Kate and John Coleman are rebuilding their troubled marriage after the loss of their baby. The couple decide to adopt a child. When they meet the nine-year-old Estonian girl, Esther, at the St. Marina Orphanage, they immediately fall in love with the well-educated orphan. Their young son, Daniel, is hostile to his new sister; but their deaf mute daughter, Max, is enchanted with her - at first. Eventually, Kate begins to feel that Esther is manipulative and possibly even psychologically disturbed. John refuses to listen to his wife's misgivings. Kate calls Sister Abigail at the orphanage, and the nun informs her that Esther has a troubled and mysterious history. Kate delves further into Esther's past and discovers she is not what she claims to be. Written by
The movie was originally written to take place during the fall, and some exterior shots were filmed to establish this. Shortly before principal photography was set to begin in December 2007, the Toronto locations were hit with near-record snowfall, forcing the change of setting to winter. One of the scenes written out as a result was a Halloween carnival at Daniel and Esther's school. See more »
When Esther is introduced to her new class, she is holding a Nelson Spelling book. These books are not used in the United States, where the film is set; they are, however, used in Canada, where filming took place. See more »
At both the beginning and end of the movie, the title briefly changes to a scratchier, more sinister font, surrounded by fluorescent paint. This effect also occurs with many of the names shown in the end title sequence. See more »
Remarkably well-acted, darkly humorous, and effectively disturbing
Dark, edgy, twisted, effective, clever, intense, and blackly comic - one of the best "evil child" films I've seen. It's brilliantly cast - Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard are top-notch as usual, but what really stood out where the natural performances director Jaume Collet- Serra was able to get from the child actors. Usually child actors are painful to watch, but 12- year-old Isabelle Fuhrman gives a terrifying, chilling performance that is worthy of praise. Aryana Engineer in her screen debut as the deaf little sister Max is adorable and almost steals the show in every scene. The stylish cinematography, editing, and sound are fantastic as well.
I saw Orphan at a packed advance screening and the audience had a blast. Collet-Serra knows how to pull the strings and engage the audience, as they were screaming and laughing at all the right moments. There are plenty of fun and playful tension-relieving scenes, and several cathartic moments when the audience erupted into cheers. When the credits rolled the audience even applauded.
The second showing I went to was just as receptive - the audience went nuts. They were collectively screaming, cheering, yelling at the screen, cringing, applauding, and enthusiastically welcoming the comic relief. One guy commented afterwards: "I never get scared by movies but that was the scariest movie I've ever seen." Audience participation for both screenings I went to were very high.
The film improves upon second viewing, with the knowledge of the twist. I was able to focus more on details and clues, and the anticipation of my favorite scenes made for a much more rewarding experience. It's even more chilling and cathartic the second time around.
It's far from perfect though - there are way too many predictable jump/false scares, with the soundtrack blaring to try to startle the viewer. The last part of the movie becomes a slasher flick replete with clichés and a one-liner. There is a talky scene where Esther reveals herself to her adoptive mother that is totally unneeded, as well as a crucial line regarding Danny, the older son, which really should've been cut. It's also a bit long at 2 hours - for an exploitative "B" movie this is unusual, although time is devoted to character development. Esther is multi-dimensional and even sympathetic at times
I would love to see a prequel based on her character.
Orphan is definitely not for kids - aside from the "anti-adoption" angle, there is plenty of dangerous imitable behavior. The violence committed by and toward children is shocking, realistic, and brutal. This is a ballsy film that throws kids into horrific ordeals.
It may be a "B" movie, but it's a damn good one that knows its audience. The basic idea is nothing new (except for the unexpected twist), but you knew that from the trailer and synopsis. If you were still interested or if you're a horror fan that is able to look past some clichés and logical jumps in exchange for horrific chills, you'll have a fun time. The phenomenal child performances alone are enough to recommend Orphan.
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