surprisingly named Esther ' such a benign name, 'Satan' would be far more fitting.
The Coleman's are a young, couple- the boring, arrogant John (Sarsgaard) and his recovering alcoholic wife, Kate (Vera Farmiga) who recently suffered a miscarriage. They adopt a charming little Russian girl, Esther (Fuhrnman) who appears mature for her age, speaks with a delightful accent (so cute) and can play a mean Tchaikovsky on the Colemen's grand piano. She is received with welcoming arms by the couple's hearing impaired daughter, the adorable Maxine 'Max' (Aryana Engineer) and with some hesitation from her brother Daniel (Jimmy Bennett). Esther tries to fit in at home and school but she becomes the brunt of some cruel jokes and suspicions that begin to fuel her pent-up anger. Kate is the first to notice that there is something seriously wrong with Esther (understatement of the year). Trouble seems to follow her around, but Kate's suspicions are met with skepticism and denial from her disbelieving husband. As Esther's malicious ways escalates, it becomes clear that no one is safe. Esther is conniving, she is cruel, she is evil and she's not what she appears to be. Mwahahahahahaha!!!
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, 'Orphan' is a solid, well-made, well-acted thriller that is in my opinion, grossly under-rated. Despite a been-there-done-that scenario, 'Orphan' fits right in alongside other child monster movies and manages to stand out as one of the better efforts. It works rather well, introducing us to the many characters; some we end up caring for, others- not so much; even the nasty little monster provides us with moments of sweet sentimentality and this is just confirmation of a competently told story. The film is also funny in a good horror movie kind of way (intentionally and unintentionally) and has many surprises up its sleeve. Although the film is violent, it is not gory and director Collet-Serra piles on the suspense by placing so many of the main characters in mortal danger while the main antagonist is so conniving, so bold in her quest for vengeance, she becomes all the more frightening as the film progresses. The situations we are presented with here are not that unbelievable where our suspension of disbelief has to work in over-drive (this is where the film 'Mikey' lost it) and the final twist ' yes, there is a twist, makes the situations even more plausible. The actors do their jobs well and all characters are believably played out. Although John Coleman is rather obnoxious and not very likable, he is played just right by Sarsgaard. Farmiga fares better as her character is more fleshed out and far more sympathetic- the recovering alcoholic who also falls prey to the sinister plans of Esther, and if there is one person in this film you are rooting for, it is Kate. However Isabelle Fuhrman steals the show. Her performance is so convincing, so bone-chillingly real, I am surprised she has not done more horror films. Her face oozes innocence and sheer wickedness ' a deadly combination that is a treat to watch in a horror film. You can tell a great actor just by their facial expressions. The best ones do not even have to say one word to get their point and their intent across. Fuhrman's many scenes, where we see her character's sinister soul emanating through her eyes and smile, is played to perfection. She is sweet, oh-so-charming in one instant and a rabid, blood-thirsty pit-bull the next.
The film is not perfect. Many scenes were shot too dark to see any of the action clearly and despite its disturbing subject matter, it may not be as scary as one would expect. However, the film remains absorbing and as it moves a long, it grabs hold of your attention, never letting go until the final show-down. Definitely not what I expected. Admittedly, it was better and despite her nasty habit of killing people, this little orphan is worthy of your time especially if you're in the mood for a good, dark, twisted little horror movie.